Could Childhood ADHD Be a Sleep Disorder?

sleeping-childOver the past several decades, U.S. parents and teachers have reported epidemic levels of children with trouble focusing, impulsive behavior and so much energy that they are bouncing off walls. Educators, policymakers and scientists have referred to ADHD, as a national crisis and have spent billions of dollars looking into its cause.

They’ve looked at genetics, brain development, exposure to toxic substances like lead, the push for early academics, and many other factors. But now a growing number of researchers are asking what if the answer to at least some cases of ADHD is due to the fact that many kids today simply aren’t getting the sleep they need, leading to challenging behaviors that mimic ADHD?

Several studies in the past have identified links between ADHD and problems with the length, timing and quality of sleep. There seems to be growing evidence that some children have been diagnosed with ADHD when, in fact, they suffer from insufficient sleep, insomnia, breathing issues or other sleep disorders.

But now research, presented recently at  European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Conference in Paris takes this a step further and suggests that ADHD itself may be a sleep disorder. The latest data on this topic examined people’s natural cycle of sleeping and waking and showed that study subjects with ADHD had levels of the hormone melatonin that rose 1.5 hours later in the night than those without ADHD. As a result, they fell asleep later and got less sleep overall, with consequences for other body processes. When the day and night rhythm is disturbed, explained researcher Sandra Kooij of the Vrije Universiteit Medical Centre in Amsterdam, so are temperature, movement and the timing of meals. Each change can lead to inattentiveness and challenging behavior.

Karen Bonuck, a professor of family and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, during her work for the National Institutes of Health, found that a large number of preschool children were going to sleep at 11 p.m. or later but had to be up before 8 a.m. to go to school. They were getting far less sleep than the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for children of that age. “Challenging behavior is a huge problem in the classrooms on a national level, and the symptoms of lack of sleep can look a lot like the symptoms of ADHD,” she said in discussing her findings.

While tantalizing linkages between sleep disorders and ADHD are becoming more evident, most clinicians will probably not be ready to accept that ADHD itself is a sleep disorder. William E. Pelham, a longtime ADHD specialist who directs the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University, represents this viewpoint when he says, “Sleep is an issue for anything where you are trying to measure attention. But I don’t believe it accounts for the vast majority of ADHD in the United States.”

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Helping Your ADHD Child Win the Homework Battle

Getting homework assignments done can be a huge struggle for kids with ADHD. It is important as homework problems are often a reason kids with ADHD fail in school. However, with some planning, you can help make homework less of a struggle for both you and your child. .… READ MORE

Homework battles

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

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 atwww.thelifecoachingcorner.com.

From frustration to focus

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Do you worry about your child’s grades?  You aren’t alone.  Every week we are contacted by parents desperate to find help for their child. He’s flunking in school.  She’s so disorganized she can never get a paper in on time so her grades don’t reflect her ability.  He’s unmotivated by rewards – even paying him for A’s doesn’t seem to help.

A common focus of concern for parents is grades.  And no doubt your child carries a lot of internal stress about his or her performance in school – whether she admits to it or not.  But we’d like to suggest that this focus on grades is a distraction from helping your child see what she needs to do to take charge of her life.

We believe an ADHD coach can help make the difference in your child’s life and we have the research to prove it.  We encourage you to put yourself in your child’s shoes and think about what does motivate him or her.  School performance is a means to an ends, it is important, but not the only thing that measures success.  After all, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates both dropped out of college to passionately focus on their dreams.

We’re not suggesting dropping out is the solution, but we are encouraging you to shift your focus to what inspires your child, what are his or her dreams and what is holding them back from success.   Overcoming these obstacles is the focus of coaching.

Motivating your child

  • It’s not your job to get your child a coach.
  • You can’t force him to call.
  • You can’t tell him what to work on in coaching session.
  • You can’t sign him up.

What you can do is help your child envision the possibilities that coaching will open up for her.

Coaching isn’t about fixing her.  It isn’t a tutor, therapist or mentor.  It’s unlike anything she’s ever tried before. A coach is your child’s partner in helping him accomplish his goals (not yours).

Coaches help the students they work with decide what they want to achieve, develop a plan to accomplish those goals and take the steps needed to reach their dreams.

An ADHD coach should not be a punishment

Instead of saying “Your grades better come up next term or you’ll have to get a coach,” we suggest focusing on your child’s point of view.  Think about opening up the channel for conversation with your child and trying some conversation starters like:

  • What is most challenging for you right now?
  • What frustrates you most about your life?
  • What are you struggling with?
  • What do you envision for yourself after you graduate?
  • What are your worries?

Your child may not want to talk to you about these issues.  And that’s okay.  It’s an important part of their development to want to tackle these issues on their own.  But you can still counsel and guide them towards a coach.  After all, a coach isn’t a punishment, a coach is a resource to help you set goals, learn new skills and hone the edge you need to make your dreams come true.

At some point you just have to let go of what you thought should happen and live in what is happening

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How an Edge Coach Can Help You

Raising a child with ADD/ADHD is tough on parents. Getting your child a coach can do more than help your child succeed, it can help you too, and even save you money over time!

  • An Edge Coach can help end the homework wars. When a coach is working with your still-at-home child, you won’t have to spend so much time riding herd on the homework and making sure it gets done.
  • An Edge Coach can help your student learn to be more organized so more homework will get handed in, there will be fewer things lost, and fewer frenzied last minute searches for misplaced things.
  • An Edge Coach can help your student learn to manage time. Think of what life might be like without running late all the time or procrastinating until the last minute!
  • An Edge Coach can help your student learn to manage money. Bounced checks are expensive mistakes.
  • ADHD teen drivers are prone to parking tickets, speeding tickets, and accidents. An Edge Coach can help encourage safe driving habits and help avoid the expense, hassle, and perhaps heartache of driving mishaps.
  • A failed college course is an expensive failure. An Edge Coach can help your student succeed.
  • An Edge Coach is an expert in ADHD. Your child’s coach can provide you with the information and resources you and your student need, saving you time and money.

Having ADHD in the family is often a family affair. The benefits of working with an  Edge Coach can benefit everyone.

How to prevent students from dropping out.

Bright young people drop out of school

About 7,000 students in the U.S. become high school dropouts every school day. That’s 1.2 million students who will not graduate from high school – each year.

It’s easy for important information to get lost in today’s never-ending flow.  But Edge Foundation founder, Neil Peterson, worries about the bright young people who are being lost because not enough of them are getting the help they need.

That’s why we continue to make innovations to find ways to empower more students with ADHD. The Puget Sound School-Based Coaching Program is  reaching previously underserved students within a school-based setting.

This one-of-a-kind intervention brings coaching into schools with a high proportion of at-risk students. Giaudrone Middle School in Tacoma (Tacoma Public Schools) and the Big Picture School in Burien (Highline Public Schools) are the two schools participating in the pilot program which is offered at no cost to these at risk students.

Students who are at-risk of dropping out can fall into a downward spiral; coaching can change that. Just read the words of one of the students who received coaching this year:

“My attendance was bad, so we made up this thing where I would text my coach when I came to school.  And, so, I’ve been texting her, letting her know. It gave me this push to start improving.  While I was improving on one priority; it makes all the other priorities better too.  You see, all of these goals kinda come down to my self-image… they reflect how I feel about myself. My coach didn’t give me answers.  She made me ask questions.  She made me get my own answers.” – Alicia B.

Edge is also measuring progress against its goals for participating students to refine the program and make it duplicable in other schools. Our goal is to see:

  • significant improvements in learning and study skills, will to learn, and self-regulation and
  • significant improvement in the areas of self regulation, including discipline, classroom behavior, attendance, homework completion, credits earned, progress toward high school graduation, and preparation being accepted to college.

We  have developed a promising and replicable school-based model for ensuring the success of middle and high school students with ADHD or severe executive functioning challenges.

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