Is your Student Lacking Emotional Intelligence?

You’ve witnessed the scenario, the semester starts off smoothly and the student is doing pretty well. The assignments are not too difficult and the academic year is flowing with relative ease. As the semester continues, usually shortly before mid-terms, turbulence takes over. The student suddenly becomes overwhelmed and overloaded, assignment due dates are rapidly approaching and time is running out. The student is not properly prepared and encounters difficulty finding the help needed to succeed. This may describe your ADHD student, but it can also define someone low in emotional intelligence. Those with ADHD may likely be low in emotional intelligence skills as well.

 

ADHD AND EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE?
When dealing with ADHD, we tend to focus on proficiencies related to time management, procrastination, organization, and memory. These skills are important, but we do not spend as much time discussing critical areas that relate to persistence, self-advocacy, flexibility, emotional control and stress management. These areas of personal development, called emotional intelligence, can be learned to help avoid academic disruption. Self-advocacy can help a student to politely and confidently say no to excessive campus activities; emotional control can help one properly confront a problem roommate; persistence can help a student to bounce back from a bad grade on a test to try again with new determination.

 

WHAT IS EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE?
Daniel Goldman, the father of emotional intelligence, states that life success involves only 20% intellect and 80% the ability to connect and build strong relationships with others. Those that are skilled at building strong relationships possess emotional control, self-advocacy, stress management, persistence and other such skills.  Emotional intelligence is defined as using emotions well to guide thinking and behavior. Studies show students with high emotional intelligence do better academically. High emotional intelligence also improves a person’s social interactions and helps one develop friendships and lasting relationships.

Low emotional intelligence stifles healthy social interactions. Low self-awareness and low self-confidence disrupts positive relationship building. The student may lack a healthy network of friendships and relationships with others, which can be crucial in social problem solving and motivation while in college. A student with low emotional intelligence is not comfortable approaching a teacher for clarity on an assignment or feel weird going to the disabilities office and asking for the necessary accommodations needed for academic success. This is because they have not built the relationships and comfort with those persons that would make interacting with them relatively easy. In some instances, the student is not even aware that an intervention is needed. Too often, instructors assume that the student is unwilling to try or not interested in learning.

 

DEVELOPING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Believe it or not, for some people, emotional intelligence comes naturally. This means that it is easier for them to create the bonds and obtain the information they need to achieve their goals. These are the people that can connect with everyone in the room. They may have been the class clown or the teacher’s pet in school. They were probably a part of the popular crowd. The good news is, emotional intelligence is a skill that can be practiced and developed.  Research suggests that by making a person aware of the skills that they are lacking and practicing the proper responses, one can develop the skills needed to improve their emotional intelligence. For a student, this can mean better friendships, better relationships with professors or improved interactions. For students with ADHD, developing emotional intelligence can ease the mid-semester rush and equip students with the tools needed to finish the semester as smoothly as they began.

 

Steven McDaniels is an Edge Foundation coach. He serves as the Director of Fitness and Athletics at Beacon College, where he previously served as the Director of Life Coaching.

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The 4 most common anxiety disorders associated with ADHD: Anxiety and ADHD

The DSM-IV Defined Anxiety Disorders

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association defines 12 anxiety disorders:

  1. Separation Anxiety Disorder
  2. Panic Disorder – with and without agoraphobia
  3. Agoraphobia –  without history of Panic Disorder
  4. Social Phobia – exaggerated fear of embarrassment or humiliation
  5. Specific Phobia – e.g. of spiders, elevators, flying, etc.
  6. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  7. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  8. Acute Stress Disorder – symptoms< 30 days
  9. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  10. Anxiety Disorder due to a General Medical Condition
  11. Substance-induced Anxiety Disorder
  12. Anxiety Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

The 4 most common anxiety disorders associated with ADHD

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  2. Separation Anxiety Disorder
  3. Social Phobia
  4. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The remainder of this article will talk in more depth about the unique characteristics of each of these anxiety disorders.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

General Anxiety Disorder is a serious issue for the ADHD community.  It is far more likely to occur during the lifetimes of children with ADHD than in the general population (25% ADHD versus 2.9 – 4.6% general population).  Half (52%) of adults with ADHD will experience GAD in their lifetimes – opposed to only 5% of adults in the general population.

General Anxiety Disorder is the big anxiety disorder that people tend to miss.  With the others – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, separation anxiety, and social phobia – it’s more obvious when you have it.  And, since GAD often comes along for the ride with depression, substance abuse, and other anxiety disorders, it may be relegated to a back seat in terms of recognition and treatment.

General Anxiety Disorder is characterized by 6 months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience.  People with GAD usually expect the worst.  They worry excessively about money, health, family, or work, even when there are no signs of trouble.  They are unable to relax and often suffer from insomnia.  Sometimes the source of the worry is hard to pinpoint.  Simply the thought of getting through the day can provoke anxiety.  General Anxiety Disorder may also grow worse with stress.  In addition to excessive anxiety and worry, people with GAD have at least 3 of the following symptoms:

  • Restlessness or feeling on edge
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty sleeping

Separation Anxiety Disorder

About 10 times as many children with ADHD will have separation anxiety compared with the rate in the general population of 2.4%

Separation Anxiety Disorder develops in childhood and can persist into adulthood.  Basically this means a child is fearful of being separated from his or her safety net (familiar place or person).  The child may develop excessive worrying to the point of being reluctant or refusing to go to school, being alone, or sleeping alone.  The child may also experience repeated nightmares and complaints of physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, nausea, or vomiting.

Social Phobia (a.k.a. Social Anxiety Disorder or SAD)

18% of people with ADHD will have a lifetime occurrence of Social Anxiety Disorder – half again as common as in the general population.

Social Anxiety Disorder is an intense fear of becoming humiliated in social situations, specifically of embarrassing yourself in front of other people.  It includes performance anxiety issues.  It often runs in families and may be accompanied by depression or alcoholism.  Social phobia often begins in early adolescence or even younger.  The person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable.  About 13% of the general population will experience social anxiety at some point in their lives.  Social Phobia is actually the third most common psychiatric disorder in the United States after depression and substance abuse.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD

Although there isn’t a lot of information on PTSD and ADHD specifically, there is some evidence that people with ADHD are more vulnerable to developing PTSD.  For more information consult Adler LA, Kunz M, Chua HC, Rotrosen J, Resnick SG. (2004). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in adult patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): is ADHD a vulnerability factor?  Journal of Attention Disorders.  Aug; 8(1):11-6.

How to manage your anxiety

Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, but you have to recognize first that they exist.  If you think this might be you, seek the advice of a professional and find out what your options are.

An ADHD coach can also help you learn to identify your anxiety triggers and things you can do to keep your anxiety under control.

Watch for part 3 of our ADHD and Anxiety series where we will talk about some steps you can take to help you manage your anxiety.

Do you have ADHD and anxiety?  What have you done to keep it under control?  We invite you to share your story here and help others learn what you have to keep your edge! You don’t have to live with anxiety, sign up for an Edge Coachand start taking charge of your life today.

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

ADHD: a mental health risk?

“We have trivialized this condition.”

The latest research on ADHD reveals that it is a chronic health problem with almost 30% of children with ADHD still have symptoms as adults and have a much higher risk of mental health problems.

Are you surprised? This study, recently published in the Pediatrics journal stands out because it’s the largest of its kind and was conducted under the esteemed auspices of Boston Children’s Hospital and the Mayo Clinic. The study tracked 232 people who were born between 1976 and 1982 and were diagnosed with ADHD when they were children.

Other findings

  • Of those who still had ADHD as adults, 81% had at least one other psychiatric disorder.
  • Of those who no longer had ADHD, 47% had at least one psychiatric diagnosis.
  • Children with ADHD were nearly five times more likely to die from suicide than other people in the study group
  • More than 60% of kids with ADHD have a learning disability
  • Most children with ADHD develop at least one additional mental-health problem as children

More astonishing than the statistics was the statement by the study’s lead author William Barbaresi.  (Barbaresi is director of the Developmental Medicine Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.)

“We have to stop trivializing ADHD as just another childhood behavior problem. The nature and duration of this study show we have to recognize it as a chronic serious health problem that deserves a lot more attention than it has received.”

Researchers are using this study to call attention to difficulties parents face in finding treatment for their children. For example when a child is diagnosed with diabetes, insurance companies have authorized preventative evaluations for co-existing conditions such as kidney or eye problems.  When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, insurance companies will not authorize additional mental health assessments until the problem has already occurred.

Do you believe ADHD is a mental health issue? How do you feel when you see ADHD coupled with mental illness?  Sound off in the comments below.

Happiness isn’t found at the next place

Positive Thinking Really Works

Guest post by Edge Foundation Executive Director, Sarah Wright from her September ACO President’s letter

I  recently attended the Institute of Coaching conference co-sponsored by Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital. I want to share the exciting perspective of  Carol Kauffman and Margaret Moore, who presented Positive Psychology: Science at the Heart of Coaching.

The power of positive thinking

Focusing on our problems is normal:  Everyone tends to focus on problems. It’s probably evolutionary in nature-we evolved in a dangerous world where being able to notice threats was key to survival. Therefore,  negative, troublesome, threatening things tend to capture our attention like nothing else. Yet narrow and negative thinking can lead to stress and depression, which can lower performance and reduce connectedness, both in relationships and in thoughts.

The power of positive thinking: A broad and positive focus helps you identify more resources and make more connections. Positivity-feeling good-helps creativity, perseverance, confidence, competence, and even longevity. It is tempting to feel that health, wellness, and financial success are what contribute to happiness, but it turns out that happiness predicts these things, not the other way around.

In further studies of positivity and negativity, it turns out there is an ideal ratio between the two. The ideal ratio of positivity to negativity is between 3:1 and 11:1. In other words at least 3 positive thoughts to each negative one.  In this range, people have the resources to change, grow, and bounce back from adversity. They feel both supported and challenged, which develops resourcefulness and creativity. Business teams operating in this ideal zone have the highest profitability, customer satisfaction, and performance reviews.

Too much of a bad thing:  People who live in an environment where the positivity to negativity ratio is below 3:1 languish. They don’t have enough resources and inspiration to pick themselves up out of the muck and see all the things that are available to them. Unlike the more positive folks, they are on a downward spiral. Sadly, it is estimated that 80% of people fall into this category.

Turn up the positive volume!

Notice, remember, articulate and savor what is already there. Practice noticing the good stuff, because there is plenty of it around. From the aroma of that first cup of coffee in the morning (even if we made a mess making it), to the parting “Bye! I love you. Have a nice day!” (even if we had to say it several times because we kept forgetting things as we tried to get out the door), to the great coaching session where both feel pumped by the end, there’s a lot to notice and feel positive about. Notice, too, how we contributed to the good stuff, notice how we are actively creating the positive experiences. Then allow yourself to feel empowered to improve your life and develop your resourcefulness and creativity!

Don’t Let ADHD or Learning Disabilities Stop You

How an ADHD Coach Helps

Do you struggle in school?

  • Do people tell you you’d do fine if you just tried harder?
  • Do you space out when people are explaining things to you?
  • Does it feel impossible to focus long enough to finish your homework?
  • Does it take you twice as long as the other kids to get anything done?
  • Are you the kid in class who gets in trouble for interrupting or doing random stuff?
  • Do you procrastinate?
  • Do you get anxious?
  • Do you sometimes just go blank when taking a test?
  • Do you sometimes feel like you’re always forgetting things, always late, always in trouble, always behind?

If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right place! Although we talk a lot about ADD and ADHD at the Edge Foundation, we don’t care so much about labels and diagnoses. If these are the things you struggle with, an Edge Coach can make a big difference in your life.

What’s an Edge Coach?

An Edge Coach is someone trained to help people who have ADD, ADHD, or who are just ADD-ish, people who often struggle to stay organized and on top of things. An Edge Coach is not a doctor. He or she is more like a friend or teacher but isn’t those things either.

  • A coach is your advocate—a person who gets to know you and finds ways to help you succeed in your life.
  • You and your coach talk regularly and check in about how your life is going.
  • Your coach can help you find strategies to stay organized and remember important things.
  • Your coach can help remind you to take care of yourself and show you ways to stay focused.
  • Your coach can also help you improve the relationships in your life with friends, classmates, teachers, and family members.
  • Your coach is there to talk to, strategize with, and advocate for you as long as you want.

The Edge Foundation connects young people who have a hard time staying organized and on track, people like you, with personal coaches who can help them do just that. When you have your own coach, you’ve got an Edge!

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Great Links to Follow to Learn More About Coaching and ADHD