HOW DO I KNOW IF I OR MY CHILD HAS ADHD?
A.D.H.D. (A Poem by Dr Ed. Hallowell)
Take my hand and come with me,
I want to teach you about ADHD.
I need you to know, I want to explain,
I have a very different brain.
Sights, sounds, and thoughts collide.
What to do first? I can’t decide.
Please understand I’m not to blame,
I just can’t process things the same
The hallmark of the ADHD nervous system is not attention deficit, but inconsistent attention…ADHD is not a damaged or defective nervous system. It is a nervous system that works well using its own set of rules.—
Can my or my child’s ADHD-like behavior be caused by other factors such as anxiety or worry, low motivation or lack of confidence, or a mis-matched learning/work environment? (*ADHD: Not Just for Kids. Scroll down for info on adult ADHD.)
*Visit our Test Kit to access child and adult ADHD screeners, and/or other mental health screeners.
Child ADHD at a Glance
Time: Kids, and adults, with ADHD have a very weak concept of time. It is either “now” or “not now.” That’s why planning and time management are such a struggle for them.
Stimulation Over-drive: They also thrive in stimulation-rich environments. It is not that they can’t focus, it is more that a non-stimulating environment (e.g., a typical classroom) is a lot less engaging than the multiple screens that are simultaneously playing in their mind. So they tune out. But if you put them in front of a computer game, you often find that they can “hyper-focus.”
Low Frustration Tolerance: Because they have a brain that loves stimulation, if you try to keep them away from their heart’s desire, it can feel like you are fighting a losing battle. Their emotional intensity can be hard to deal with!
Creativity: But their over-active brain is also a wonderful goldmine for new solutions, creative insights, and things that people with a typical brain can never imagine in a million years.
Adult ADHD at a Glance
Adults who have ADHD often struggle with time management, organization and prioritization of tasks, following through and completing projects, and managing distractions. They might go through cycles where they swing between feeling like a bundle of endless energy and then burning out. They can be late more often than they would like, and find it stressful to meet deadlines on an on-going basis. They might also struggle to stay on tasks that they don’t find interesting.
Their weak time management and organization can also create difficulties for their interpersonal relationships. Spouses often get frustrated by their forgetfulness and unpredictability, and feel like they have to shoulder more than their fair share. This can lead to resentment in the relationship. Learn more about how to manage relationship challenges.
ADHD: Not Just for Kids (vimeo)
ADHD Fact Sheet and Management Tips
ADHD: Poor Executive Function
ADHD, broadly conceived, is a condition of compromised executive function. Executive function helps us stay focused, manage time, plan and organize, control our impulses, and regulate our emotions.
Is it ADHD, or something else?
If you are concerned that other factors such as anxiety or emotional distress might be creating difficulties for your child (kids are not good at dealing with big feelings, so they “act out”!), contact us for a consultation.
To gain a better understanding of your child’s condition, some of these Self-Help Checklists might help.
ADHD Symptoms can show up as difficulties in:
- sitting still
- waiting turns
- spacing out
- poor time management
- forgetfulness and disorganization
- impulsive speech, extremely talkative
- following set rules and multi-step instructions
- playing with others in structured environments
- completing assignments (this gets worse as assignments get more advanced)
The Importance of Diagnosis
Most children will show some of these “symptoms” at some point in their lives, and so it will be important to get an accurate diagnosis, to determine if your child needs help, and what kind of help. (For example, is my son struggling with anxiety, or ADHD?) Currently, there are no tests that can confirm a diagnosis of ADHD with 100% accuracy. An assessment typically involves a checklist about your child’s behavior, a developmental history interview with caretakers, interviews with people in your child’s life, and interviewing and observing your child in person.
If Un-diagnosed and Un-treated
When undiagnosed, many children who suffer from ADHD are misunderstood and labeled as troublesome, problematic, stupid, lazy, or even willful and defiant. Children can internalize these labels and without intervention, these labels can fossilized into their adult identity. As adults, they lack confidence, motivation, and needed skills to succeed at work and in social relationships. However, when given the needed assistance, these children can thrive and be successful.
If you are not sure whether you or your family member might have ADHD, you are encouraged to contact us for a consultation.
How is ADHD treated?
Treatment for ADHD typically includes:
- Therapy and coaching for child
- Parenting support and education
- School accommodations
- Supplements such as omega 3 (prescription-strength omega-3 approved by the FDA as a “medical food”)
ADHD School-Management Tips
The idea is to teach them skills to minimize how their ADHD traits might affect their ability to plan ahead, stay on track, and finish tasks. It is not so much what grades they are getting now that matter in the long run. (Honestly, who looks at a 10-year-old’s grade report card?) It is the ADHD-management skills that will help them can cope with academic and life challenges over the long haul that will determine their long-term life success.
ADHD management tips include:
- Externalize planning and time management by using lots of visual aids (kids with ADHD don’t see time, and so we need to turn abstract time into concrete visual forms for them)
- Put reminders where your child can see them (help them remember tasks)
- Break down complicated tasks into a sequence of smaller units (you need them to learn sequencing)
- Help them assign time to each individual task (you are teaching time management)
- Minimize distraction at their desk, and experiment with them how they work best (do they like listening to background music, or need to move around as they recite a poem, or work best with a study buddy?)
- Allow them breaks in between tasks
- Encourage them to move around during study breaks
- Stay hydrated
- Limit the use of electronic devices during study breaks (devices are highly addictive for the ADHD brain)
- Monitor and optimize the use of ADHD medication to when it is most needed (for school and homework time)
Positive Traits of ADHD
Though often overlooked, children with ADHD come with its own bag of goodies. They are usually
- sensitive and kind (they have a heart of gold!)
- conscientious and intuitive
- creative, artistic, and sophisticated problem solvers
- full of exciting energy
- bundles of fun and (quirky) humor
- super-focused when they find an activity engaging!
More on ADHD
A doctor’s take on the plus side of ADHD and why he celebrates it.
Check out famous people with ADHD.
Here are some time-honored productivity tips for ADHD-ers, from ADHD-ers!
Natural supplements for ADHD.
Effective communication with kids with complex needs.
Finding it difficult to discipline your ADHD child? Check out these discipline Strategies (PDF).
Take this fun quiz: How Well Do You Know ADHD?
If you are not sure whether you or your family member might have ADHD, you are encouraged to contact us to discuss your situation.