What If? – I have ADHD but I don’t let it stand in my way

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That phrase, spoken more than fifteen years ago by my then-ten-year-old son, still brings tears to my eyes. He wrote this to his teacher on the first day of fifth grade. She had given him a “get to know you questionnaire.” This was his answer to her final question, which asked the students if there was anything else she should know about them.

If only we could freeze those moments. I would love to say that he continues to feel that way all the time but that is not our reality. Having children with ADHD and other executive function-challenges can be compared to life on a roller coaster. As a retired teacher, guidance counselor, and now an ADHD/EF coach, I feel that my experiences have prepared me for the next stage of parenting. But it is not easy. I have come to realize that it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Most parents, after their child is diagnosed, feel that they need to solve the problem. They want to help their children overcome their disability and protect them from the world.   Frequently, we feel that we did something wrong, that we must fix the situation or find a magical answer. I was no exception. After researching this topic for many years and filling several rooms with books on ADHD, EF and positive psychology, I have come to the realization that the best gift we can give is to accept them for who they are.

We do not need to give up future plans for our children but we do need to accept them as they exist. We can be aware of their weaknesses and help them develop their strengths. As parents, we need to help them recognize that as they approach life differently, they can achieve their goals.

Those diagnosed with ADHD and EF challenges must learn to adapt to our competitive society and to appreciate themselves. We also must help professionals, family members and others to refrain from squeezing our square pegs into round holes. What if, instead, we delighted in their differences? As their parents and coaches, we have the power to concentrate on their strengths, provide support when needed, and most importantly, not allow them to use their diagnosis as a crutch.

If these children are brought up to recognize their gifts, just imagine what they could accomplish. If we help them recognize their situation as an opportunity to develop strategies that will allow them succeed, they will become stronger and more adaptable.

I can only imagine the number of negative verbal and non-verbal messages that these individuals receive on a daily basis. What if they could depend on their families to be supportive and their homes to be an oasis of positive reinforcement? What if they could trust our verbal and non-verbal communication would instill a sense of well being, rather than a source of shame and inadequacy?

What if we were able to accept the fact that we, as parents, do not have the power to fix our children or find a magic answer?

What if we concentrated on what we can control, and helped our children realize that they are creative, resourceful and whole? What if we helped them recognize that life is not black or white? What if we helped our children realize that because of their differences, not in spite of them, they have much to offer?

What if every individual diagnosed with ADHD and executive-functioning challenges could say: “I have ADHD but I don’t let it stand in my way.”

Written by: Cheryl Breining, LMSW, M.Ed, MS, ACC, CPCC, Edge Coach, Certified Life and Parenting Coach, The Life Coaching Corner Inc., Contact her at www.thelifecoachingcorner.com.

 

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The Role of ADHD and Your Brain’s Executive Functions

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What is executive function?

If do much reading about ADHD sooner or later you are going to come across the term “executive function” and wonder what in the heck is that?

Simply put, executive function is a term that psychologists and medical professionals use to describe the higher functions of our brain that help us control and self-manage ourselves.  Here’s one technical definition:  “The administrative portion of the brain that coordinates and regulates  organization, time management and perception, deferred gratification, prioritization, attention, impulse control and persistence at tasks.” So what does that really mean?

Executive function is most easily understood by looking at a few examples:

  • When you resist that piece of chocolate when you are on a diet, you are using the executive function of your brain to defer the pleasure of that yummy chocolate right now for your longer term goal of losing weight.
  • When you bite your tongue instead of telling someone off, your executive functions help you evaluate consequences (you might hurt their feelings or make them mad at you) and control the impulse to blurt out your opinion.
  • If you have a project in school that you really dislike but you know you need to accomplish in order to pass the class, executive functions help you make a plan to break down the project into bite sized pieces, stick with it when you are feeling frustrated or bored, and ask for help when you get stuck.
  • Getting ready to leave the house on time, you use executive functions to keep one eye on the clock and the other on the things you need to get into your backpack before you run out the door to catch the bus.

LD Online, a great source of information about learning disabilities and ADHD, identifies some of the major areas of executive functions:

  • making plans,
  • keeping track of time,
  • keeping track of more than one thing at once,
  • meaningfully including past knowledge in discussions,
  • engaging in group dynamics,
  • reflecting on our work and evaluating ideas,
  • changing our minds and making mid-course and corrections while thinking, reading and writing,
  • finishing work on time,
  • asking for help,
  • waiting to speak until we’re called on, and
  • seeking more information when we need it.

ADHD and Executive Functioning

The challenge with understanding how ADHD and executive functioning are interrelated is that EVERYONE can have executive function troubles at different times – it’s a matter of degree. When you have ADHD you are more often challenged by executive functions than people who don’t have it.

Let’s assume you have ADHD. When something is interesting to you, you are all over it. No executive function problems there, right? However, you’ve probably also found that difficult or uninteresting tasks can be very difficult to pay attention to – even when it’s something that is important such as remembering your girlfriend’s birthday or paying your water bill. Executive functions help reveal why ADHD isn’t simply a matter of will power or caring enough. As Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D., Yale University School of Medicine says,

Most people, those who do not have ADHD, can usually make themselves pay attention to tasks, even tasks that are boring, when they recognize that they just have to do it. People with ADHD find it much more difficult to make themselves pay attention unless the task is one that has immediate interest value to them. The core of their problem is … being able to manage their mind to focus on tasks they need to do, even when those tasks are not immediately interesting.

An ADHD coach works with you to support and build your executive functions

The role of a coach is to address executive functioning challenges with structured support and accountability.  Their long term goal is to help you figure out strategies and accommodations to work with your ADHD so you can accomplish everything you care about and need to get done to achieve your goals.  Edge Coaches will help you with executive functions such as:

  1. scheduling,
  2. goal setting,
  3. confidence building,
  4. organizing,
  5. focusing,
  6. prioritizing, and
  7. persisting at tasks.

You can learn to work with your ADHD strengths – hyperfocusing on things that are interesting for example. And you can learn ways to stick with it to do those boring tasks (like filling out paperwork, showing up on time or passing a prerequisite class) so you can accomplish your dreams. What are you waiting for? exec

6 Ways to motivate your ADHD teen

Edge Foundation Blog > 6 ways to motivate your ADHD teen

6 ways to motivate your ADHD teen

Motivating the ADHD teenDoes this sound familiar?

You think ADHD coaching would be good for daughter to try but she doesn’t want to have anything to do with your suggestions.

You aren’t alone. It can be an uphill battle to get a teen or college student to try out something that their parent recommends. And coaching won’t help if your child is unwilling to partner with a coach. So what is a parent to do?

  • Don’t force! A coach should never be a punishment for a student who is not performing.
  • Motivate, not dictate. If a student is indifferent about something, parental pressure will often prejudice and polarize them.
  • Understand the benefits. Read our testimonials, check out the research that proves ADHD coaching is a highly effective interventionwatch a video to understand the process and benefits sufficiently so that you can motivate and encourage your child.
  • Talk to a coach. Many coaches specialize in working with parents to convince their child to participate in coaching.
  • Eye on the prize. As parents it’s easy to get caught up in what WE want for our kids and forget it is THEIR life. Help your son think about his goals and explain a coach will work with him to reach them.
  • Try a Free Session. Encourage your student to find out herself. Right now Edge is offering the first coaching session for free. (Offer expires 10/15/13). Remember, you can’t sign your child up for coaching — they have to be willing to try it.  But you can encourage them to at least give it a try!

Are your sports making your ADHD worse?

Concussions May Cause More Brain Damage in Kids With ADHD

Children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may experience more disability after mild brain injuries than those without the condition, according to the latest study.

With more studies documenting the potentially long-lasting effects that concussions and mild brain injuries can have on intellectual skills, researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh decided to investigate how youngsters with ADHD may be affected by falls or trauma to the brain that often occur during high-contact sports such as football and soccer. Previous work suggested that ADHD can make children more prone to traumatic brain injuries, and that severe enough injuries can also contribute to a form of ADHD. So they focused on all children who were admitted to their hospital for mild head injuries from 2003 to 2010.

Mild traumatic brain injuries include any blows to the head that do not require brain surgery — which is the case for the majority of concussions.

(MORE: More Concussions Prolong Kids’ Recovery Time)

The researchers investigated 48 children with ADHD who had head injuries patients and 45 similar children who did not experience trauma to the head. A team of brain experts then gave all of the participants a detailed test to assess their cognitive abilities and track any new disabilities during follow-up visits up to seven weeks later. The measures recorded whether the children were able to function normally on their own, or whether they had behavioral problems or required supervision to get dressed or navigate stairs.

About 25% of the patients with ADHD suffered what the scientists defined as moderate disability in which the children were basically independent but still required some assistance with behavioral or physical problems, and 56% showed good recovery, or no residual headaches or abnormal findings on brain scans following the injury. By comparison, 98% of the children without ADHD reverted to their initial cognitive function scores after brief drops following the trauma and 84% had recovered completely.

MORE: NFL Players May Be More Vulnerable to Alzheimer’s Disease

The researchers say there may be several reasons why children with ADHD experienced more significant disabilities from their head injuries; for one, these kids may have already had some deficits in certain functions that progressed over time, and the testing may have simply picked up this deterioration, independent of the effects of the brain injury. It’s also possible that ADHD interfered with the healing process or made rehabilitation efforts less successful.

(MORE: High School Athletes Continue to Play Despite Concussion Symptoms)

That doesn’t mean that falling off a bicycle and hitting his head will leave a child with ADHD disabled. But the findings do suggest that the relationship deserves more study, especially given recent data among adults that connects concussions with cognitive problems and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s. The results also highlight the need to be even more vigilant in protecting children with ADHD from head trauma, by ensuring that they wear helmets when riding bicycles or playing sports in which they’re likely to fall or get hit in the head. Doctors, too, may need to monitor ADHD children more closely after any head injury and consider more intensive treatment and rehabilitation strategies to help them recover.

The study is published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.

What’s your biggest lie you tell yourself?

Get to know the Edge Foundation

Founder’s Story

Founder's Story

ADHD Hits Home

When my two children were diagnosed in their mid teens with ADHD, I asked the doctor what caused it. He said it was hereditary. For me, that was like a punch to the gut. I knew right then and there that my kids had inherited their ADHD from me. And I knew that I must have it too.

How did I know? I knew because I had seen them struggle, and their struggles were quite familiar. I had confronted many of the same challenges they were then facing. ADHD presents unique hurdles to the people who have it. For my children it meant constant problems in school and poor grades. It meant difficulties in time-management problems, lack of focus, and impulsivity, along with a host of other issues.

Worst of all, it meant low self-esteem. All the years of unwelcome report cards, conflicts at school, and excessive effort to do what other kids did so easily chipped away steadily at my kids. Seeing my children’s spirits slowly deflate over the years was one of the most painful things I have experienced.

I blamed myself. My children had inherited ADHD from me and, worst of all, I had let them down by failing to identify the problem sooner, when we all could have benefited so much from knowing and understanding the cause of our troubles.

 

Finding Our Edge

In the years since their diagnosis, my children and I have found many ways of coping with our particular challenges. Because of our persistence and creativity, we have managed well. We have all succeeded in different ways none of us could have imagined back then. Now, at a time when others my age retire, after serving as the Seattle, Oakland, and Los Angeles METRO transportation leader and after founding and recently selling Flexcar, the award winning car-sharing company, I am embarking on a new career, as founder of the Edge Foundation. It has been a long journey to this moment, one that, in retrospect, seems inevitably driven by three compelling moments.

 

First Compelling Moment

My two children, Guy and Kelsey, had both been tested extensively in high school at the recommendation of a teacher. That is how I discovered their ADHD. But during Kelsey’s senior year of high school, her chosen college required that she be tested again for her condition in order to be considered for special learning accommodations. The tests were administered one day a week for three weeks.

On the last day when I went to pick up Kelsey from her testing, the psychologist drew a bell curve on a chalkboard. The bell curve, he explained, represented the IQs of all 18 year olds in the United States, with the expanded center representing the largest numbers, which were of average intelligence. He asked Kelsey where she thought she fell along the curve. Obviously uncomfortable, she finally pointed to the left side and said, “About in the middle, a little below average.” She was wrong. The psychologist set us both straight. Although my daughter fell into the 20th percentile for reading, spelling, and math, her overall IQ was way above the 90th percentile.

I’ll never forget what happened next. We left the doctor’s office and Kelsey looked at me, gave me a high five, and said, “Dad, I’m brilliant.” No words had ever meant so much to me, and nothing was truer. I wished that every parent of kids with ADHD could hear such joy and self-confidence in their children’s voices.

 

Second Compelling Moment

In my family, one of our strategies for coping with ADHD has been to work with personal coaches. This is a method I had become familiar with through decades in the corporate world, where employing a personal coach is common. I decided to hire personal coaches for myself and my kids as a way to help us all stay focused, reflect on our successes and failures, and monitor our progress on academic, personal, and professional goals.

During one of Kelsey’s calls home from college, I came to understand what effect that strategy had had. She said, “Dad, of all the things you have done for me, the most valuable and most appreciated is the gift you gave me of a coach.” I was taken aback because she had not initially seemed to understand the coaching relationship and how it might benefit her. But now here she was telling me it was the best thing I had ever done for her. I thought back on the spell-checking, voice-recognition, and verbal dictation software, the specially colored notebooks and specially designed wristwatches, the medications, and complicated diets and sleep regimens, all the methods I had tried to help them deal with ADHD. Out of all the strategies, my daughter had chosen to single out coaching as the most significant to her.

 

Third Compelling Moment

Right after I sold my company following a successful corporate career, Kelsey asked me what I was going to do next with my life. I was still swimming with thoughts about the success of my sale and hadn’t even given it a thought. But my daughter had. She said, “Dad, I know what you ought to do. You ought to do for other kids what you did for me and Guy.”

I couldn’t speak I was so overcome. Kelsey had seen my future. It was so simple, so powerful. I decided right then to start the Foundation to help young people with ADHD realize their potential and their passion. And I decided that the Foundation strategy would be centered around providing each young person with a professional coach. Simply put, if a coach is good enough for the CEOs in this country, it is good enough for the young people who are struggling with ADHD.

 

Coaching and ADHD

Coaching is not the only intervention for ADHD. It shouldn’t be. ADHD requires a comprehensive effort on many fronts. Coaching uniquely contributes directly not only to improved academic performance but also to enhanced social functioning and increased self-esteem. As such it is an important if not critical tool in an array of intervention strategies.

This is why it was so important to my daughter later in her academic career. She understood then that her life is going to be about significantly more than school and how well she can do on a test. Our children are so much more than their school selves. Personal coaching, when delivered by professionals trained to work with ADHD, takes into account the entire individual and helps him or her develop fully on all fronts—academic, social, professional—with increased sense of purpose, happiness, and self-esteem. It is my goal that the Edge Foundation will be able to help you or your child and provide your family with a crucial edge in your struggles with the challenges of ADHD.

 

Best Wishes,

Neil Peterson

How an Edge Coach helps

A quick video which explains how Edge Coaches work with students.