A Gap Year – The Right Choice for an ADHD Teen?

A gap year is an experiential year typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness. A gap year can be especially important and beneficial for students with ADHD. Here are some things to consider if you are thinking about a gap year for your ADHD teen.

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Ty Pennington’s Extreme ADHD Makeover

While many celebrities are reticent to talk about their learning challenges, Ty Pennington has been vocal about his ADHD diagnosis. Pennington is the former host of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and today the co-host of “American Diner Revival.” He says he is proof that a person with ADHD can focus on one thing long enough to make it happen.

Ty Pennington’s Childhood Struggles with ADHD

For all of his childhood, he wasn’t aware that he had ADHD. In grade school, his hyperactivity seemed in the way of everything he tried to accomplish. As a result, he spent a lot of his time in the hallway or in detention. School was difficult. By his own account, Ty says he swung on the blinds, ran around the classroom, and playfully slapped other students on the back of the head. He would read a book but not remember a word, cause chaos in the classroom daily, and spend most of his time being disciplined instead of learning. He was finally officially diagnosed with ADHD while in college.

He spoke with Nicki Gostin of the Huffington Post about his childhood experiences with ADHD.

“My mom was studying to be a child psychologist and she went to my elementary school to test the worst kid they had. They were like, “Mrs. Pennington, you really don’t want to know who that is.” They let her observe me through a window and within 20 minutes I stripped naked, wore my desk around and swung on the blinds. I was just a complete distraction to all the other students.

Back then, they didn’t even know what to call it. They put me on antihistamines to try and make me drowsy. They tried everything. It certainly affected my confidence and my belief in myself. When everyone’s afraid you’re going to hurt yourself from just mowing the lawn, you start to believe them. Once I figured out I was pretty decent at art and people were interested in hiring me, I realized I had a skill besides injuring myself.

What’s kind of funny is that I ended up working with power tools to pay my way through art school and still have all my digits.”

Finding Creativity Amid the Chaos

Pennington admits that ADHD hurt his confidence and his belief in his own abilities, but he found success by pursuing art, design, and carpentry. Later a modeling scout approached him and he began a career in print advertising, TV, and endorsements. Pennington was able to leverage his photogenic appearance, charismatic sense of humor, and love for carpentry into his own empire of television shows, magazine publications, home fashion designs, and personal appearances. He also won an Emmy award for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

Today he manufactures his own line of furniture and writes a regular column for Enjoy magazine in addition to his work in television. Ty Pennington is proof that no matter how strong the symptoms of ADHD might be, they can be harnessed into a creative and fulfilling career.

Celebrities with ADHD: Ty Pennington

Apps for Students with Learning & Attention Issues

kids-using-tablet-computersIn today’s world, apps are indispensable. They give us directions to keep us from getting lost, allow us to manage our money, and a hundred other daily tasks. So it is no surprise that apps have been created for helping students, especially those with learning and attention challenges such as ADHD, to organize and perform tasks more effectively. Apps, in combination with treatment modalities and coaching support, are empowering these students to perform at a higher level than they might otherwise.

Distributed Cognition

Brock Eide, M.D., and Fernette Eide, M.D. discuss an interesting idea called “distributed cognition.” It has emerged as educational researchers rethink the concept of intelligence. Traditionally, intelligence has been measured by our ability to remember and regurgitate something we have studied. The Eides define distributed cognition in their article “A New View of ‘Smart’ for Kids With Learning and Attention Issues.”

One helpful idea is called distributed cognition. That term is a mouthful, but the concept is simple.

Cognition means how your brain knows and understands thingsDistributed means shared. So distributed cognition is what you can know and understand if your brain cooperates with outside helpers—whether they’re tools, printed information or other people.

It also means that your intelligence isn’t fixed by the information you carry around in your head. Intelligence can be increased by the way you interact with your environment.

In other words, how “smart” you are is really the sum of two things: The first is what you know on your own. The second is what you can easily learn by interacting with the things you have easy access to.

Apps, search engines and other software tools assist students with learning and attention issues by freeing them of the necessity for memorization which is difficult. Apps can be especially useful in memory intensive areas such as:

  • Procedures, especially multi-step instructions for how to do things
  • Rote facts, like times tables, state capitals or the lists of chemical elements in the periodic table

Apps Aplenty

There are dozens of apps to help students and adults with learning and attention issues, and more coming to market each year.  Understood.org provides an excellent survey of apps for students of all ages.  For example, the Voice Dream Reader helps students with reading issues: it is a customizable app that lets kids highlight text and have it read aloud to them. Healthline also publishes a regular survey of apps for people with ADHD.  Below are demonstrations of some apps for users with ADHD.

Traxion is a mobile app aimed at helping those with ADHD organize your time and time tasks more effectively.

The Social Navigator helps children and teens with social and behavior issues learn to cope more effectively in various social situations.

Time to Rethink Our Educational Model?

As software becomes more deeply embedded into our world, it brings greater urgency to the work of updating our traditional educational model to match what we encounter in life. Distributed cognition is a way of life now outside of the classroom. Most adults would find it hard to navigate the complexities of modern life without Google and smartphone apps. In school, these technologies can be a great leveler for kids struggling with learning and attention issues.

What We’ve Learned About Trauma and Learning Challenges

What are traumatic events?

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network defines a traumatic event as “a sudden and unexpected occurrence that causes intense fear and may involve a threat of physical harm or actual physical harm. A traumatic experience may have a profound effect on the physical health, mental health, and development of a student.” These events are often referred to as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Traumatic events can arise from neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse.

The impact of trauma on learning

Recent neurobiological, epigenetic, and psychological studies have shown that traumatic experiences in childhood can have many long term effects.They can:

  • Diminish concentration, memory, and the organizational and language abilities children need to succeed in school.
  • Lead to problems with academic performance,
  • Result in inappropriate behavior in the classroom, and difficulty forming relationships.

According to research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser-Permanente, these impacts can add up to poor academic performance, and later problems in life, including:

  • Risky health behaviors,
  • Chronic health conditions,
  • Low life potential, and
  • Early death.

Resilience can make the difference

According to a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, entitled Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Lifelong Consequences of Trauma, past traumatic events do not necessarily dictate the future for the child.  The report authors cite the ability of “protective factors” that can counter adverse childhood experiences and  build resilience that allows a child to thrive. They state:

“Children survive and even thrive despite the trauma in their lives. For these children, adverse experiences are counterbalanced with protective factors. Adverse events and protective factors experienced together have the potential to foster resilience. Our knowledge about what constitutes resilience in children is evolving, but we know that several factors are positively related to such protection, including cognitive capacity, healthy attachment relationships (especially with parents and caregivers), the motivation and ability to learn and engage with the environment, the ability to regulate emotions and behavior, and supportive environmental systems,including education, cultural beliefs, and faith-based communities.”

Toward a practice of building resilience

Today, research is leading to a better understanding of the role that non-cognitive capabilities – e.g., grit, self-control, perseverance and delay of gratification play in a child’s ability to succeed in school.  Paul Tough, bestselling author of How Children Succeed and Helping Children Succeed, outlines this research in a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, “How Kids Learn Resilience.” These non-cognitive capabilities form the foundation of the executive functioning skills everyone needs to perform well both in school and at work. Executive function coaching, a proven method for helping students with learning challenges, succeeds because it builds both interpersonal relationship skills and non-cognitive capacity.

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The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity!


What Will Edge Do at Your School?


  • helps identify students who can benefit from coaching
  • administers the coaching program
  • provides or trains an Edge Coach
  • provides quality control
  • collects data
  • conducts research and evaluation

The Edge Coach sits down one-on-one with each student once each week.  Follow up occurs during the rest of the week either in person, or by text, phone, and/or email.

Young people work with their coaches to learn Executive Function skills such as

  • planning
  • prioritizing
  • staying on task
  • time management
  • impulse control

These are skills that help them complete their schoolwork — but most importantly give each student “agency.”  Edge Coaching helps students take charge of their time, their learning and their lives.

The Edge Coach is either an existing school employee whom we train to be an Edge Coach, or we can bring an existing Edge Coach into the school.

For more information email Neil Peterson, CEO (206-910-7515) or Tim Kniffin, In-School Program Manager (206-234-2597).

In-Service Training

Edge also provides professional development sessions for

  • teachers
  • counselors
  • school leaders
  • parents

1 hour, 4 hours, or 8 hours.

Getting organized: learning what works


Getting organized: learning what works

Do you ever feel the urge to get organized at the end of the year? You aren’t alone. Just watch the seasonal items section of your local discount store in January where all types of containers and organizing systems will be featured.

You may have bought systems in the past, only to find they fell to the wayside. Professional Organizer, Judith Kolberg, offers an insight into why that may be the case:

Organizing, like reading, is a learned activity. Usually, we have a dominant learning style. The problem for people who are chronically disorganized is the organizing methods they are using are often not in concert with their learning style. For instance, if you’re a strong visual learner you can easily imagine the way you want a room organized in your ‘mind’s eye’, and you can mentally conjure up images of where you put things. But if you’re taking notes from a decorator, listening to verbal instruction or trying to use a filing index, those may not be your strengths.

Assess your learning style

Judith recommends checking out the learning style assessment provided by Ageless Learner.  Then when you are planning your new system, keep in mind what type of learner you are. If you are a visual person, draw a picture of what you want your room or desk to look like. Make space for visual reminders of what you need to get done. Put things in clear containers so you can see where they are.

Get support while breaking in your new system

And don’t get discouraged. An ADHD coach can help you figure out what type of organizational system will work for you. And, more importantly, help you practice using it until it’s an ingrained habit that lasts beyond the thrill of setting up a new system.

Have you ever considered your learning style’s impact on how to get organized?

Like this article? Check out Getting Organized ADHD Style

4 Ways Kids Use Self-Monitoring to Learn

Dr. Dan Pezzulo

Self-monitoring is a fancy name for a skill you use all the time to keep track what you’re doing.It’s a series of assessments you make along the way: How is the activity going? What’s working and what’s not? Should I make adjustments? When you make breakfast, you check to see if the butter has melted in the pan before adding the eggs. If the eggs were runny last time, you might think, What do I need to do differently this time?

That same skill applies to learning, too. Here are four ways kids use self-monitoring to help with learning.

Self-Monitoring and Basic Learning

Kids use self-monitoring to help them learn skills like math and reading, but they also use it for more basic things, like understanding directions, keeping track of due dates and checking work. If your child has weak self-monitoring skills, she may not recognize mistakes when…

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