Huntington Connects Connecting you to the latest news, tips and academic resources Sun, 24 Sep 2017 11:56:31 -0400 Zend_Feed_Writer 1.12.17dev (http://framework.zend.com) https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog rss@huntingtonhelps.com (Huntington Learning Center) Huntington Learning Center Recognizing Screen Addiction in Kids with ADHD If you’re the parent of a child who spends hours each day playing video games, watching YouTube videos, or checking out friends’ social media posts, you’ve probably wondered at times whether all of this screen time is problematic or if it’s just part of growing up in the 21st century. While all kids benefit from reasonable limits around screen time, kids with ADHD may need stricter limits than most to prevent them from becoming addicted to their screens. 

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Fri, 15 Sep 2017 13:03:31 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/screen-addiction-in-kids-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/screen-addiction-in-kids-with-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. If you’re the parent of a child who spends hours each day playing video games, watching YouTube videos, or checking out friends’ social media posts, you’ve probably wondered at times whether all of this screen time is problematic or if it’s just part of growing up in the 21st century. While all kids benefit from reasonable limits around screen time, kids with ADHD may need stricter limits than most to prevent them from becoming addicted to their screens. 

ADHD and Screen Addiction

Research shows that kids with ADHD are at high risk for developing screen addiction. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 25% of kids and teens with ADHD suffer from some form of screen addiction. Why are kids with ADHD at increased risk? The constant simulation and reinforcement that comes from fast paced video games, videos, and even social media sites triggers a release of dopamine in the brain – the same reward chemical that is implicated in other addictions (food, drugs, gambling, etc.). The brains of kids and adults with ADHD are especially sensitive to this dopamine release, and as a result, have a harder time disengaging from triggering activities than individuals without ADHD.

What are the Signs of Screen Addiction?

How can you tell if your child is actually addicted to screens, or just really enjoys spending time on his or her iPad or playing video games? Start by thinking back to times when you have tried to set screen time limits. How has your child reacted when you put the limits in place? Most kids will be disappointed and upset, but kids with a screen problem will quickly escalate verbally and sometimes physically. They will act as though their world has just been crushed, and will try just about any tactic to their screen time back. They will often become very sneaky in their efforts to get back in front of a screen, and will typically lie when confronted about their behavior. Children with a screen addiction prefer playing videogames or going online much more than any other activity. In fact, they may seem to no longer truly enjoy any activity that isn’t screen-related. As a result, their relationships with friends and family and their grades at school begin to suffer.

How Do You Help Your Child Break the Addiction?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to screen addiction. However, there are four basic principles that apply to everyone:

  1. Limit the number of screens in your home. Keep televisions out of your child’s bedroom and do not allow any tablets or smartphones in his or her room overnight. Have one central charging station in the house where everyone leaves their devices at the end of the day and during mealtimes.
  2. Limit internet access. Set up website blockers for all of your child’s most addictive sites and apps. Also, work with your internet provider to disable your child’s internet access at a set time each day.
  3. Be a good role model. Set limits around your own screen time. Pay attention to the amount of time you spend on your phone or tablet. If your child sees that you are constantly in front of a screen, then you are sending the message that excessive screen time isn’t a problem.

With these two steps in place, your path forward will depend on the age of your child and his or her level of screen addiction. If you have a younger child with a relatively mild problem, then putting firm limits into place (e.g., 30 minutes of iPad time a day) and sticking to them despite the behavior outbursts, will help dramatically. In addition, if your child has not started playing videogames yet, then do not let him or her start now. In my experience, the most severe cases of screen addiction among kids and teens with ADHD all involved videogames. With any type of addiction, the best strategy is prevention.

If you have an older child or teen with a moderate or severe screen problem, then intervening is more difficult. Kids and teens who are addicted to screens rarely have any insight into their problem, so talking to them about their behavior and encouraging change is very challenging. It’s best to work with a child and adolescent cognitive behavioral (CBT) therapist who has experience treating screen addictions. A good therapist will work closely with both you and your child to set limits on screen use at home, and help your child learn to enjoy activities that don’t involve their phone, tablet, or gaming console. 

Screen addiction is a very real problem for many children with ADHD, and it’s not something that will simply get better on its own. Look out for the signs of screen addiction and get help if you think your child is struggling to manage healthy limits around screen time. 

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Do Computer-Based Cognitive Training Programs Help Kids with ADHD? Commuter-based cognitive training programs have been marketed for over a decade as interventions that can improve memory and attention in kids with ADHD. The appeal of computerized programs that can have a lasting effect on ADHD symptoms is obvious, especially for parents who have watched their child struggle daily with memory and attention challenges at school and at home. Many parents hope that these programs will be the magic bullet that finally helps their child reach his or her full potential. But, before enrolling their child and committing a significant amount of time and money, parents are faced with the challenge of evaluating the true effectiveness of computer-based programs. This is no small task, particularly given the vast amount of conflicting information available online.

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Fri, 15 Sep 2017 12:50:06 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/computer-based-brain-training-for-kids-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/computer-based-brain-training-for-kids-with-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Commuter-based cognitive training programs have been marketed for over a decade as interventions that can improve memory and attention in kids with ADHD. The appeal of computerized programs that can have a lasting effect on ADHD symptoms is obvious, especially for parents who have watched their child struggle daily with memory and attention challenges at school and at home. Many parents hope that these programs will be the magic bullet that finally helps their child reach his or her full potential. But, before enrolling their child and committing a significant amount of time and money, parents are faced with the challenge of evaluating the true effectiveness of computer-based programs. This is no small task, particularly given the vast amount of conflicting information available online.

What the Research Says

Unbiased research published by scientists who are unaffiliated with the cognitive training programs themselves provides the most reliable source of information about the programs’ effectiveness. Results from these studies aren’t always easily found in online searches, so many parents may not realize that currently in the United States and internationally there is a sizable investment in research on ADHD and computer-based cognitive training programs. Recently, a number of researchers have combined and analyzed the data from many studies so they could draw more accurate conclusions about the effectiveness of computer programs for kids with ADHD. Results from these studies have consistently indicated that children with ADHD do not show any improvement in ADHD symptoms, academic performance, behavior, or memory at school or at home after completing computer-based programs. When improvements were observed, they were limited to gains on the computer tasks that the children had spent hours practicing through the program. Unfortunately, improvements on computer tasks did not translate into real-world gains. Basically, computer-based programs help kids get better at completing the programs they are using, but they do not lead to observable improvements in ADHD symptoms or functioning.1,2,3

Being an Educated Consumer

The current research suggests that parents should be cautious about enrolling their children in computer-based cognitive training programs for ADHD. For parents who are considering one of the many cognitive training programs currently available, ask the following questions as part of your pre-enrollment evaluation:

  • How many research studies have been conducted with this particular cognitive training program? Who funded the research, an independent agency or the private company that owns the computer program?
  • Was real-world improvement seen in ADHD symptoms and functioning at home and at school?
  • How will you know if the program is effective and your child is actually improving?

Remember- you will see results at home or at school with any effective treatment. 

Also, ask yourself and your child the following question:

What activities will your child need to give up in order to find the time needed to complete the computer-based program? Every hour spent alone in front of a computer represents time that is not spent socializing or engaging in physical activity – both of which are especially important for kids with ADHD.

Computer-based cognitive training programs require a significant investment of time and money. Before enrolling, think about your child’s specific challenges and consider alternative targeted interventions with proven track records in the areas where your child needs help the most. These can be academic interventions, social interventions, programs that help kids learn to manage their emotions, or behavioral treatments that target ADHD symptoms specifically. Targeted interventions with a history of proven outcomes are most likely to lead to real-world results for your child with ADHD.

1Rapport, M.D., Orban, S.A., Kofler, M.J., & Friedman, L.M. (2013). Do programs designed to train working memory, other executive functions, and attention benefit children with ADHD? A meta-analytic review of cognitive, academic, and behavioral outcomes. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(8), 1237-52.

2Sonuga-Barke, E., Brandeis, D., Holtmann, M., Cortese, S. (2014). Computer-based cognitive training for ADHD: a review of current evidence. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinics of North America, 23(4), 807-24.

3Cortese, S. et al., (2015). Cognitive training for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: meta-analysis of clinical and neuropsychological outcomes from randomized controlled trials. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 54(3), 164-174

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Talking to Your Child’s New Teacher About ADHD Open ongoing communication between parents and teachers is essential for kids with ADHD. In fact, the most effective non-medication interventions for kids with ADHD involve regular communication between parents and teachers as a key treatment component. At the start of a new school year parents have the opportunity to set the stage for productive ongoing collaboration with their child’s teacher. Follow these guidelines to get things started off on the right foot:

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Fri, 15 Sep 2017 12:33:02 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/tips-for-talking-to-your-childs-teacher-about-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/tips-for-talking-to-your-childs-teacher-about-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Open ongoing communication between parents and teachers is essential for kids with ADHD. In fact, the most effective non-medication interventions for kids with ADHD involve regular communication between parents and teachers as a key treatment component. At the start of a new school year parents have the opportunity to set the stage for productive ongoing collaboration with their child’s teacher. Follow these guidelines to get things started off on the right foot:

Initiate the first meeting.

Teachers have 25-30 new students in their classroom at the start of the school year, and will probably not have an opportunity to reach out to each parent individually. So, take the first step by emailing or calling the teacher to schedule an initial 15-20-minute meeting at the beginning of the school year. It may seem like you will need more than 15 minutes to discuss your child’s ADHD, but longer meetings will be more difficult to schedule, and may provide more information than your child’s teacher can digest during this jam-packed time of year. Remember that this is just an initial meeting. There will be opportunities for ongoing communication throughout the school year.

Approach the meeting with an open mind.

Every parent walks into teacher meetings with mixed emotions at the start of the school year. If you have struggled to get your child’s needs met in the past, or had a challenging relationship with last year’s teacher, then it will be tempting to carry these negative experiences forward with you into the current school year. Even if you and your child have had positive experiences previously, you may worry that this year’s teacher will not live up to the high bar set by the wonderful teachers your child has had in the past. Regardless of your past experiences, try to view the new teacher and school year as an opportunity for a fresh start. Approach your child’s new teacher as a collaborator and partner. You are both invested in ensuring that your child has a great school year, and you both have important roles to play in making this happen.

Make most of your brief meeting time.

Make the most of the time that you have scheduled by thinking through the key points that you want to discuss in advance. Make notes about these points, and bring the notes with you to the meeting. Throughout the meeting, communicate in a manner that is brief and specific. Too much detail and too many tangential stories will make it difficult for the teacher to focus on the important information that you are sharing. When considering which topics to cover, aim to focus on these 4 important meeting goals:

  1. Share essential information about your child’s ADHD.
    • How does ADHD affect your child academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally?
    • What was your child’s greatest struggle last year?
    • What is your child’s biggest strength?
    • What are some interventions or accommodations, including those in IEPs and 504 plans, that have previously helped your child manage his or her ADHD?
  2. Learn about your child’s teacher’s prior experience with ADHD.
    • How many students with ADHD have they had over the course of their career?
    • What are some strategies that they have used to help students with ADHD?
    • What are their preferences when it comes to partnering with parents to help students with ADHD succeed?
  3. Learn about the teacher’s impressions of your child so far.
    • What have they noticed about your child during the first few days of school?
    • Having observed your child, and having heard the information that you’ve shared earlier in this meeting, what do they anticipate some of the greatest challenges may be for your child during this school year?
  4. Discuss next steps.
    • What is at least one action that you can take at home and the teacher can take in the classroom this week to help your child?
    • How will you and the teacher have regular communication going forward?
    • When should a follow-up meeting be held?

 

Initiating collaborative communication with your child’s teacher at the start of the school year will lay the foundation for a positive partnership that will help your child get the support that he or she needs throughout the year at school and at home. 

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Dealing with Back-to-School Anxiety Everyone feels anxious on the first day of school. Even kids who love school and look forward to the first day feel some butterflies in their stomach as they wonder what their new teacher and classmates will be like. For kids with ADHD who have struggled with school in the past and whose relationships with classmates have often been challenging, the back to school jitters that they experience are often more intense than most. Even if they don’t talk about feeling nervous, the anxiety will still be there and may show up in other ways – like uncharacteristic irritability, difficulty sleeping, and complaints about stomachs and headaches. As a parent it can be hard to know how to help your child cope with his or her anxiety. In addition to strategies that help with everyday anxiety, like taking deep breaths or distracting yourself from anxious thoughts, there are a few important things you can do to help your child cope leading up to the first day of school.  

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Mon, 28 Aug 2017 10:10:19 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/dealing-with-back-to-school-anxiety https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/dealing-with-back-to-school-anxiety Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Everyone feels anxious on the first day of school. Even kids who love school and look forward to the first day feel some butterflies in their stomach as they wonder what their new teacher and classmates will be like. For kids with ADHD who have struggled with school in the past and whose relationships with classmates have often been challenging, the back to school jitters that they experience are often more intense than most. Even if they don’t talk about feeling nervous, the anxiety will still be there and may show up in other ways – like uncharacteristic irritability, difficulty sleeping, and complaints about stomachs and headaches. As a parent it can be hard to know how to help your child cope with his or her anxiety. In addition to strategies that help with everyday anxiety, like taking deep breaths or distracting yourself from anxious thoughts, there are a few important things you can do to help your child cope leading up to the first day of school.  

Help your child know what to expect.  Anxiety often stems from not knowing what to expect when we’re doing something new for the first time. While you can’t predict everything that will happen on the first day of school, there are things you can do to make the day feel more familiar and predictable for your child.

  • Visit the school ahead of time and walk with your child to his or her new classroom. Allow your child to have some fun playing on the play structure or shooting hoops on the basketball court.
  • Talk to your child about his or her new teacher. Share some of the good things that you’ve heard from other parents and kids. If it’s possible, have your child meet the new teacher ahead of time or create an opportunity for him or her to talk to a former student who enjoyed having that teacher in the past.
  • Make sure your child is introduced to at least one classmate before the first day of school. If you’re new to the area, talk to neighbors or someone at your child’s new school to get tips on reaching out to some of your child’s peers ahead of time.
  • Create a back-to-school morning routine and start practicing in the week leading up to the start of school https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/back-to-school-routines-for-kids-with-adhd

Encourage your child to share their feelings.  Some of our greatest fears can lose their power when we share them out loud. Not all kids are eager to talk about their anxiety, so some gentle encouragement may be needed.

  • Ask your child questions about how he or she is feeling. Avoid emotionally loaded questions like, “Are you nervous about starting school this year?” Instead, ask neutral questions that allow your child to set the tone of the conversation. For example, “What do you think the first day of school will be like this year?” If he or she doesn’t respond to your direct questions, avoid pushing your child to talk. Instead, be on the lookout for times when your child casually mentions how they are feeling about the upcoming school year. Use those moments as an opportunity to listen and respond with empathy and encouragement.
  • Empathize when he or she expresses feelings of anxiety, or when he or she shuts down and seems walled off. Let your child know that you understand that it can be hard to go back to school, and that he or she might wish that summer could go on forever. Normalize his or her feelings by sharing some of your own personal experiences with back to school jitters.
  • Create space to focus on the positives. Anxiety causes us to naturally focus on the negative aspects of a situation. Remind your child about the things he or she enjoyed at school last year – even if he or she says that recess and art class were school’s only two redeeming qualities! It’s important for your child to have something to genuinely look forward to when he or she heads through the school doors on the first day.

Help your child feel in control of some aspects of his or her day. When kids return to school they have very little control over how their day will go. They are more or less told what to do and when to do it from the moment they wake up in the morning until school ends for the day. You can help you child feel more in control by allowing him or her to make choices and decisions about small things that will impact his or her day. Here are a few ways that you can build in some choices:

  • Allow your child to pick out the snack that will be included in his or her lunch.
  • Ask your child if he or she would like to get to school early to play on the play structure for a few minutes, or if he or she would prefer to arrive right on time and head straight into the classroom.
  • Let them pick out his or her first day of school outfit.
  • Ask if he or she would like to choose the radio station in the car. If you walk your child to school, ask if he or she would like to choose the route that you take.
  • Engage in conversations about choices that your child will be able to make throughout the school year. For example, he or she may be able to choose a musical instrument to play, a sports team to join, or sign up for a special afterschool activity.

As a parent you can’t take away all of your child’s back-to-school anxiety. In fact, some anxiety is normal for everyone in the family at this time of year. But you can help your child cope with his or her anxiety by helping him or her feel more in control, creating space for him or her to share his or her feelings, and helping him or her know what to expect on the first day back at school.

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Back-to-School Routines for Kids with ADHD Did you know that routines are an essential tool for managing ADHD?  Routines help create daily habits that allow us to shift into “autopilot mode” so we can get things done without having to repeatedly plan each step and focus intently on every detail. For kids with ADHD who are getting ready to head back to school, developing a powerful and effective autopilot mode can be invaluable. Routines make it much easier for kids to remember everything they need to bring to school each day. They also build independence so they can get up and ready in the morning without repeated reminders from their parents. As a result, routines lead to less frustration and family conflict over things like leaving the house late in the morning or forgetting to bring completed homework back to school the next day.

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Fri, 18 Aug 2017 17:27:41 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/back-to-school-routines-for-kids-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/back-to-school-routines-for-kids-with-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Did you know that routines are an essential tool for managing ADHD?  Routines help create daily habits that allow us to shift into “autopilot mode” so we can get things done without having to repeatedly plan each step and focus intently on every detail. For kids with ADHD who are getting ready to head back to school, developing a powerful and effective autopilot mode can be invaluable. Routines make it much easier for kids to remember everything they need to bring to school each day. They also build independence so they can get up and ready in the morning without repeated reminders from their parents. As a result, routines lead to less frustration and family conflict over things like leaving the house late in the morning or forgetting to bring completed homework back to school the next day.

While kids with ADHD do much better when they follow routines, they actually struggle to create and manage these routines on their own. Planning out a series of steps and sticking to the same order each time requires executive functioning skills that they are often lacking. In addition, without support from parents, kids with ADHD typically do not have the motivation required to initiate and follow a new routine. While ADHD definitely makes starting a new routine more challenging, as a parent there are steps you can take to get a back-to-school routine up and running successfully. Here 5 key components to creating a successful back-to-school routine for your child:

  1. Start the first day of school bedtime and wake time at least one week in advance. Kids with ADHD are prone to sleep problems and often have a difficult time adapting to changes in their sleep schedule. Transition to an earlier bedtime gradually by moving the time up by 15 minutes each night during the week before school starts. On average kids need about 10-11 hours of sleep each night. So, bedtime should be no later than 8:30 or 9:00 if your child has a 7:00 wake-up time.
  2. Design a morning checklist together with your child. Create a checklist of the steps your child needs to take every morning. Keep the list limited to no more than 6 or 7 items. Help your child become invested in the routine by involving him or her in the process of coming up with the checklist steps. Make the process fun by allowing your child to decorate the checklist once it’s been printed.
  3. Create excitement. Kids with ADHD are most engaged when they are excited about what they are doing. Have a rehearsal where your child runs through all of the steps in the routine while you playfully use a timer to see how fast he or she can go. You can repeat the activity and challenge your child to beat his or her fastest time. Also, allow your child to earn a small reward on mornings when he or she completes the routine successfully.
  4. Avoid screen time. Tablets, phones, and TVs can derail even the most well-planned morning routine, especially for kids with ADHD. Kids sit down in front of the screen intending to watch for only a minute, but then quickly lose track of time. So, don’t allow any screen time until after all of the morning routine steps have been completed. If your child struggles to turn off the screen when it’s time to leave the house, then it’s best not to allow any morning screen time at all.
  5. Supervise your child during his or her routine. The ultimate goal with any routine is to have your child complete all of the steps independently. While every child can reach this goal eventually, many will need some assistance and prompting when they are starting off. So, check-in regularly with your child, and provide as much help and supervision he or she needs. Over time, the routine will become a habit your child will be able to go through all of the steps without any help or prompting.

Creating a strong back-to-school routine will go a long way in helping your child’s school year get off to a great start. Before you know it your child be following his or her routine every morning, and will be well on his or her way to developing an autopilot mode that will help him or her all year long!

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Taking the Stress out of Back-to-School Shopping With the first day of school just weeks away, it’s time to stock up on all of the school supplies, clothes, and accessories that your kids are going to need this year. Back-to-school shopping can seem overwhelming when your child has ADHD. The idea of having to keep track of an active, impulsive, and distractible child while also managing a long shopping list is daunting for parents. For kids, the stress, overstimulation, and temptations that accompany back-to-school shopping lay the perfect foundation for the predictable arguments and meltdowns. No one can avoid back-to-school shopping, but there are many things you can do to make it a more positive experience for you and your child. 

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Fri, 18 Aug 2017 16:57:01 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/take-the-stress-out-of-back-to-school-shopping https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/take-the-stress-out-of-back-to-school-shopping Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. With the first day of school just weeks away, it’s time to stock up on all of the school supplies, clothes, and accessories that your kids are going to need this year. Back-to-school shopping can seem overwhelming when your child has ADHD. The idea of having to keep track of an active, impulsive, and distractible child while also managing a long shopping list is daunting for parents. For kids, the stress, overstimulation, and temptations that accompany back-to-school shopping lay the perfect foundation for the predictable arguments and meltdowns. No one can avoid back-to-school shopping, but there are many things you can do to make it a more positive experience for you and your child.  

  1. Design a shopping plan with your child’s limits in mind. While you may be tempted to embark on a back-to-school shopping marathon so that you can finish everything in one day, chances are good that your child is not up to this monumental task. Instead, break the shopping trip up into chunks either by store or by category (clothes, school supplies, shoes, etc.). Plan to spend only as much time in each store as you think your child can reasonably handle. Remember that unlike typical shopping outings where you pick up some groceries or a few household items, back-to-school shopping requires your child to help make decisions about things you’ll be buying. Decision fatigue, and the irritability and frustration that accompany it, will inevitably creep in if you shop for too long.
  2. Make a list and let your child check it off. Creating a list for each shopping trip will help you and your child stay focused on the things that you really need to buy. Empower your child by assigning him or her the task of checking off items as you go. Better yet, have your child write down the price of each item as it is purchased, so that he or she can track the amount of money being spent. When children pay more attention to cost, they may be more understanding when they ask for something extra and are told “No.”
  3. Set clear expectations. Your child will feel more calm and patient while shopping if he or she knows what to expect before you leave the house. Let your child know which stores you’ll be visiting, how long you’ll be shopping, and what you’ll be buying (only items on the shopping list!).
  4. Be prepared to help your child deal with temptations. When a store is filled with temptations, your child is going to see many things that he or she would like to buy that aren’t on the list. It hard for kids to be surrounded by so many things that they cannot have, and this is especially true for more impulsive kids who have ADHD. You can’t remove the temptations, but you can help your child cope with his or her impulsive feelings and the “need” to have so many things that he or she sees:
    • Create opportunities for choices. Empower your child by allowing him or her to make choices about the things that he or she is able to have. Let your child pick out his or her favorite notebooks, pencils, erasers, backpack, etc. If having too many options is overwhelming for your child, then point out two or three items that are a good fit for your child’s needs and your family’s budget, and allow your child to choose from this smaller selection.
    • Add extra items to a birthday, holiday, or future rewards list. Spending time shopping with your child actually provides an excellent opportunity for you to learn about things that he or she may want to earn as rewards for meeting behavior goals, or receive as gifts on his or her next birthday or holiday. So, if your child sees something that he or she wants, let him or her know that he or she can’t have it now, but he or she can add it to the reward or gift list. Some kids like to create the list as they shop, and others like to write out the full list from memory when they get home.
  5. Praise your child. When you’re busy and stressed it can be easy to focus on all of the things that your child is “doing wrong” and forget to focus on everything that he or she is doing right. So, make a conscious effort to notice the times when your child calmly puts something back after he or she was told that he or she couldn’t have it or when he or she stayed by your side instead of wandering off. Praise your child and let your child know that you appreciate the way that he or she is behaving. Also acknowledge that it’s not always easy to follow the rules and accept tough decisions on school shopping days. The more positive attention your child receives from you, the more likely he or she will be to meet your expectations and enjoy the experience.

Back-to-school shopping isn’t easy for kids with ADHD or their parents. But when you’re prepared with a few key strategies and solid shopping plan you’ll be able to get your child everything that he or she needs and may even enjoy each other’s company along the way.

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Staying Organized on Summer Road Trips with ADHD Family road trips are fun and exciting, but they can also be stressful when one or more family members have ADHD. Some of this stress comes simply from being in close quarters and having to stay seated in the car for long stretches of time. While you can’t do much to cut down on the amount of driving that’s required for your trip you can tackle another source of stress – disorganization. When you’re in the car with kids, especially kids with ADHD, things can get messy quickly. You may start off with a clean car, but buckle kids into the back seat with their games, drinks, and food and the car can go from clean to a disaster zone in 5 minutes or less! This chaos makes it hard for kids with ADHD to keep track of their things, and can be the source of arguments, whining, and even tears. Often this backseat chaos doesn’t get left behind once you reach your destination. When things are disorganized at the beginning of a trip, it is very hard for kids to become organized once they’re on the road. As a result, the hotel room quickly mirrors the messy car.

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Fri, 18 Aug 2017 15:45:39 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/staying-organized-on-summer-road-trips-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/staying-organized-on-summer-road-trips-with-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Family road trips are fun and exciting, but they can also be stressful when one or more family members have ADHD. Some of this stress comes simply from being in close quarters and having to stay seated in the car for long stretches of time. While you can’t do much to cut down on the amount of driving that’s required for your trip you can tackle another source of stress – disorganization. When you’re in the car with kids, especially kids with ADHD, things can get messy quickly. You may start off with a clean car, but buckle kids into the back seat with their games, drinks, and food and the car can go from clean to a disaster zone in 5 minutes or less! This chaos makes it hard for kids with ADHD to keep track of their things, and can be the source of arguments, whining, and even tears. Often this backseat chaos doesn’t get left behind once you reach your destination. When things are disorganized at the beginning of a trip, it is very hard for kids to become organized once they’re on the road. As a result, the hotel room quickly mirrors the messy car.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Using a few simple organization strategies before and during your trip will empower your children to keep their things organized. Kids with ADHD will learn that even though they may struggle to stay organized, there is a lot that they can do to keep track of their own things.

  1. Plan and create an activity bag for each child. Before your trip, work with your kids to make a list of the games and activities that they will keep in the car. Provide each child with a reasonably sized bag and let him or her know that everything he or she brings needs to fit inside. Travel cosmetics caddies can be the best car activity bags. They can hang from a car headrest, they can easily fold up and be carried into restaurants and hotel rooms, and they have clear pockets for keeping things organized. Label each of the pockets with the items that should go inside, and your kids will easily know where their things should be stored. They can also check the pockets before they leave the car, restaurant, or hotel to make sure they haven’t left anything behind.

 

  1. Clean out the backseat every time you stop for gas. Avoid letting wrappers, food, and other trash build up in the backseat by cleaning out the car every time you stop to refuel. Keep a trash bag in the car to make the cleanup easier. You can put your kids in charge of the clean-outs either by rotating the person responsible for the entire car, or by making each kid responsible for his or her own area. Make the task more fun by playfully scoring his or her clean-out efforts. Your kids will be aiming for 10s in no time!

 

  1. Wet-wipes are your friend. Deal with spills and messes before they get sticky by keeping wet-wipes and paper towels in the back seat. Your kids can do most of the spill clean-up on their own, but double check when you stop to make sure there isn’t too much sticky goo left behind.

 

  1. Pack only what you need. One of the best strategies for staying organized on the road is to bring fewer things with you on your trip. It’s always tempting to over pack, but it’s especially tempting with road trips because you’re not restricted by airline luggage limits. Resist the urge to bring everything but the kitchen sink, and pack only what your kids will really need. When it comes to packing kids clothes, try packing each day’s outfit in its own gallon-size ZipLock® bag. Put one complete outfit, including the shirt, shorts, socks, and underwear in a bag labeled with the day of the week and your child’s name. Do this for every day of the trip, and your child will easily be able to find what he or she needs. As an added bonus, you’ll have only packed the clothes that are necessary and nothing more.
  2. Use a pop-up hamper. Dirty clothes can pile up quickly, and before long they can take over a hotel room. Keep the laundry under control by bringing along a pop-up hamper. These collapsible hampers take up very little space in a suitcase, and make it easy for kids (and adults) to see where their dirty clothes should go at the end of each day.

With a little planning and a few good strategies you can help your kids stay organized while they’re on the road, even when they have ADHD. Everyone will feel more relaxed, and your kids will feel proud of how well they were able to keep track of their belongings independently.

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What Is the Difference Between ADD and ADHD? As an ADHD expert one of the questions that I’m asked most often is, “What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?” Sometimes people share with me that they were diagnosed with ADD is as a kid and wonder how the ADHD that they hear about today is different from the diagnosis they received in childhood. With both terms being so prevalent, people are often surprised to learn that ADD is actually an outdated term. Today healthcare providers only refer to ADHD and no longer use ADD as a diagnostic label. Labels like ADD and ADHD originate from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM), which is the healthcare “manual” for all recognized mental disorders. The DSM is used by healthcare professionals as a reference guide for the symptoms, impairments, and diagnostic criteria associated with ADHD as well as other disorders, like depression and anxiety.

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Fri, 18 Aug 2017 15:46:32 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/the-difference-between-add-and-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/the-difference-between-add-and-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. As an ADHD expert one of the questions that I’m asked most often is, “What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?” Sometimes people share with me that they were diagnosed with ADD is as a kid and wonder how the ADHD that they hear about today is different from the diagnosis they received in childhood. With both terms being so prevalent, people are often surprised to learn that ADD is actually an outdated term. Today healthcare providers only refer to ADHD and no longer use ADD as a diagnostic label. Labels like ADD and ADHD originate from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM), which is the healthcare “manual” for all recognized mental disorders. The DSM is used by healthcare professionals as a reference guide for the symptoms, impairments, and diagnostic criteria associated with ADHD as well as other disorders, like depression and anxiety.

In 1980, the term Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) was included in the DSM for the first time. Two types of ADD were described: ADD with hyperactivity and ADD without hyperactivity. Overtime, healthcare professions became concerned that the term “ADD” didn’t place enough emphasis on hyperactive and impulsive symptoms that so many people with the disorder experience. So, in 1987 the name was changed to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and has stayed the same ever since. Today ADHD is described in the DSM-5 as having 3 possible presentations (or subtypes):

Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: This presentation is assigned to children and adults who experience challenges that are solely related to inattention symptoms. These symptoms reflect difficulty sustaining attention, persisting at tasks or play activities, following through on instructions, giving close attention to details, organizing tasks and activities, and keeping track of belongings.

Predominantly Hyperactive Impulsive Presentation: This presentation is assigned to children, and occasionally to adults, who experience challenges solely related to the hyperactive/impulsive symptoms. These symptoms reflect excessive movement, including difficulty remaining seated, often fidgeting, and constantly being on-the-go as if “driven by a motor,” as well as excessive talkativeness, and impulsive behavior such as blurting out answers, difficulty waiting, and frequently interrupting others.

Combined Presentation: This presentation is assigned to children and adults who experience symptoms in both the inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive clusters. It’s the most common presentation diagnosed in children and adolescents.

Often, when someone has received a diagnosis of the Predominantly Inattentive Presentation of ADHD, they will refer to themselves as having ADD rather than ADHD. It’s an easy way to describe the fact that they struggle with focus and concentration, but aren’t necessarily hyperactive or impulsive. It is much easier to day “ADD” than it is to say “ADHD-Predominantly Inattentive Presentation” whenever you’re talking about your diagnosis! And these patients aren’t alone. There is discussion among many clinicians and researchers about whether the term ADHD should be changed to better reflect the symptoms and challenges that come with the disorder. For example, the majority of children and adults with ADHD struggle with organization, time management and following multi-step instructions. None of these challenges are clearly captured by the ADHD label. In addition, for children and adults who have the inattentive presentation of ADHD, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to have the term “hyperactivity” included the diagnosis. Some psychologists have suggested that Executive Function Deficit Disorder may be a better term for ADHD, especially for the inattentive presentation.

Over the next decade, as scientists learn more about ADHD and the biological underpinnings of the disorder, we can expect to see changes in the way healthcare professionals think about and label the disorder. With so many possible presentations and combinations of ADHD symptoms, clear descriptions and labels will make it easier for people with ADHD to communicate about their experiences and will create pathways for the development of more targeted and personalized treatments.

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Fun Activities that will Get Kids Learning this Summer Children experience significant learning loss during the summer months when they do not engage in learning activates. This summer slide is responsible for up to two months of lost learning in math and up to one month of lost learning in reading. For kids with ADHD, who often finish the school year behind their peers academically, summer learning activities not only help offset the summer slide, but also help build skills that may have been missed during the school year. Unfortunately, because school is more challenging and stressful for kids with ADHD, they are typically more resistant to participating in summer learning activities. While structured academic enrichment activities are an important part of any summer learning plan, there’s also room for fun learning activities at home that won’t feel quite so much like schoolwork. When kids with ADHD are doing something that they enjoy, their resistance disappears and their enthusiasm soars!

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Wed, 19 Jul 2017 09:53:13 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/activities-that-will-get-kids-learning-in-summer https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/activities-that-will-get-kids-learning-in-summer Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Children experience significant learning loss during the summer months when they do not engage in learning activates. This summer slide is responsible for up to two months of lost learning in math and up to one month of lost learning in reading. For kids with ADHD, who often finish the school year behind their peers academically, summer learning activities not only help offset the summer slide, but also help build skills that may have been missed during the school year. Unfortunately, because school is more challenging and stressful for kids with ADHD, they are typically more resistant to participating in summer learning activities. While structured academic enrichment activities are an important part of any summer learning plan, there’s also room for fun learning activities at home that won’t feel quite so much like schoolwork. When kids with ADHD are doing something that they enjoy, their resistance disappears and their enthusiasm soars!

Here are 5 creative activities that will help get your child learning while having fun this summer.

  1. Family Game Nights. Almost all board games involve some elements of reading, writing, math, planning, or strategic thinking. When kids are immersed in their favorite games they don’t realize that they are actually practicing their academic skills. Great games for practicing math skills are Phase 10, a rummy-style game that combines math and strategy and Sumoku, a crossword-style numbers game that helps kids practice foundational math concepts. To encourage reading, try Apples to Apples, which requires reading on every card, and Bananagrams, a Scrabble-like game that’s allows kids to create words without the rules and limitations that come with using the Scrabble board.
  2. Write a Blog. Blogging provides kids with an excellent opportunity for self-expression while they are practicing writing and communication skills. Blogging is one writing activity that most kids are excited to try because they can choose topics that they find interesting, and they can share their interests with family and friends. Positive feedback from blog readers helps build confidence and encourages more posts (and more writing!). Choose a blogging site that allows you to password protect blog posts, so they can only be viewed by readers with the password. And always review your child’s blogs before they are posted. Teach your child about online safety by discussing ground rules for blog topics and blog content. Edublogs (edublogs.com) is a great blogging platform created just for students. It allows for password protected posts, and is free for student users.
  3. Expert for a Day. Sometimes the best way to learn something is to teach it. When we teach others we are more attentive to details and we think more critically and deeply about a topic. Encourage your child to teach you and other members of the family by making them an “Expert for a Day” this summer. With the help of your child find a local historical site or educational attraction (the zoo, a marina, a nature preserve) that you and your family can visit this summer. Have your child learn about the site or attraction through research online and at the library. Allow your child to take the lead on your family outing and play the role of tour guide for the attraction. Encourage your child to take notes while he or she researches so he or she can remember the important details when you are all at the site. Your child will love taking the lead and the whole family will learn from the experience.
  4. Cooking and baking are simple, every day activities that provide excellent learning opportunities. Kids use their math and reading skills, practice following multi-step instructions, and even learn about science! The Exploratorium’s Science of Cooking website (https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/index.html) includes recipes and activities that teach kids about the science of cooking in a way that is engaging and interactive. Their Bread Science 101 page (http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/bread/bread_science.html) teaches about the chemical reactions that occur when dough ingredients are mixed together and yeast is added to help the bread rise. Combine this website with a simple “bread in a bag” recipe (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/85114/bread-in-a-bag/) and you have a learning experience that every kid will enjoy.
  5. EarthCaching. Everyone loves to go on a scavenger hunt! Geocaching has taken the hunt to a new level with hidden containers (caches) all over US (and the world) that can be discovered using a simple smartphone GPS tool. To make Geocaching more educational, focus your family’s search on EarthCache sites. EarthCaching is a scavenger hunt for geographical and geological caches. EarthCache sites are listed on geocaching.com and in the Geocaching app. When you search for a Geocache on the site or app, check the “EarthCache” box under “Geocache types” to find these unique sites!

Finding creative ways to engage your child in learning over the summer will go a long way in helping him or her start the new school year off with confidence. Your child will enjoy learning and will be excited to “grow his or her brains” while having fun!

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Is ADHD Genetic? There is so much discussion online about possible causes of ADHD – watching too much TV, eating too much sugar, lax parenting, schools that don’t allow for enough creativity or physical activity, etc. Surprisingly, one of least discussed topics is the connection between our genes and ADHD. We know that genes strongly influence our appearance, our intelligence, our athletic ability, and even our personality, so why not ADHD symptoms as well? 

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Wed, 19 Jul 2017 09:46:03 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/causes-of-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/causes-of-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. There is so much discussion online about possible causes of ADHD – watching too much TV, eating too much sugar, lax parenting, schools that don’t allow for enough creativity or physical activity, etc. Surprisingly, one of least discussed topics is the connection between our genes and ADHD. We know that genes strongly influence our appearance, our intelligence, our athletic ability, and even our personality, so why not ADHD symptoms as well? 

Decades of research have in fact established that genes play a significant role in the development of ADHD. For parents of kids with ADHD, it’s probably not surprising to hear that ADHD often runs in families. Most children with ADHD have at least one close relative with the disorder, and one-third of fathers with ADHD have a child who has ADHD themselves. The strongest evidence for the role of genes in the development of ADHD comes from studies of identical twins. Researchers have found that if one twin has ADHD there is a 90% chance that the other twin will have ADHD as well. This is compared to a 25% chance among non-identical siblings. Overall, scientists estimate that ADHD has a heritability factor of .76, meaning that genes are responsible for about 76% of the differences that contribute to the development of ADHD. For comparisons sake, genes are responsible for about 70% of individual differences in IQ, with the remaining 30% being determined by non-genetic factors, like access to high quality early education.  As with IQ, whether or not an individual develops ADHD is largely influenced by genetics. However, environmental, or non-genetic, factors also play a role. These factors include exposure to toxins, maternal smoking during pregnancy, and premature birth (among others). If a child is exposed to one or more of these environmental factors, then he or she is at risk for developing ADHD. If a child is exposed to these environmental factors and he or she also carries genes that predispose him or her to ADHD, then his or her likelihood of developing the disorder increases significantly.

If we know that genes play an important role in the development of ADHD, is a genetic test available? Many parents ask this question, and why not given that genetic testing exists for many medical disorders and even for ancestry DNA profiles? While scientists can confidently establish a genetic basis for ADHD from twin and family studies, identifying specific genes associated with the disorder is a much more challenging task. ADHD affects multiple parts of the brain and impacts a wide range of cognitive functions. No single gene or chromosomal region is responsible for all ADHD symptoms. Instead, multiple genes make small contributions to the development of the disorder. Researchers have identified a few of these genes already, but they have a long way to go before they have a clear genetic picture of ADHD. So, currently no genetic test for ADHD is available.

Despite not yet having a clear understanding of every piece of the ADHD genetic puzzle, researchers are optimistic about where this line of research is headed. In the future, scientists may be able to conduct genetic testing that will measure ADHD susceptibility, even in very young children. This testing would open the door for prevention and early intervention opportunities that could greatly improve the lives of children and families who are at risk. Equally as exciting is the possibility of using precision medicine, which optimizes treatment based on an individual’s genetic profile, to tailor ADHD medications and behavioral interventions for each child. This could greatly reduce the amount of trial and error involved in finding the “right” ADHD medication or the most effective behavioral and cognitive interventions.

Understanding that ADHD is strongly influenced by genetics should help parents recognize that they are not “to blame” for a child’s symptoms. There is, however, a great deal that parents can do to help their child manage their ADHD and reach their full potential.  In the future, with access to a clear picture of each child’s unique ADHD genetic profile, parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals will have the ability to be even more effective with the interventions they use to support children with ADHD.

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Summer Vacations with ADHD: Managing Screen Time When You’re Traveling with Kids Everyone looks forward to summer family vacations! This fun, memory-making, quality family time can be the highlight of the summer. Unfortunately, before the fun can begin parents of kids with ADHD must endure the long trip to the vacation destination. Without fail, long car and plane rides stir up some of the most challenging ADHD behaviors in children and cause sibling squabbles to reach new heights. In an effort to keep the peace and minimize boredom, most parents rely heavily on tablets, phones, and in-flight movies. They do this with good reason - screens can be very effective at keeping behavior in check. Unfortunately, for kids with ADHD, long stretches of screen time can have negative effects on their attention and behavior for hours (and sometimes days) after the journey is over. Many kids with ADHD have difficulty regulating their attention around screens. They become hyper-focused when they’re watching a show or playing videogames, but when the screen is taken away struggle to transition to another activity. In fact, research shows that some kids with ADHD continue to “crave” screen time for hours after they have spent a significant amount of time in front of screens. For these kids, taking the device away at the end of the trip can lead to meltdowns and outbursts, as well as seemingly constant begging for more screen time during the entire vacation. Not an ideal way to start off your family holiday!

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Wed, 19 Jul 2017 09:29:51 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/managing-screen-time-when-traveling-with-adhd-kids https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/managing-screen-time-when-traveling-with-adhd-kids Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Everyone looks forward to summer family vacations! This fun, memory-making, quality family time can be the highlight of the summer. Unfortunately, before the fun can begin parents of kids with ADHD must endure the long trip to the vacation destination. Without fail, long car and plane rides stir up some of the most challenging ADHD behaviors in children and cause sibling squabbles to reach new heights. In an effort to keep the peace and minimize boredom, most parents rely heavily on tablets, phones, and in-flight movies. They do this with good reason - screens can be very effective at keeping behavior in check. Unfortunately, for kids with ADHD, long stretches of screen time can have negative effects on their attention and behavior for hours (and sometimes days) after the journey is over. Many kids with ADHD have difficulty regulating their attention around screens. They become hyper-focused when they’re watching a show or playing videogames, but when the screen is taken away struggle to transition to another activity. In fact, research shows that some kids with ADHD continue to “crave” screen time for hours after they have spent a significant amount of time in front of screens. For these kids, taking the device away at the end of the trip can lead to meltdowns and outbursts, as well as seemingly constant begging for more screen time during the entire vacation. Not an ideal way to start off your family holiday!

So, what should parents do? If your child struggles with regulating his or her attention and transitions around screen time, then keeping videogames and movies off limits during the trip is your best option. If this doesn’t feel manageable or realistic, then follow these three guidelines to keeping screen-related disruptions to a minimum:

  1. Limit screen sessions to 30 minutes. Keeping your child’s screen sessions relatively short, with longer screen-free breaks in between, will help your child regulate his or her attention. He or she will have an easier time transitioning off the screens, and he or she should have fewer “screen time” cravings after the trip.
  2. Create a screen schedule and stick to it. Plan out times when screens will be allowed and share this schedule with your child ahead of time. Keep track of screen session time by using the timer on your phone (it’s very easy to lose track and accidentally allow your child a much longer session then was planned). Do the same for the time between screen sessions. This way, when your child asks you when he or she can have the device back you can simply tell him or her to check the timer.
  3. Reward your child. If your child is not used to having limits around screen time, then adjusting to a schedule may be challenging. Acknowledge this when you discuss the schedule and your expectations with him or her ahead of time. Let your child know that he or she will earn a reward at the end of the trip if he or she keeps a positive attitude while sticking to the schedule. Make sure to praise him or her along the way and let him or her know that he or she is well on the way to earning a reward.

Wondering what you should do to keep your child entertained in between screen sessions? The best activities are those that your child is able to look forward to and feel excited about. So, start by asking him or her to come up with some ideas. Bring some of your own ideas to the table too. Look for special activities that your child doesn’t typically have an opportunity to do every day, to keep the novelty and interest high. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. No Mess Creative Toys. No mess creative toys and art supplies, like molding and sculpting Wikki Sticks (wikkistix.com), Travel Spirograph (www.originalspirograph.com/), and dot art created with inexpensive school supply stickers (https://tinyurl.com/yb9f276d), can keep kids entertained for hours.
  2. Mad Libs. Mad Libs (http://www.madlibs.com/) “fill in the blank” stories will have everyone laughing, and will help the time fly by.
  3. Comic Books and Graphic Novels. If your child is a resistant reader, then reading a chapter book during a long car or plan ride isn’t going to seem like an appealing activity. Instead, substitute with graphic novels or comic books. Many kids wish they could choose graphic novels or comic books as their “assigned” reading during school year, so having the opportunity to pick them as their vacation reads will feel like a treat.

This family vacation, keep screen time to a minimum and fill the time with fun activities that your kids will enjoy.  With a little planning and creativity, your vacation will be off to a great start this year!

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5 Questions to Ask Your Child’s Doctor before Taking a Summer ADHD Medication Holiday Many parents consider having their child take a break from his or her ADHD medication over the summer. Research shows that there are in fact some benefits to summer medication holidays for children who take ADHD medication. For kids who experience medication side effects, such as insomnia, decreased appetite, or slowed physical growth, a summer break can provide relief and chance to catch up in weight gain and growth. Summer medication breaks also give parents an opportunity to observe their child’s ADHD symptoms when his or her medication is not in effect.

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Wed, 12 Jul 2017 17:16:15 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/5-questions-to-ask-your-childs-doctor-before-taking-a-summer-adhd-medication-holiday- https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/5-questions-to-ask-your-childs-doctor-before-taking-a-summer-adhd-medication-holiday- Dr. Rooney Dr. Rooney Many parents consider having their child take a break from his or her ADHD medication over the summer. Research shows that there are in fact some benefits to summer medication holidays for children who take ADHD medication. For kids who experience medication side effects, such as insomnia, decreased appetite, or slowed physical growth, a summer break can provide relief and chance to catch up in weight gain and growth. Summer medication breaks also give parents an opportunity to observe their child’s ADHD symptoms when his or her medication is not in effect. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends short ADHD medication breaks periodically as a strategy for assessing whether medication or not the medication is still effective and necessary.  If the child behaves very similarly on and off ADHD medication, then either the medication isn’t doing its job and adjustments are needed, or the child’s symptoms have improved to the point where medication is no longer needed.

Are you considering a summer ADHD medication holiday for your child? Start by talking with your child’s doctor.  Having answers to the following questions will allow you make an informed decision, and will help you create an effective plan for getting the most out of a summer medication break. 

  1. How will we evaluate changes in my child’s ADHD symptoms? Ask your doctor about rating scales you can complete before and after your child discontinues his or her medication. It can be helpful to also have camp counselors or summer instructors complete rating scales. Make sure you or an instructor is able to observe your child during some academic activities over the summer so that your child’s ability to stay focused can be assessed.
  2. How will the break affect my child during summer activities? For some children, ADHD medication primarily serves as a tool for managing symptoms during activities that place a high demand on attention, like sitting in a classroom, reading a book, or doing homework. For other children medication also significantly helps manage attention, impulse control, and hyperactivity when they are playing sports, interacting with friends, participating in less structured games and activities, and traveling on family vacations. Share your child’s summer plans with the doctor and ask how a summer medication break may affect your child during his or her activities.
  3. Are there any safety concerns around taking a medication break? If your child is very impulsive and required intense supervision before starting an ADHD medication, discuss whether a summer medication holiday is compatible with your current childcare and vacation plans.
  4. What will we do if we need to reintroduce a modified ADHD medication schedule that can accommodate summer academic activities? If you would like to take a summer medication break but are concerned about the impact it will have on your child’s summer learning activities, talk to your doctor about a modified summer medication plan. Can the frequency of his or her medication be reduced by taking it only on days when academic activities are scheduled? Or, if he or she is attending a summer program that only has academic enrichment activities in the morning, is a short-acting medication that wears off by the afternoon an option?
  5. If medication needs to be restarted this summer, what steps should be taken? Have a plan in place for restarting medication in the event that your child’s ADHD symptoms begin to interfere with his or her daily activities this summer. Will you be able to quickly schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor? Or will they be able to provide a simple phone consultation? If you need to restart your child on a lower dose of his or her medication and gradually work back up to the current dose, how long will that process take?

Summer ADHD medication holidays can be beneficial for some children with ADHD. By creating a plan and working closely with your child’s doctor the medication break can go as smoothly as possible. You’ll be setting your child up for success so that he or she can enjoy the summer and make the most of his or her time off from school!

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7 Strategies for Making SAT Prep Fun When you have ADHD it’s important to make studying as fun as possible. After all, it is much easier to focus on something that you find interesting, right? With ADHD, knowing how to study for the SAT is half the battle. While nothing can take the place of a structured SAT study program, these fun activities can be great supplements. Since they’re fun and interesting, you’ll be able to stay focused even after you’ve reached your attention span’s limit with your traditional test prep materials.

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Tue, 11 Jul 2017 10:47:05 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/7-strategies-for-making-sat-prep-fun https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/7-strategies-for-making-sat-prep-fun Dr. Rooney Dr. Rooney When you have ADHD it’s important to make studying as fun as possible. After all, it is much easier to focus on something that you find interesting, right? With ADHD, knowing how to study for the SAT is half the battle. While nothing can take the place of a structured SAT study program, these fun activities can be great supplements. Since they’re fun and interesting, you’ll be able to stay focused even after you’ve reached your attention span’s limit with your traditional test prep materials.

Make the most of these activities and strategies by reviewing your practice test results. Identify key areas where you need the most improvement, and choose the activities that tap into those areas. Also, consider using motivators. For example, commit to studying your test prep materials for 1 hour, and then reward yourself for time spent on one of the following activities.

    • Play Word Games. Word games can make the task of building your vocabulary less tedious. While there are many websites available that provide vocabulary building games and exercises, maximize your study time by using a tool that is specifically designed for the SAT. Word Dynamo is an excellent app (for iOS and Android) created by Dictionary.com. They have specific SAT prep games, with word matching, crossword puzzles, and digital flashcards. You can track your progress and earn points and badges to help you stay motivated.
    • Memorize Math Concepts with Pinterest. If you are a visual learner, then pictures and images will go a long way in helping you grasp and memorize math concepts. You’ll find thousands of helpful math-related graphics on Pinterest. Print them off, or better yet, copy them by hand into your own sketchpad. In the process of recreating the diagram or image you’ll encode important details into your memory. Just make sure to give yourself a time limit for each diagram so you don’t spend hours focused on only one math concept!
    • Read the New York Times. Students have been told to read the New York Times to improve their vocabulary for just about as along as the SAT has been in existence. While you may be tempted to tune out as soon as you hear “New York Times,” do yourself a favor and check out the 182 Questions to Write or Talk About section designed specifically for high school students. (https://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/13/182-questions-to-write-or-talk-about/ ). It contains interesting student opinion questions, like “Is cheating getting worse?” “Do you think a healthier lunch program is a lost cause?” and “Is school designed more for girls than boys?” with responses and opinions from students across the country. Each question is linked to a relevant New York Times article or opinion piece. When the article you are reading is an opinion piece, make notes about the argument the author is building and the techniques they use to strengthen their logic to help yourself prepare for the SAT writing section. You can also add your own responses to the online dialogue as a way to practice your writing skills.    
    • Play SAT Jeopardy. Jeopardy Labs (www.jeopardylabs.com) was created by an undergraduate student at Washington State as a platform to help students and teachers create their own online Jeopardy games. The site contains games created by previous users, like New SAT Math (https://jeopardylabs.com/play/new-sat-math) and SAT writing (https://jeopardylabs.com/play/sat-writing-jeopardy-3). You can play as a single player or you can play with friends for some friendly competition. Since one of the best ways to learn new information is to create materials yourself, consider creating your own Jeopardy games on this site based on practice test questions that you’ve found challenging.
    • Read for Pleasure. Reading is one of the best things you can do to prepare for the SAT. The test itself entails reading long, dense passages that require extended focus and concentration. So, the more reading practice you have the better. In addition, many of the vocabulary words on the SAT can be found in moderately challenging non-fiction books. Pick a non-fiction book on a topic that you find interesting and dive in! As you come across unfamiliar words, look up their meaning online and make an effort to understand how they are used in context.
    • Watch Educational Videos. Give yourself a break from reading by watching educational videos. Review your practice test results and identify a few areas where you need to improve your knowledge. Focus your video search on these topics. Most people will easily be distracted by fun, non-educational videos when they search on YouTube, so stay on task by searching on www.Hippocampus.org instead. This site contains links to an impressive collection of educational videos that cover almost every topic on the SAT.
  • Study with Friends. If you’re an extrovert and find it hard to stay motivated when you study alone, organize a study group with some of your most motivated friends. Use your study group time to play competitive games, like Jeopardy, or practice exercising and reviewing your writing skills. Quiz your friends on vocabulary and math facts using flashcards that you create yourself or find online. Just remember to carve out independent study time as well, especially for information that you need to rehearse and commit to memory.

 

Preparing for the SAT takes time and commitment, but parts of the process can be fun! Do yourself a favor and don’t wait until you are a couple of months away from the SAT to start some of these activities. Building your SAT reading, writing, and math skills over time will give you a big advantage in the long run.

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Encouraging Summer Math and Reading for Kids with ADHD Summer gives kids with ADHD the opportunity to take a break from the pressure and hard work that comes with staying focused and on-task all day long. They have more time to explore their creative side, burn off their extra energy while playing outside, and become absorbed in activities that they truly enjoy.

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Tue, 11 Jul 2017 10:41:03 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/encouraging-summer-math-and-reading-for-kids-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/encouraging-summer-math-and-reading-for-kids-with-adhd Dr. Rooney Dr. Rooney Summer gives kids with ADHD the opportunity to take a break from the pressure and hard work that comes with staying focused and on-task all day long. They have more time to explore their creative side, burn off their extra energy while playing outside, and become absorbed in activities that they truly enjoy. Given how challenging school can be, many parents of kids with ADHD want to provide them with a complete break from academic activities over the summer. As tempting as this may be, and as important as non-academic activities are, some academic learning is necessary to avoid a summer learning backslide. Studies show that on average kids lose up to 2 months of math and up to 1 month of reading over the summer. Engaging in educational activities over the summer can help prevent summer backsliding. Unfortunately, many kids with ADHD will push back against these activities in large part because of negative experiences they have had throughout the school year. As a parent, how do you get your child to read a book or practice his or her math facts without engaging in a summer-long power struggle?

  1. Start with clear expectations. Let your child know that summer represents a break from school, but not a break from learning. Describe the summer backslide and explain that by reading and doing math problems over the summer he or she can help his or her brain grow stronger so that school will be easier when he or she returns in the fall. Develop a summer learning schedule and share the plan with your child in advance. It may be helpful to also highlight the amount of time he or she will spend on fun activities, like attending camp or going to the pool, so he or she can clearly see that the entire summer isn’t being consumed by academic tasks.
  2. Set goals and track your child’s progress. Even with the best of intentions, very few kids will be satisfied with learning for learning’s sake over the summer. Set clear goals for daily academic activities and give your child the opportunity to track his or her progress. Seek out summer learning programs that focus on building specific academic skills and monitoring growth and progress over time.
  3. Be a role model for your child. Set your own summer learning goals and share them with your child. Your goals can be simple, like reading for a few minutes every day or spending time each week learning something new about an interest you would like to explore. Set goals for yourself and share them with your child. You can both track your progress together.
  4. Set your child up for success. Much of the stress that kids with ADHD feel during the school year comes from struggling to keep up with their peers and hold their own in classroom settings that aren’t designed for their learning style. Counteract these negative experiences by providing your child with the opportunity to experience academic success in the summer. Set initial goals that are easily achievable, like completing math worksheets that are quite simple, or reading books that are well within his or her current ability level. Then gradually make the goals and academic material more challenging. Aim for targets that are just ahead of where your child is at currently, but are still within his or her reach.
  5. Praise and reward effort. Spending time on math and reading over the summer, and working to achieve academic goals will be challenging for most kids with ADHD. Let your child know that you recognize his or her hard work and praise his or her effort. If your child needs extra motivation, then consider offering activities or privileges that can be earned for achieving his or her goals.

Encouraging kids with ADHD to participate in reading and math over the summer isn’t always easy. So, make a solid plan, set clear expectations, be a good role model, and praise and reward their effort. The payoff will be great when their school year gets off to a great start in the fall.

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Four Online Study Tools that Keep You Focused When you have ADHD, keeping your mind focused and engaged while you’re studying isn’t always easy. An ADHD brain thrives on novelty, mental challenges, and exciting visuals – three things that the act of memorizing rote information rarely provides. Fortunately there are a few dynamic online study tools that can make typical study strategies more engaging and effective. They allow you to move past the basics of rereading material or reviewing your notes by engaging your mind through active learning techniques that will take your study methods to the next level.   

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Mon, 10 Jul 2017 12:20:15 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/four-online-study-tools-that-keep-you-focused https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/four-online-study-tools-that-keep-you-focused Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. When you have ADHD, keeping your mind focused and engaged while you’re studying isn’t always easy. An ADHD brain thrives on novelty, mental challenges, and exciting visuals – three things that the act of memorizing rote information rarely provides. Fortunately there are a few dynamic online study tools that can make typical study strategies more engaging and effective. They allow you to move past the basics of rereading material or reviewing your notes by engaging your mind through active learning techniques that will take your study methods to the next level.   

  1. Create Mind Maps with GoConqur

When you are striving to hone in on important facts and draw connections among key concepts, one of the best things you can do is recreate your notes and handouts in a format that matches your own learning style.  GoConqur helps you do just that. With GoConqur you can create mind maps that distill large complex concepts down into a few key points, draw connections among key facts and ideas, and use images and videos to bring your maps to life. GoConqur also maintains a database of mind maps created by other users. These can serve as inspiration and can help if you want to learn more about a topic or are missing details in your own notes. Just make sure you also create your own mind maps from scratch in order to get the most out of this powerful tool.
www.goconqur.com

Image Source: www.GoConqur.com

  1. Use an Online Mneumonic Generator

A mneumonic device is a technique for remembering facts using a series of common words that are strung together in a memorable way. For example, a common mneumonic device for remembering the order of mathematical operations (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract) is “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.” The first letter of each word in the sentence maps to the first letter of each of the mathematical operations. The trick is to come up with a sentence that is more memorable than the series of facts you’re trying to memorize. An online mneumonic generator, like the one provided by Spacefem, can provide excellent inspiration when you’re looking to create your own mneumonic devices quickly and easily.

  1. Create Flashcards and Test Your Knowledge

There is a reason why flashcards have been around since what seems like the beginning of time – they work! Flashcards are one of the most effective study methods available because they prompt you to actively recall information from memory based on only a few details displayed on the front of the card. This active learning process is far more effective at encoding information in your memory bank than more passive processes, like reviewing your notes or re-reading a book chapter. Flashcards also help you maximize your study time by helping you sort information you have already learned from fact you haven’t yet memorized. While flashcards are effective, historically they haven’t been the most exciting and engaging tool. Fortunately, online flashcard tools, like Quizlet, are more fun and more effective. Quizlet allows you to create your own online flashcards or choose from decks of cards that have already been created. You can add pictures and audio to your cards to make them more interesting, and you can track your progress as you memorize new information. If you really want to keep yourself focused and engaged, try one of Quizlet’s study games and compete against the clock or against other users.
www.quizlet.com

  1. View Video Presentations

Repetition is necessary when you’re studying, but it can get boring! Using multimedia presentations to review a subject can help keep things interesting. If you’re struggling to clearly understand a particular concept from your notes, watching the same information presented in a slightly different manner can help bring clarity. Unfortunately, combing through all of the videos available online to find those that are accurate and high quality can be tricky and time consuming. You also run the risk of getting distracted the minute you start looking at any videos on YouTube! To avoid these pitfalls, keep your search focused and productive by going to Hippocampus.org. Hippocampus has an extensive collection of online learning videos that cover just about any topic you might be studying, and the quality of the content is generally excellent.   
www.hippocampus.org

Taking advantage of these online tools will help keep you focused and engaged next time you’re studying. You’ll be more prepared than ever for your big exam, and you’ll have the grades to prove it!     

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Stressed about Finals? Try Adding Pre-Exam Music to Your Study Plan With final exams quickly approaching, now is the time to put together a rock-solid test-taking plan that will help you reach your full potential this year. All of the usual final exam advice still holds true: study hard, get a good night’s sleep, eat a high protein breakfast, and keep your stress levels down by making time for exercise and time with friends. This year, consider also adding some inspiring pre-exam music to your finals plan to help take your exam performance to the next level.

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Tue, 13 Jun 2017 17:44:28 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/adding-exam-music-to-prepare-for-your-finals-study-plan https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/adding-exam-music-to-prepare-for-your-finals-study-plan Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. With final exams quickly approaching, now is the time to put together a rock-solid test-taking plan that will help you reach your full potential this year. All of the usual final exam advice still holds true: study hard, get a good night’s sleep, eat a high protein breakfast, and keep your stress levels down by making time for exercise and time with friends. This year, consider also adding some inspiring pre-exam music to your finals plan to help take your exam performance to the next level.

Music has many positive benefits including enhancing our mood, providing a distraction from negative thoughts, and even boosting feelings of self-empowerment – all of which are directly related to academic performance. Research has shown that listening to calming music before an exam can reduce anxiety, and listening to upbeat and empowering music before a challenging task can improve your mood and your self-confidence. Elite athletes incorporate music into their pre-game routines in order to mentally prepare themselves for competition. In fact, there’s some scientific evidence that shows that pre-game music does positively impact their performance. In a study of basketball players who were struggling at the free throw line, researchers found that listening to upbeat music before hitting the court improved the players’ free throw percentage. The players in the study told the researchers that listening to the music helped them control their mood and their negative thoughts about shooting. These same principles apply to academic performance!

When it comes to picking your own pre-exam music, think about the emotional state you want to achieve and find songs that will stir up those emotions. If you tend to feel down and discouraged before an exam, look for music will inspire you to feel positive, energized, and hopeful, like gold medalist Michael Phelps who blasts “Levels” by Avicii to get himself pumped up before a big race. If you tend to feel nervous and anxious, look for music that is reassuring, like Olympic soccer player Megan Rapinoe, who shakes off her pregame nerves with “Shake it Off” by Florence + the Machine. If your self-confidence often wanes before a big test, look for empowering music. According to a study conducted at Northwestern University, songs with a heavy bass, like Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” have the power to increase confidence and make you feel more in control. 

When you’re listening to music before an exam, use that time to give yourself an even greater mental boost by visualizing your best possible performance. Imagine yourself confidently tackling the test questions, and easily recalling answers from all of the material that you have studied. Remind yourself that you’ve worked hard to prepare for the exam and that all of your hard work and effort will pay off. Think back to a time when you aced an exam and how that made you feel. Imagine yourself feeling that same way when you’ve completed this final exam.

Music can be a powerful tool for boosting your mood and self-confidence going into your final exams. Just as music has inspired elite athletes to perform at their peak under pressure, when paired with a smart study plan it can help inspire you to reach your full potential on your exams this year.

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Tips for Teens: Changing your Study Mindset You’ve got a big test coming up at the end of the week, and you’re dreading it. You know you should start studying now so that you’ll be well prepared, but whenever you think about studying your mind gets flooded with negative thoughts: There’s so much material to study for this test, where will I even start? What if I can’t find my notes? What if my notes aren’t good enough and they don’t make any sense to me now? What if I put all of this time into studying and then fail the test anyway? All of these thoughts can quickly send you into avoidance mode. Before you know it, it’s the evening before the test and you haven’t studied at all.

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Tue, 13 Jun 2017 17:39:01 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/tips-for-teens-changing-study-mindset https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/tips-for-teens-changing-study-mindset Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. You’ve got a big test coming up at the end of the week, and you’re dreading it. You know you should start studying now so that you’ll be well prepared, but whenever you think about studying your mind gets flooded with negative thoughts: There’s so much material to study for this test, where will I even start? What if I can’t find my notes? What if my notes aren’t good enough and they don’t make any sense to me now? What if I put all of this time into studying and then fail the test anyway? All of these thoughts can quickly send you into avoidance mode. Before you know it, it’s the evening before the test and you haven’t studied at all.

Studying tips for teens

Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all dependent on each other. If we want to change the way we behave or act, and the way we feel about the things that we have to do, then we can start by changing the way that we think. So, if you want to develop study habits that will allow you to put your best foot forward, then challenge the negative thoughts that might be getting in your way.

There are common negative thought patterns that everyone experiences sometimes. These thoughts are more likely to come up when we’re faced with something that makes us nervous, stressed, or overwhelmed – like studying for a big exam!

All or Nothing Thoughts. With these types of thoughts, you’re either great at something or terrible at something. You need to do things perfectly, or not at all. When it comes to studying, this kind of thinking can cause you to set an impossibly high standard for yourself. If you think that you need to study perfectly and get a top score on the exam, then you’ll quickly become overwhelmed and anxious when you think about all of the work you need to do. On top of that, the possibility of failure seems very high since anything less than a perfect grade will be a disappointment.

All or Nothing Reframe: Remind yourself that you won’t get a top score on every test, and that is okay. No single test is going to make or break your final grade. If you study and prepare for the test then you’ll have worked hard in order to do your personal best.

Turning Small Problems into Catastrophes (Catastrophizing). When people catastrophize they take one small incident and allow it to grow larger and larger in their mind until it’s been built up to be a complete disaster. For example, if you get one bad grade on a math quiz, you think that this just proves that you’re terrible at math. You’ll probably fail every quiz and test for the rest of this year. This will show up on your college applications and now there is no way you’ll ever get into your first-choice school!

Catastrophizing Reframe: Remind yourself that this is just one small problem, and that you don’t know what it means for the future. You’re not a fortune teller! Try to put the problem out of your mind. Learn from any mistakes that were made, and start fresh today.

“Should” Thoughts. When you have a long list of rigid rules about things you “should do” in order to study effectively, you set yourself up for guilt and regret when you’re not able to follow through. This is especially true when you’re lists of “shoulds” is impossibly long, impossibly challenging, or simply not a good fit for your personality or study style. So, if you thought that you “should have” started studying on Monday, but you didn’t start until Thursday, then you’ll feel very guilty and defeated before you even sit down to study.

“Should” Reframe: Try not to think about what you “should have done” and instead think about where you are at right now. Make a plan based on the amount of time that you have available and do your best right now. Then, when you’re getting ready to study for another test in the future, think about the lists of rigid “shoulds” that you have in your mind. Ask yourself:  Are they are realistic? Are they a good fit for you?  Are they helping you move forward or just making you feel guilty and holding you back? Talk to a teacher or tutor about finding new strategies that will work for you.

Challenging these three common negative thought patterns will go a long way in helping you change your study mindset. You’ll feel less stressed when it’s time to start studying, and you’ll tackle your study plan more effectively. You’ll shift from avoidance mode to action mode, and before you know it you’ll be well on your way to achieving your best on that test!  You’ve got this!!

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Kids Wish Their Doctors Would Talk to Them about ADHD A recent study found that kids with ADHD would like to talk to their doctors directly about ADHD medication and ADHD symptoms, but don’t often ask the questions that are on their mind. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill surveyed 70 kids between the ages of 7-17 who were diagnosed with ADHD and were prescribed ADHD medication by their pediatricians or primary care providers. One-third of the kids said that they wished their doctor spent more time talking to them directly about their ADHD, and 57% percent reported that their doctor spent most of the appointment talking to their parents.

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Fri, 19 May 2017 17:17:53 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/kids-with-adhd-wish-to-talk-to-doctors https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/kids-with-adhd-wish-to-talk-to-doctors DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. A recent study found that kids with ADHD would like to talk to their doctors directly about ADHD medication and ADHD symptoms, but don’t often ask the questions that are on their mind. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill surveyed 70 kids between the ages of 7-17 who were diagnosed with ADHD and were prescribed ADHD medication by their pediatricians or primary care providers. One-third of the kids said that they wished their doctor spent more time talking to them directly about their ADHD, and 57% percent reported that their doctor spent most of the appointment talking to their parents.

So, what do kids want to talk about with their doctor? What are the questions that are on their mind? The kids in this study were presented with a list of questions related to ADHD or ADHD medication and were asked to choose the questions that they would like to ask. On average, kids selected 8 questions. The number one question, chosen by 75% of the kids, was Will I outgrow my ADHD?  Other top questions included: Do a lot of people have ADHD?  Are there other things I can do at home to help my ADHD? Should I take my ADHD medication every day?

The results from this study suggest that opportunities are being missed that would otherwise allow kids with ADHD to feel heard and to participate in their treatment from an early age. ADHD is a chronic disorder, and one that requires a high level of parent involvement throughout childhood and adolescence. However, parent involvement doesn’t need to be at the exclusion of child participation in appointments, treatment planning, and day-to-day management. In fact, gradually encouraging your child to take a more active role in managing his or her ADHD can be empowering.

If your child is accustomed to sitting in the background while the adults in the room discuss ADHD, then it will probably take some encouragement on your part to get him or her involved in his or her own care. The following tips will help you prepare your child to talk to his or her doctor at the next appointment.

  1. Start the conversation at home. A few weeks (or more) before your child’s next appointment, start having conversations about questions he or she might like to have answered by his or her doctor. Many kids feel embarrassed about having ADHD, and may hold back during these conversations with their parents. That’s okay. Take it slow, and help your child feel more comfortable by sharing some things that you’ve been curious about when it comes to ADHD.
  2. Follow your child’s lead. You want to encourage your child to talk to his or her doctor if he or she has questions, but you also don’t want to force the issue. If your child seems overwhelmed in conversations with you at home, ask them to privately write down one or two questions he or she might like to have answered about his or her ADHD. Tell him or her to share the questions with you or keep them private, it’s his or her choice. The goal is to get your child thinking about his or her ADHD and things he or she might like to ask the doctor, even if he or she is not ready to talk about them right now.
  3. The day before your child’s next appointment ask him or her if he or she would like to have the opportunity to ask the doctor some of the questions you had discussed (or that he or she had written down). If he or she hasn’t done so already, encourage your child to write these questions down ahead of time so he or she can recall them easily during the appointment.
  1. During the appointment, create space for your child to speak by letting the doctor know that your child has some questions. Then turn the floor over to your child.
  1. Teens and tweens may prefer to talk to their doctor privately about their ADHD concerns. While parents should always be involved in appointments that include a discussion of ADHD symptoms and medication side effects, the doctor can set aside a few minutes for an individual discussion with your child. Encourage your teen to ask the doctor if they can have a few minutes to discuss ADHD one-on-one.

By creating opportunities for your child to actively participate in their ADHD treatment you are providing an opportunity for your child to learn skills that will serve him or her well for a lifetime. The more empowered and the more involved he or she is in his or her treatment, the more your child will feel in charge of his or her ADHD.  

For additional study information: Betsy Sleath et al. (2017). Youth Views on Communication about ADHD and Medication Adherence. Community Mental Health Journal, 53: 438-444.  
DOI: 10.1007/s10597-016-0078-3

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Making the Most of the August SAT with ADHD This year for the first time the College Board will be offering an SAT test date over the summer. The August SAT presents a very appealing option for teens with ADHD who feel too busy or overwhelmed during the school year to tackle SAT test prep. In addition, the August SAT gives seniors the opportunity to take the test twice, once in August and once in October, before having to shift gears and focus on writing college application. For juniors, taking the SAT in August can alleviate some of pressure they will fell during what is typically the most academically rigorous year of high school.

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Fri, 19 May 2017 17:10:36 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/making-the-most-of-the-august-sat-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/making-the-most-of-the-august-sat-with-adhd DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. This year for the first time the College Board will be offering an SAT test date over the summer. The August SAT presents a very appealing option for teens with ADHD who feel too busy or overwhelmed during the school year to tackle SAT test prep. In addition, the August SAT gives seniors the opportunity to take the test twice, once in August and once in October, before having to shift gears and focus on writing college application. For juniors, taking the SAT in August can alleviate some of pressure they will fell during what is typically the most academically rigorous year of high school.

With these benefits, it can seem like a no brainer to take the SAT in August instead of during the school year, especially when you have ADHD. But before you jump online to register, consider some unique challenges that come with taking the test over the summer when ADHD is in the mix:

  • There is such a thing as too much free time! The biggest challenge is that the same free time that makes it more feasible to study for the SAT over the summer also makes it more difficult to stick to a study plan. Children, teens, and adults with ADHD thrive on structure. So, without the structure of school and extracurricular activities, it can be hard to start tasks and get things completed efficiently and effectively when you have ADHD.
  • Studying during the summer? Getting motivated to study is hard enough during the school year when you have ADHD. Over the summer, when free time has typically been spent relaxing and recharging, mustering up the motivation to study is especially hard.

Even with these challenges, most students with ADHD will benefit from taking the SAT over the summer rather than during the school year. The trick is anticipating the challenges and creating a plan that will help you to be successful right from the start. So, what are some steps you can take to make the August SAT work for you?

  1. Create structure. Create and commit to a structured test prep plan. SAT test prep programs provided by tutoring centers provide built-in structure and accountability, and are a great fit when you have ADHD. With any test prep plan, whether it’s one that you create, or one provided by a tutoring center, there will be an at-home study component. Schedule study time blocks in advance, and set mini goals for each study session. Write these goals down and check off your progress along the way.
  2. Strengthen your motivation. Help yourself stay motivated on a day-to-day basis by coming up with activities that you can “earn” by sticking with your study plan. It can be simple things, like committing to going to the pool or hanging out with friends only after you’ve first met study goals for the day. Or it can be something bigger, buying tickets to a concert once you’ve met your study goals for two weeks in a row.
  3. Plan ahead and create consistency. In order to reach your full potential and get your highest possible score on the SAT you will need consistency in your summer schedule. This means avoiding long breaks (more than a few days) from studying, especially in August. Talk to your family about scheduling vacations earlier in the summer rather than closer to your SAT test date. If you have a summer job, talk to your employer about creating a relatively consistent schedule each week and working fewer hours the week prior to the SAT.
  4. Don’t go it alone. Everyone needs support when they are working toward a long term goal like studying for the SAT. This is especially true when you have ADHD. Ask for help from a tutor, sibling, parent, or friend who can help you stay accountable and stick to your plan. Check in with this person every week and review the progress you’re making toward your goals.

The August SAT presents a real opportunity to get a jump start on taking the SAT before the demands of the school year become overwhelming. With a little planning and support you can make the summer SAT work for you!

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How Soon is Too Soon? Diagnosing ADHD in Young Children Getting kids the help they need as early as possible will set them up for success later in life. There are numerous early intervention programs available for kids who fail to meet their developmental milestones on time or struggle with speech problems. But when it comes to behaviors related to ADHD, like impulsivity, hyperactivity, and difficulty paying attention in young children it can be harder to identify the source of the problem, and harder to know how to help. How soon is too soon to start thinking about an ADHD diagnosis, and when can you start to intervene?

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Wed, 03 May 2017 17:18:31 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/diagnosing-adhd-in-young-children https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/diagnosing-adhd-in-young-children Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Getting kids the help they need as early as possible will set them up for success later in life. There are numerous early intervention programs available for kids who fail to meet their developmental milestones on time or struggle with speech problems. But when it comes to behaviors related to ADHD, like impulsivity, hyperactivity, and difficulty paying attention in young children it can be harder to identify the source of the problem, and harder to know how to help. How soon is too soon to start thinking about an ADHD diagnosis, and when can you start to intervene?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, ADHD can be reliably diagnosed in children as young as 4-years-old. Although it’s important to note that not all kids with ADHD can be identified this early. Kids who receive diagnoses at this young age are more likely to be boys than girls, and their symptoms will cluster more around hyperactivity and impulsivity than difficulty paying attention. Why? During the preschool years the demands placed on kids’ attention are generally fairly light. At school or day care, activities are brief, they change frequently, and they are designed to be engaging and active. They are exactly the type of activities that kids do well with when they have short attention spans! As a result, attention challenges may not be obvious at this age.

If you’re the parent or teacher of preschool age children, or have spent any time around preschoolers, then you know that in general kids at this age are very active, and most behave pretty impulsively – they act first and think later. So, how can you tell the preschoolers with ADHD from the preschoolers without ADHD? The kids with ADHD are much more hyperactive and impulsive than their peers. They rarely sit still, although some may sit for longer stretches of time if they’re watching TV or playing videogames. They run and climb on things excessively, to such an extent that their parents and teachers worry about their safety. Some of these kids may have already had trips to the ER because of falls and other accidents. Their high activity levels and impulsive behavior also cause serious challenges at school or day care. Their parents receive calls from school at least once a week, and sometimes kids with these ADHD symptoms are asked to leave their day care or preschool program altogether. At home, mealtimes are a challenge because of difficulties with staying seated at the table, even for a few minutes. Going to a restaurant, church, or participating in any activity that requires sitting feels next to impossible, even when parents provide activities to keep their kids entertained. More active family outings may feel difficult too, because it’s hard to keep the child from running off or having a meltdown if he or she doesn’t get their way.

When it comes to diagnosing ADHD in preschool children, higher levels of activity and impulsive behavior alone aren’t enough. Diagnosing ADHD at any age can be challenge, but in young children it is especially difficult. Kids who are anxious, have learning differences, a history of trauma, social challenges, or other mental health concerns can behave in ways that mimic ADHD symptoms. A thorough assessment by a medical doctor or psychologist to rule out other causes is essential. This assessment should include gathering detailed information from parents, teachers, and the child to determine whether or not ADHD is present.

When a preschool child is diagnosed with ADHD, behavioral interventions, especially those that are put into place by parents and teachers under the guidance of a trained therapist, are the first line treatment according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Kids who don’t improve with intensive behavioral interventions can be treated with medication, in addition to ongoing behavior therapy. ADHD medications have been shown to be effective with kids as young as 4-years-old, although they may not work quite as well as they do for older children and may be accompanied by greater side effects. One treatment to avoid is one-on-one therapy, where the child talks directly to the therapist week after week without parent involvement in the sessions. At this age especially, it is essential that parents are involved in sessions and are learning new skills that they can use at home to help their child.

If you suspect that your preschooler may have ADHD, talk to your pediatrician. Let them know about your concerns and request a thorough assessment. If ADHD is the source of the problem, then start treatment as soon as possible. Getting help for your child’s ADHD now will set him or her up for success in elementary school and beyond.

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More Focused with Media? Your child says that listening to music or watching television helps him or her concentrate when doing schoolwork. But is he or she right? Sitting down to concentrate on homework is hard when you have ADHD. Not surprisingly, kids, teens, and their parents are always on the lookout for ways to make homework less painful. For many families that I’ve worked with, arguments often erupt over whether or not the television, music, or other noise should be allowed during homework. Desperate to help their kids get their work done, many parents are willing to make more concessions during homework time than they would for other activities and chores throughout the day. But do things like television and music really help kids with ADHD concentrate? Or are they simply fun distractions? Let’s look at what the science has to say.   

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Mon, 10 Jul 2017 12:17:00 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/effects-of-media-on-adhd-kids https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/effects-of-media-on-adhd-kids Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Your child says that listening to music or watching television helps him or her concentrate when doing schoolwork. But is he or she right? Sitting down to concentrate on homework is hard when you have ADHD. Not surprisingly, kids, teens, and their parents are always on the lookout for ways to make homework less painful. For many families that I’ve worked with, arguments often erupt over whether or not the television, music, or other noise should be allowed during homework. Desperate to help their kids get their work done, many parents are willing to make more concessions during homework time than they would for other activities and chores throughout the day. But do things like television and music really help kids with ADHD concentrate? Or are they simply fun distractions? Let’s look at what the science has to say.     

Television: Your child may find homework less painful when he or she is watching television, but chances are his or her work performance is suffering. In a study conducted at a renowned ADHD center, scientists examined the effects of television on schoolwork completion and focus in kids with ADHD.1 When the television was on in the classroom, kids with ADHD, on average, completed significantly less schoolwork than when the television was turned off. They were also off-task more frequently and had to be reminded more often by the teacher to get back to work.

Music: Like television, music can help make boring tasks less painful. For example, studies have shown that people will stay on a treadmill longer and find that time goes by faster when they’re listing to music. But is music too much of a distraction for kids with ADHD who need to focus on schoolwork? In the television study described above, the researchers also studied the effects of music and found it to be much less distracting than television. For most of the kids with ADHD, background music didn’t have any effect on their performance, and 12% of the kids actually completed more work when they were listening to music! Additional studies of kids with attention problems have demonstrated improved performance on memory tasks when music without a vocal track is played in the background.

White Noise: While your child may not be specifically asking to have white noise on in the background while he or she works, research shows that it may actually be helpful for kids with ADHD. A recent study compared the effect of white noise on the cognitive performance of three groups of kids: those with exceptionally high levels of attention, those with average levels of attention, those with low levels of attention2. For the least attentive kids, white noise (at a medium to high volume) significantly improved their cognitive performance. Interestingly, for the kids in the high attention group, white noise worsened their performance. It had no effect on kids with average levels of attention. A handful of additional studies have produced similar results for kids with attention challenges.  

Bottom Line: Skip the television. If your child wants to listen to music or white noise, then test it out. Does he or she make more careless mistakes on his or her homework, does he or she take longer to complete it? Or, if there’s no change in his or her work, but your child seems happier, more calm and content, then that would count as an improvement. Let your child know ahead of time that you’ll be monitoring his or her progress. Maybe that will even motivate him or her to work better, so he or she can keep the music or background noise around!

 

1Pelham, W.E., Waschbush, D.A., Hoza, B., Gnagy, E.M., Greiner, A.R., Sams, S.E….Carter, R.L. (2011).  Music and Video as Distractors for Boys with ADHD in the Classroom: Comparison with Controls, Individual Differences, and Medication Effects. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39(8), 1085–1098. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-011-9529-z

2Helps, S. K., Bamford, S., Sonuga-Barke, E. J. S., & Söderlund, G. B. W. (2014). Different Effects of Adding White Noise on Cognitive Performance of Sub-, Normal and Super-Attentive School Children. PLOS ONE, 9(11), e112768.

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Creating Successful Free Play Time for Kids with ADHD All kids need time each week to engage in creative play outside of their structured extracurricular activities. It’s during this time that kids develop important social skills, problem solving strategies, and independence while fueling their imagination and creativity. Even just 20 minutes a day during the week coupled with a few longer stretches of time on weekends can make a big difference. For many parents of kids with ADHD, who often rely on highly structured activities to help manage ADHD symptoms, however, the idea of allowing time for play without rules, structure, or adult supervision can seem intimidating. Ideas of free play quickly spiral into visions of a “free for all” filled with impulsive behavior and complaints about boredom! Fortunately, with a little planning and a modest amount of structure and support it is possible to create successful free play opportunities for even the most active kids with ADHD.

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Wed, 03 May 2017 16:56:43 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/creating-successful-free-play-time https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/creating-successful-free-play-time Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. All kids need time each week to engage in creative play outside of their structured extracurricular activities. It’s during this time that kids develop important social skills, problem solving strategies, and independence while fueling their imagination and creativity. Even just 20 minutes a day during the week coupled with a few longer stretches of time on weekends can make a big difference. For many parents of kids with ADHD, who often rely on highly structured activities to help manage ADHD symptoms, however, the idea of allowing time for play without rules, structure, or adult supervision can seem intimidating. Ideas of free play quickly spiral into visions of a “free for all” filled with impulsive behavior and complaints about boredom! Fortunately, with a little planning and a modest amount of structure and support it is possible to create successful free play opportunities for even the most active kids with ADHD.

 Choose a strategic location. Have your child play where you can see them. Simply having an adult present in your child’s line of sight helps kids with ADHD stay safe and engaged. So, avoid sending your child off to his or her bedroom or playroom alone. Instead, have your child bring a few toys and activities to a common room in the house. Just make sure you leave time for clean-up when free play is over!

Have creative play toys and activities available that your child finds interesting. Kids with ADHD often need a high level of stimulation in order to stay engaged. Every kid is different when it comes to the toys and activities that they find interesting, so work with your child to find creative options that will hold his or her attention for at least 10 minutes, if not longer. Make sure these activities are largely mess free (steer clear of paint and glue!), and can be done independently without close adult supervision.

Limit the options. This may seem counterintuitive, but giving kids with ADHD fewer options during free play will actually help them be more engaged. Many kids with ADHD will become overwhelmed if they are presented with too many choices, and some will even meltdown. So, present a few free play options, about 3 at a time, and change them out regularly to keep things interesting.

Use a Timer. Some of the biggest free play conflicts happen when it’s time to transition to the next activity. It’s natural for kids to want to continue to play when they’re having a good time, so use a timer to make the transition easier on everyone. Have the child set the timer at the start of free play. Give a warning when there are 5 minutes left, and let your child know that free play ends when the time goes off. By having your child set the timer, you’re helping him or her take ownership of the process, so that the narrative can change from “My parents are making me stop playing! to “My timer went off so free play time is over.”  

Post a list of Free Play Rules. Having basic ground rules for free play provides necessary structure for your child without interfering with his or her creativity and imaginative play. Create a list of just 3 or 4 basic rules and post them someplace where they are visible to your child. At the start of free play, read through this list with your child and let him or her know that free play will need to end early if he or she needs to be reminded to follow the rules more than three times (the number of reminders can be tailored to your child’s level). The best rules are those that cover a wide variety of behaviors and tell kids what to do rather than what not to do. For example, rules like, “start cleaning up when the free play timer rings,” “stay in your play area,” “show good sportsmanship when playing with others,” and “use your inside voice,” encourage a wide range of positive behaviors.

Catch Your Child Being Good! When your child shows positive behaviors during free play, make sure to let him or her know that you have noticed! Praise the good behaviors as they happen, or at the end of free play if you want to avoid interrupting his or her play. Your child will feel proud of the fact that he or she was able to play well independently, and will be more likely to demonstrate these positive behaviors again.

Free play is important for all kids, so help your child carve out time each day to play creatively outside the structure of typical extracurricular activities. Shorter free play times may work better for many kids with ADHD, so start small. With a little structure and planning your child can be engaged, content, and creative during free play time.

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Striking a Balance: Overscheduled vs. Too Much Free Time for Kids with ADHD Childhood today is very different from childhood 30 years ago, when time outside of school was spent playing in the neighborhood, often unsupervised and undirected by adults. Today kids and teens typically attend a host of extracurricular activities after school, with little free time in-between. Do a quick search online for “overscheduled kids” and you’ll find hundreds of articles warning parents about the perils of enrolling kids in too many extracurricular activities. These articles typically highlight the negative effects that too little free time can have on creativity, imaginative play, and social development. What these articles rarely discuss, however, is the reality faced by many parents who frequently work during the after school hours and need these activities to keep their children and teens safe and occupied. Parents of children and teens with ADHD face another reality as well: unstructured and unsupervised downtime often quickly leads to impulsive and sometimes unsafe behavior as well as sibling arguments. As a result, unstructured time often ends with a punishment for bad behavior, or is simply replaced by screen time in an effort to keep the peace at home.

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Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:13:36 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/balancing-free-time-for-kids-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/balancing-free-time-for-kids-with-adhd DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. Childhood today is very different from childhood 30 years ago, when time outside of school was spent playing in the neighborhood, often unsupervised and undirected by adults. Today kids and teens typically attend a host of extracurricular activities after school, with little free time in-between. Do a quick search online for “overscheduled kids” and you’ll find hundreds of articles warning parents about the perils of enrolling kids in too many extracurricular activities. These articles typically highlight the negative effects that too little free time can have on creativity, imaginative play, and social development. What these articles rarely discuss, however, is the reality faced by many parents who frequently work during the after school hours and need these activities to keep their children and teens safe and occupied. Parents of children and teens with ADHD face another reality as well: unstructured and unsupervised downtime often quickly leads to impulsive and sometimes unsafe behavior as well as sibling arguments. As a result, unstructured time often ends with a punishment for bad behavior, or is simply replaced by screen time in an effort to keep the peace at home.

When you look closely at the research you’ll find that involvement in extracurricular activities actually comes with many positive benefits, even at an early age. A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that when infants (9-18 months) who were overly motivated by food were enrolled in music classes with their parents, they began to find more pleasure and motivation in activities other than eating.1 The researchers propose that this may help prevent obesity later in life. For adolescents, most research studies have found that participation in after school activities is associated with improved well-being and school engagement. Even with the positive study findings, when it comes to the number of activities kids participate in, there does seem to be a tipping point. Enroll them in too many extracurricular activities, especially those that are performance or achievement-based, and kids and teens can end up stressed and anxious. How many activities are too many? That really depends on the child. Some kids with ADHD need more downtime in order to recharge. Others thrive on back-to-back activities each day. But even for kids who thrive on a busy schedule, some free time is important for their development. Like participation in extracurricular activities, research shows that free time and free play come with many benefits. Kids and teens do in fact need this time to help develop their creativity and imagination, as well as the ability to think for themselves without been told what to do by adults. However, they likely do not need large daily swaths of free time to reap these benefits. As parents of kids with ADHD the trick is finding enriching, motivating afterschool activities, and balancing these activities with at least a few weekly opportunities for safe and enjoyable unstructured time. 

What are some signs that your child or teen’s extracurricular activities or schedule may not be meeting their needs?

  • Your child asks to skip activities, or regularly complains of headaches or stomach aches when it’s time to attend.
  • Your child seems less motivated at school, during afterschool activities, or at home.
  • Your child’s grades are falling and they don’t have time to get the extra academic support that he or she needs.
  • Your child is regularly going to bed late in an effort to fit in school, extracurricular activities, and homework.
  • Your child’s activities are all performance or achievement-based, leaving little time to explore new activities without the pressure of having to meet the expectations of adults.
  • Your child is showing symptoms of unhealthy levels of stress (see my previous post for more details on signs of stress in teens with ADHD).

If your child or teen is displaying one or more of these signs, it may be time to take a step back and reconsider his or her schedule and activities. Talk with your child or teen about how he or she is feeling about his or her extracurricular activities. Are there activities that he or she enjoys more than others? Do they think that he or she needs more downtime? Kids and teens will often have difficulty noticing when they are overscheduled and may be reluctant to cut back on their activities. As a parent you have an opportunity to help them problem solve, streamline their schedule, and build in necessary downtime (I’ll talk about strategies for creating manageable downtime for kids with ADHD in my next post). With your help your child will reap more joy and enrichment from his or her activities, and will build motivation and academic skills along the way.  

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1 Kong, K. L., Eiden, R. D., Feda, D. M., Stier, C. L., Fletcher, K. D., Woodworth, E. M., … Epstein, L. H. (2016). Reducing relative food reinforcement in infants by an enriched music experience. Obesity, 24(4), 917–923.

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Spotting Signs of Stress in Teens with ADHD Teenagers might not be faced with many of the situations that adults consider to be stressful, like financial concerns, parenting challenges, long commutes, a demanding career, job instability, etc., but the middle and high school years come with a set of challenges that can be highly stressful in their own right. In fact, in a 2013 American Psychological Association survey teenagers reported experiencing unhealthy levels of stress at higher rates than adults. Teens cited school as the number one source of stress, followed by worries about getting into a good college and figuring out what to do after high school. Other sources of stress included social pressures, worrying about family members, and worrying about family finances. When a teen has ADHD, their risk for unhealthy levels of stress goes up even higher. ADHD symptoms make school more challenging, both during the school day and in the evening during homework time. Friendships and dating can be harder with ADHD too, especially for teens that have difficulty picking up on subtle social cues or who tend to impulsively say things that they regret later. If your teenager is like most, then his or her afterschool and weekend schedule is packed with extracurricular activities that leave little room for down time. The time management challenges and impulsivity that comes with ADHD make it much more likely that a teen will get in over his or her head with too much to do and too little time. But like most teens, those with ADHD may not recognize that they have bitten off more than they can chew. They don’t necessarily know that their stress level is higher than it should be, or that they can ask for help.

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Mon, 10 Apr 2017 17:13:48 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/signs-of-stress-in-teens-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/signs-of-stress-in-teens-with-adhd DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. Teenagers might not be faced with many of the situations that adults consider to be stressful, like financial concerns, parenting challenges, long commutes, a demanding career, job instability, etc., but the middle and high school years come with a set of challenges that can be highly stressful in their own right. In fact, in a 2013 American Psychological Association survey teenagers reported experiencing unhealthy levels of stress at higher rates than adults. Teens cited school as the number one source of stress, followed by worries about getting into a good college and figuring out what to do after high school. Other sources of stress included social pressures, worrying about family members, and worrying about family finances. When a teen has ADHD, their risk for unhealthy levels of stress goes up even higher. ADHD symptoms make school more challenging, both during the school day and in the evening during homework time. Friendships and dating can be harder with ADHD too, especially for teens that have difficulty picking up on subtle social cues or who tend to impulsively say things that they regret later. If your teenager is like most, then his or her afterschool and weekend schedule is packed with extracurricular activities that leave little room for down time. The time management challenges and impulsivity that comes with ADHD make it much more likely that a teen will get in over his or her head with too much to do and too little time. But like most teens, those with ADHD may not recognize that they have bitten off more than they can chew. They don’t necessarily know that their stress level is higher than it should be, or that they can ask for help.

Parents can usually identify unhealthy levels of stress before teenagers are able to do so themselves. Parents can also see the bigger picture, focus on long-term goals, and access help in ways that teenagers with ADHD often cannot. However, as a parent spotting signs of stress in a teenager with ADHD can be tricky. Many of the signs of teenage stress overlap with symptoms that typically accompany ADHD or are known side effects from ADHD medications:

  • Poor concentration
  • Sleep problems
  • Anger outbursts
  • Anxiety
  • Poor appetite
  • Headaches or stomach complaints
  • Social withdrawal
  • Taking longer to complete schoolwork and/or missing deadlines

So, when your teenager seems highly irritable, his or her grades are lower than you think they should be, he or she is complaining that he or she never has enough time to finish homework, and talks about not being able to focus in class, is that stress or is it ADHD? Every teen is different, but there are some signs that will indicate that unhealthy levels of stress may be part of the picture:

  • Differences in personality during school breaks vs. when school is in session. Many teens will be less irritable, angry, or frustrated when school isn’t in session. However, if the change is dramatic, to the point where during breaks or summer vacation you find yourself thinking things like, “I’m so glad to see my child finally starting to act like her usual self again,” then that is a sign that your teen may be experiencing unhealthy stress during the school year.
  • Loss of interest and enthusiasm. If your previously energetic, enthusiastic, and curious teen has started to seem uninterested in things, especially things that he or she usually enjoys, then that may be a sign of stress. It’s typical for teens to shift their interests and become less enthusiastic about things that they may have enjoyed when they were younger; but they should still be interested in something, even if it’s a new activity or subject in school.
  • Hinting at being overwhelmed. Some teens will actually tell you that they are stressed out or overwhelmed, but many don’t think about themselves in these terms. Instead you may start hearing them say negative things about their ability to get things done, or their life in general. Things like: “I can’t do it.” “I’ll never get everything finished!” “It’s too much.” “I hate school!” When you try to help or problem-solve they may simply shutdown and refuse to try, not because they don’t care but because they are overwhelmed.

If you think your teen may be overly stressed, then start by having a conversation. Pick a low-key moment with your teen and start off by simply acknowledging that you’ve noticed that he or she has a lot on the plate right now. Ask what it feels like to have so much going on, and if he or she ever has moments where it feels like too much. Many teens will open up and will talk about themselves, but don’t feel pressured to get them to talk about everything in a single conversation. It’s okay to simply use the first conversation as an icebreaker on the topic. Sometimes shorter conversations with parents are all teens can handle when the subject matter is intense or serious. Therapists in your area or at your child’s school can also help you figure out if stress is having a negative effect on your teen. So, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help if you’re worried. You’ll be getting the support that you need, and you’ll be serving as a great role model for your teen by showing that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

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Does Fidgeting Help Kids with ADHD Focus? Have you noticed that many kids with ADHD seem to move and fidget constantly when they are doing their homework or are sitting at a desk in their classroom, no matter how many times they’ve been told to sit still or stay in their seat?  Have you also noticed that these same kids seem to have no problem sitting still when they’re watching a movie or playing a videogame? This stark contrast in behavior perplexes and frustrates many teachers and parents. It gives the impression that kids with ADHD are able to sit still “when they want to” and only move constantly at other times because they’re trying to avoid doing their schoolwork or escape a boring situation, or because they are simply being defiant. 

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Wed, 05 Apr 2017 15:10:16 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/does-fidgeting-help-kids-with-adhd-focus https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/does-fidgeting-help-kids-with-adhd-focus DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. Have you noticed that many kids with ADHD seem to move and fidget constantly when they are doing their homework or are sitting at a desk in their classroom, no matter how many times they’ve been told to sit still or stay in their seat?  Have you also noticed that these same kids seem to have no problem sitting still when they’re watching a movie or playing a videogame? This stark contrast in behavior perplexes and frustrates many teachers and parents. It gives the impression that kids with ADHD are able to sit still “when they want to” and only move constantly at other times because they’re trying to avoid doing their schoolwork or escape a boring situation, or because they are simply being defiant. 

A team of researchers had a different idea. What if the fidgeting and constant movement actually serves a purpose? What if moving actually helps kids with ADHD focus on their work, think more clearly, and stay alert and engaged when they are doing something that is not particularly interesting to them? To test this theory Dr. Rapport and his students developed a series of studies that precisely measured the movements of elementary school-aged boys with ADHD in two different scenarios. In the first scenario, the boys sat and watched a movie, which is an activity that most people can focus on fairly effortlessly. In the second scenario, the boys completed computer-based tasks that required them to concentrate and use their “working memory” – working memory is what allows us to store information in our mind for short periods of time and use the stored information to do things like calculate math problems in our head. During the movie there was very little movement from the boys with ADHD, but as soon as they switched gears and started their working memory computer tasks the amount of movement increased dramatically. The boys without ADHD moved a bit more during the working memory tasks than they did during the movie, but not nearly as much as their ADHD counterparts. In a follow-up study, the researchers looked more closely at how movement impacted the boys’ level of accuracy on the working memory tasks. Sure enough, for most of the boys with ADHD, the more they moved the more accurately they performed! The opposite was true for the boys without ADHD. Their accuracy actually decreased the more that they moved.

Why does movement helps kids with ADHD perform better? It’s probably tied to the fact that the brains of kids with ADHD need more stimulation in order to “click into gear” and focus than the brains of kids without ADHD. So, when an activity isn’t very interesting or stimulating, kids with ADHD need an extra push to get their brains working, and moving their bodies gives their brains the push that they need. Everyone actually experiences this sometimes. Next time you’re in a boring meeting or are really feeling like you need another cup of coffee, pay attention to your body. You’ll probably find yourself fidgeting or moving around in an effort to stay alert and engaged. The difference for kids with ADHD is that they feel like this on a daily basis.

So, does this mean that we should stop telling kids with ADHD to stay in their seat and sit still? If a child is in a situation where their movement isn’t distracting to other kids around them, and they’re staying on task and getting their work done, then I would recommend allowing them to keep moving. If the child is in a classroom and other kids are getting distracted, or the child’s desk has to be moved away from his peers because of his movement, then the answer isn’t as straightforward. In classroom situations it can be helpful to find tools that allow kids to move or fidget without disrupting the group. Different tools work for different kids, so finding the right option might take some trial and error. In general I recommend fidget tools that can be attached to desks or chairs rather than loose fidget objects that can be lost or turn into distracting toys. Bouncy Bands attach to chairs and desk legs and can help facilitate quiet feet and leg movement (http://bouncybands.com/). Or, if a standing desk is an option at your child’s school, many come with a fidget bar already installed that is similar to a swinging footrest. For kids who fidget with their hands a simple strip of Velcro attached to the bottom of the desk can be a good sensory fidget tool.

Next time you see your child fidgeting or moving during homework time, spend some time observing him before you decide whether or not you should tell him to sit still. The movement might just be helping him build up the brain power he needs in order to concentrate and do his work well.

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Inside the ADHD Brain: Differences found in kids with ADHD A large multinational imaging study published last month in The Lancet provides additional evidence confirming what smaller studies have already shown: the brains of children with ADHD look different from those without ADHD. In this recent study, MRI brain scans were analyzed from 1,713 people with ADHD and 1,529 people without ADHD from 9 countries in North America, Europe, South America, and Asia. Participants ranged in age from 4-63 years old. For children with ADHD, five brain regions showed smaller volume: the amygdala (emotion regulation), the hippocampus (memory), the putamen and caudate nucleus (both involved in motor skills and learning), and the nucleus accumbens (sensitivity to rewards). For adults with ADHD however, there were no differences in brain volume in these regions.  

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Wed, 05 Apr 2017 14:54:04 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/inside-the-adhd-brain https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/inside-the-adhd-brain DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. A large multinational imaging study published last month in The Lancet provides additional evidence confirming what smaller studies have already shown: the brains of children with ADHD look different from those without ADHD. In this recent study, MRI brain scans were analyzed from 1,713 people with ADHD and 1,529 people without ADHD from 9 countries in North America, Europe, South America, and Asia. Participants ranged in age from 4-63 years old. For children with ADHD, five brain regions showed smaller volume: the amygdala (emotion regulation), the hippocampus (memory), the putamen and caudate nucleus (both involved in motor skills and learning), and the nucleus accumbens (sensitivity to rewards). For adults with ADHD however, there were no differences in brain volume in these regions.  

From a scientific standpoint, studies like these help advance our understanding of ADHD and will hopefully one day lead to more targeted treatments and more specific diagnoses. For example, previous studies hadn’t identified the amygdala, which helps us regulate our emotions, as a region of the brain that is smaller in kids with ADHD. Now, with this new information, ADHD researchers will likely invest more time and money into developing behavioral treatments and medications that target emotion regulation. From an everyday, real-world standpoint, these results also serve another purpose - one that may be equally as important. For parents and teachers who too often hear that ADHD is caused by poor parenting or poor teaching, and for children with ADHD who are too often told that they should just “try harder” and “apply themselves,” these results provide reassurance that ADHD is a real brain-based problem and that no one should be blamed for the fact that the symptoms exist.

While parents very often find this research helpful when it comes to understanding ADHD overall, it also brings up important questions about what this research means for their children specifically:  

Can I ask our pediatrician to order a brain scan so I can confirm that my child has ADHD?
Currently there is no brain scan methodology available to doctors that will help them diagnose ADHD. In research studies the reported differences in brain volume are actually very small. So small in fact that these differences are only observable and meaningful when you are able to combine brain scan data from multiple people into a single study. With the limited technology and information that we have available today, we can’t reliably identify these differences in a single child with ADHD. Hopefully one day in the future this will be possible!

If the differences were not found in adults, then does this mean that my child’s brain will eventually catch up and they won’t have ADHD anymore?
Remember that this study compared brain regions in people with ADHD and people without ADHD. To qualify for the “ADHD” group, adults were required to have a current ADHD diagnosis. So, even without smaller brain volume, adults in this study were experiencing ADHD symptoms. This means that it’s not just differences in brain volume that causes ADHD symptoms, its other aspects of brain functioning as well. However, these study results do show us how the brain changes over time, and they may help explain why many ADHD symptoms look different in adults than they do in kids.

If my child’s brain is different, is there anything we can really do to help him get over his ADHD?
Knowing that ADHD is a brain-based disorder doesn’t change the fact that there are many effective behavioral, educational, and medication-based treatments that work for kids with ADHD. These treatments all help compensate for the brain differences that we see in these research studies. On top of this, many factors that have been shown to improve “brain health” and promote brain growth and development may help kids with ADHD if they are used long-term. This includes things like regular physical activity, healthy food and nutrition, getting enough sleep, close family relationships and friendships, and participating in a wide-range of academically and mentally challenging activities.

Scientists are just starting to learn about differences in the ADHD brain, and their findings will eventually lead to new treatment options. In the meantime, we can use this information to help ourselves improve our understanding of ADHD and expand our thinking about ADHD treatments to include healthy lifestyle choices that promote long term brain growth and development.    

 

 Read the full study here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2215036617300494

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A Natural Treatment for ADHD Have you noticed that your child’s ADHD symptoms seem better on days when he or she is more active? Is your child able to sit and focus on his or her homework more easily once he or she has run around and “burned off some energy” after school? Researchers have only recently begun studying the effects of exercise on ADHD, but results from early studies are promising. Engaging in moderate-to intense-exercise multiple days a week appears to improve ADHD symptoms, executive functioning (read more about executive functioning in my previous post), social skills, and motor control. A recent study by Dr. Betsy Hoza, published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, compared two interventions in elementary schools. The first was a 30-minutes exercise intervention that included moderate- to-intense physical activity through games like tag and “sharks and minnows”. The second intervention was sedentary, and included 30-minutes of classroom art projects. Both occurred before school every day for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12-week period parent and teachers rated the children on ADHD symptoms, moodiness, social skills and motor skills. Kids in the physical activity program showed improvement in each of these areas.

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Wed, 05 Apr 2017 14:44:08 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/natural-treatment-for-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/natural-treatment-for-adhd DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. Have you noticed that your child’s ADHD symptoms seem better on days when he or she is more active? Is your child able to sit and focus on his or her homework more easily once he or she has run around and “burned off some energy” after school? Researchers have only recently begun studying the effects of exercise on ADHD, but results from early studies are promising. Engaging in moderate-to intense-exercise multiple days a week appears to improve ADHD symptoms, executive functioning (read more about executive functioning in my previous post), social skills, and motor control. A recent study by Dr. Betsy Hoza, published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, compared two interventions in elementary schools. The first was a 30-minutes exercise intervention that included moderate- to-intense physical activity through games like tag and “sharks and minnows”. The second intervention was sedentary, and included 30-minutes of classroom art projects. Both occurred before school every day for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12-week period parent and teachers rated the children on ADHD symptoms, moodiness, social skills and motor skills. Kids in the physical activity program showed improvement in each of these areas.

Scientists aren’t sure why exercise leads to improvement in ADHD symptoms and other areas of weakness for kids with ADHD, but they have some theories. During exercise the brain releases several chemicals – serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine  - which are all important for attention and emotional control. In fact, many of the stimulant medications used to treat ADHD target these same chemicals. So, it may be this exercise “brain boost” that drives improvements in ADHD symptoms, mood, social skills, and motor control. Exercise also improves blood flow in the brain and promotes the development of new brain cells, two factors that may also lead to improvements in ADHD symptoms.  We’ll learn more about how exercise and ADHD symptoms are related as additional research is done.

In the meantime, take advantage of what we already know and help your child get active! It’s easier to get some kids moving than others. If you have a naturally active child, then finding time and an activity for him or her to do regularly may be your main challenge. If your child is more of a couch potato, then you’ll need to be a bit more strategic about how you get them moving!

  • You’ll have the most success long-term if you find activities that can fit into your child’s regular routine. Simple things like getting to school 15 minutes early so your child can spend time on the play structure, taking time a couple of evenings a week to supervise your child while he or she rides their bike outside or plays in the backyard, or talking to your child’s afterschool program about the availability of activities that require kids to be physically active.
  • If your child is spending most of his or her time indoors these days, look into apps and websites that encourage physical activity. I’m a big fan of GoNoodle, an app that allows kids to choose from guided activities like dance- and sing-alongs, Zumba® for kids, track and field activities, and more.
  • Get physically active with your kids. Outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, and skating are great, but simple activities can be good too. Invite your child to come with you when you walk the dog or work in the yard. You can turn every day activities like these into special one-on-one or family bonding time. If you’re stuck indoors, try to get creative. Kids always love a spontaneous family dance party!

We’ve always known that exercise is great for physical health, and promising new research is showing that it may help with ADHD symptoms too. While it’s not a cure for ADHD, exercise is a great supplement to any ADHD management program. So, give your child the boost he or she may need by helping him or her be more physically active every day

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Tips for Teens: Can a Tomato Help You Get Your Homework Done? You know that you need to stay focused when you are doing your homework or studying for a test, but sometimes it just seems impossible. If you’re like most teens with ADHD, you always have intentions but no matter how hard you try you always seem to get distracted. Usually, the longer you work the more easily distracted you become! Why? Because our brains are not designed to focus on a single task for hours at a time, even when ADHD isn’t part of the picture. Add ADHD into the mix and trying to focus for long stretches become truly overwhelming. Research shows that the average amount of homework assigned to high school students is 3 hours a night. So, how can you possibly complete that much work if your brain can’t seem to focus for a 3-hour stretch? Well, a tomato may be able to help!

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Wed, 05 Apr 2017 14:37:11 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/homework-tips-for-teens-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/homework-tips-for-teens-with-adhd DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. You know that you need to stay focused when you are doing your homework or studying for a test, but sometimes it just seems impossible. If you’re like most teens with ADHD, you always have intentions but no matter how hard you try you always seem to get distracted. Usually, the longer you work the more easily distracted you become! Why? Because our brains are not designed to focus on a single task for hours at a time, even when ADHD isn’t part of the picture. Add ADHD into the mix and trying to focus for long stretches become truly overwhelming. Research shows that the average amount of homework assigned to high school students is 3 hours a night. So, how can you possibly complete that much work if your brain can’t seem to focus for a 3-hour stretch? Well, a tomato may be able to help!

When he was in college, entrepreneur and author Francesco Cirillo realized that he could accomplish much more work in short spurts of time than in longer study sessions. He used a timer shaped like a tomato to track his time, and ultimately created a system called The Pomodoro Technique to help him get his work done efficiently (“pomodoro” means tomato in Italian). The Pomodoro Technique is simple. It emphasizes short bursts of work time, and it allows you to build in rewards for your hard work and effort – all features that make it an excellent fit for anyone with ADHD. So, how does it work?

  1. Break your homework down into 25 minute segments. Start by listing all of the assignments that you need to complete. For longer assignments, create a list of smaller chunks that can be completed in 25 minutes or less.
  2. Prioritize your assignments. Select the assignment, or portion of the assignment, that you would like to complete first.
  3. Set your timer for 25 minutes and get to work. Commit to working on the assignment until the timer goes off. You’ll be surprised to see how quickly 25 minutes goes by!
  4. When the timer goes off, review your work. When the timer rings look over the work you’ve done. Did you meet your goal?
  5. Take a 5-minute break. At this point your brain will need a break. Take 5 minutes to do something unrelated to homework. Get up and stretch, get something to eat or drink, shoot hoops with a Nerf ball in your room, play with your dog. Do something active and try to avoid anything that will cause you to lose track of time (which is probably just about anything on your phone or computer!).
  6. After 5 minutes, repeat the cycle. Work for another 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break.
  7. Reward yourself. After 4 successful 25-minute work cycles, reward yourself with a longer 20- or 30-minute break. Do something fun during this break! Just remember to keep track of time (set your timer!) and get back to work after 20 or 30 minutes have passed.

When you break your homework down into 25-minute segments you’ll find yourself more focused and more relaxed. You may even find that you finish your work faster, so you spend less time on homework and more time on the things you enjoy!

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Tips for Teens: Procrastination Busters In my last post I talked about reasons why ADHD and procrastination often go hand-in-hand. ADHD tendencies like preferring instant rewards over long-term payoffs, difficulty with time management, feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start, low self-confidence, and being easily distracted all contribute to difficulties with procrastination. Take a minute to read thought my last post and see if any of these ADHD tendencies apply to you. Once you understand why you procrastinate you’ll be able to take some simple steps to stop the procrastination cycle. Start with one or two of the procrastination busters below that you think might be most helpful for you. With the right strategies for you and your ADHD you’ll be able to stopping putting off all of those things that you should be doing today!

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Tue, 04 Apr 2017 17:39:46 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/tips-to-help-adhd-teens-stop-procrastinating https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/tips-to-help-adhd-teens-stop-procrastinating DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D. In my last post I talked about reasons why ADHD and procrastination often go hand-in-hand. ADHD tendencies like preferring instant rewards over long-term payoffs, difficulty with time management, feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start, low self-confidence, and being easily distracted all contribute to difficulties with procrastination. Take a minute to read thought my last post and see if any of these ADHD tendencies apply to you. Once you understand why you procrastinate you’ll be able to take some simple steps to stop the procrastination cycle. Start with one or two of the procrastination busters below that you think might be most helpful for you. With the right strategies for you and your ADHD you’ll be able to stopping putting off all of those things that you should be doing today!

  1. Start small. Combat feelings of being overwhelmed by starting assignments quickly and starting small. The number one thing that I have seen help teens (and adults) with ADHD who procrastinate is starting on a project, essay, or study plan shortly after it has been assigned. The longer you wait the harder it is to get started. Getting started can just mean spending as little as 5 or 10 minutes working - just enough to make a dent in the assignment or task. Getting started builds your confidence and makes the task much easier to begin again when you’re ready to work for a longer stretch of time.
  2. Create checklists. Many assignments and study plans will seem overwhelming when you think about them as a whole. But, when you break them down into smaller parts they’ll start to seem much more doable. Break each assignment or study plan down into a checklist of manageable steps, and cross items off your list as you complete them. Not sure how to break an assignment down into smaller pieces? Start by thinking about the very first thing you need to do. Maybe it is reading a chapter and taking notes. Then think about the next step - review the notes and identify an essay theme; and then the next step – create an essay outline, etc. Before you know it you’ll have a full list. If you’re still not sure how to break an assignment down, ask for help from a teacher or friend. You might need some guidance before you’re ready to do it on your own.   
  3. Feed the need for instant gratification. Assignments, projects, and tests will always come with delayed rewards. Keep yourself motivated by giving yourself rewards along the way. Rewards can be things you like to do or things you want to buy. If there’s a show that you really like to watch or a videogame that you love to play, consider only allowing yourself to watch it or play it whenever you finish an assignment. Other times, keep it off limits. If there is something you would really like to buy, ask your parents if they’ll help by contributing money toward the item every time you complete an assignment or study for a test in advance. Sometimes having someone else in charge of handing out your rewards can be helpful, especially if you think you’ll be tempted to reward yourself even when you haven’t really earned it.
  4. Avoid procrastination triggers. What’s the number one thing you do when you procrastinate? Are you on your phone? Playing a videogame? Hanging out with friends? Whatever it is, it will continue to trigger procrastination as long as it’s around when you should be working. In many ways procrastination is a habit, and triggers make all habits harder to break. So, put your phone in another room even if it’s only for 30 minutes, don’t allow yourself to play the videogame until you’ve finished your work, or go to a quiet place away from friends until you’ve accomplished what you need to get done. If websites are your trigger and you need to use your computer to do your work, then consider using a temporary website blocking app that you control. I’ll review my favorite apps in my next post.

Get help when you need it. Reaching your full potential with ADHD means having to rely on other people to help you accomplish some of your goals. When it comes to long-term projects or subjects that are a struggle, ask for help if you’re not making progress on your own. If you have been planning to start studying for the SATs for months but haven’t even looked at a single vocabulary word, then chances are you’re going to need someone to help you create and stick with a study plan. If you feel like you’re falling behind in a subject and this is making it harder than ever to finish assignments on time, then talk to your teacher or find a tutor. Everyone does better when they have someone to help them get started, stay on task, and catch up on material they may have missed or don’t understand. With ADHD having someone to help is even more important, so don’t go it alone. Sometimes something as simple as asking a friend to call and remind you to get to work can go a long way.

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Tips for Teens –Why is it so Hard to Stop Procrastinating? Everyone procrastinates sometimes. It’s human nature. But when you procrastinate so often that it prevents you from reaching your full potential and adds stress and anxiety to your life, then it’s a problem. You’re not alone. Most people with ADHD (and many people without ADHD) struggle with procrastination. The good news is that you can break the procrastination cycle with two steps: first identify the ADHD tendencies that cause you to procrastinate and then make some relatively simple changes that will help you overcome these challenges.

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Tue, 28 Mar 2017 12:59:39 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/tips-to-help-teens-with-adhd-procrastination https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/tips-to-help-teens-with-adhd-procrastination Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?” – says the ADHD brain. When you have ADHD getting started on homework or sitting down to study can be hard - really hard. Many teens with ADHD feel like their brain struggles to gear up and focus on the assignment. Others feel so overwhelmed by the essay, project, or upcoming test that they don’t know where to start. Some know where to begin, but put off getting started because they worry that they won’t be able to do the assignment well enough to meet their high standards. With all of these negative feelings coming up, the natural reaction is to avoid the assignment, project, or upcoming test all together.  This avoidance strategy works initially. For a while you do feel much less anxious and less stressed, but before you know it you’re in trouble. The test is in an hour and you haven’t studied, or the big project is due tomorrow and you haven’t gotten started. Your stress and anxiety skyrocket. Even if you do make the deadline, it’s only after pulling an all-nighter or handing in work that you know isn’t your best. You promise yourself that you won’t procrastinate again, but within just a few days you’re back in the same spot.

Everyone procrastinates sometimes. It’s human nature. But when you procrastinate so often that it prevents you from reaching your full potential and adds stress and anxiety to your life, then it’s a problem. You’re not alone. Most people with ADHD (and many people without ADHD) struggle with procrastination. The good news is that you can break the procrastination cycle with two steps: first identify the ADHD tendencies that cause you to procrastinate and then make some relatively simple changes that will help you overcome these challenges.

Common ADHD tendencies that lead to procrastination are listed below. Think about which of these apply to you - for some people it may be all five and for others it may be just one or two.

  • Seeking Instant Gratification. With ADHD comes a tendency to prioritize things that are fun in the moment over things that are less enjoyable now but come with a delayed reward. Working on assignments and studying for tests are both activities with delayed payoffs. Sometimes the delay is very long, like when you study for months to prepare for the SAT. Other times it can be relatively short, like when you start working on an essay a few days before it’s due. In many cases the delayed payoff for your effort can be big – like excellent scores on the SAT! But when you have ADHD it’s hard to be motivated by a delayed reward even with big payoffs. So, instead of getting started on things you logically know you need to get done, you’re likely to do something immediately fun and rewarding instead - like playing videogames or chatting with friends.
  • Feeling overwhelmed. When you have ADHD you can easily feel overwhelmed by longer assignments and exams that require a lot of preparation. It can be hard to know where to start or how to break the assignments or study plans down into smaller manageable chunks. No one wants to feel overwhelmed, and when you procrastinate you’re able to avoid this feeling – at least for a short time. Unfortunately, when you procrastinate you ultimately feel more overwhelmed in the long run.
  • Time management. Estimating the amount of time it will take to complete an assignment or study for a test can be difficult when you have ADHD. You’re more likely to underestimate the amount of time you will need, and you may have trouble paying attention to the amount of time that has passed once you start working. Both of these ADHD tendencies make it difficult to get started early on projects and manage your time well so you’ll finish by the deadline. 
  • Self-confidence. When you’re not confident in your ability to write a strong essay or get a good grade on a test, then it can be very difficult to get started. Self-defeating thoughts start to creep in, your anxiety goes up, and an already challenging task becomes even more unappealing. Many people with ADHD struggle with self-confidence, especially when it comes to school, so it’s not surprising that this might be causing some difficulties now.
  • With ADHD it’s very easy to get distracted by almost anything, especially anything with a screen. Before you know it you’ve been sucked into your phone for an hour and genuinely have no idea how much time has passed! Once you’re distracted by your phone or computer it can be even harder to switch gears and get started on the work you’ve been avoiding.

Did you see yourself in any of these tendencies? Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings over the next few days as you get started on assignments or procrastinate instead of getting work done. See if you notice any other tendencies popping up. Once you’ve identified your own patterns you’ll be ready to take action and make some changes.  In my next post I discuss some simple steps that will help you stop procrastinating so you can turn in assignments on time, with less stress, and earn better grades!

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Tips for Tackling Test Anxiety Every time a test comes around the same symptoms start to crop up. Your child complains of headaches or stomach aches, has trouble sleeping, cries or becomes irritable, and may even beg to stay home from school. Older kids and teens may tell you that they're worried about a test, say that they're going to fail, or fear that they'll panic and their minds will go blank when the exam is in front of them. Test anxiety is a very real problem that affects 25-40% of students, and occurs more often in kids and teens with ADHD. While a mild amount of anxiety can actually help with focus during study sessions and exams, the high levels of stress, nervousness, and fear that accompanies test anxiety will actually have the opposite effect.

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Tue, 23 May 2017 17:34:17 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/tips-for-tackling-test-anxiety https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/tips-for-tackling-test-anxiety Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Every time a test comes around the same symptoms start to crop up. Your child complains of headaches or stomach aches, has trouble sleeping, cries or becomes irritable, and may even beg to stay home from school. Older kids and teens may tell you that they're worried about a test, say that they're going to fail, or fear that they'll panic and their minds will go blank when the exam is in front of them. Test anxiety is a very real problem that affects 25-40% of students, and occurs more often in kids and teens with ADHD. While a mild amount of anxiety can actually help with focus during study sessions and exams, the high levels of stress, nervousness, and fear that accompanies test anxiety will actually have the opposite effect.

Research shows that test anxiety is generally caused by factors related to fear of failure, unrealistic expectations, negative self-talk, being underprepared for the exam, and a history of poor test performance. For kids with ADHD, additional factors like low self-esteem, poor study habits, organizational difficulties, problems with chronic procrastination, and difficulty staying focused during class and during exams also contribute to test anxiety. Because of these additional factors, kids and teens with ADHD will need extra support from parents, teachers, and school counselors to overcome their test anxiety. Here are a few tips to help your child or teen get started:

  1. Study Skills. Strong study skills will lay the foundation for improved test performance, self-confidence, and reduced test anxiety. Unfortunately most kids are never actually taught how to study! Most kids without ADHD will not pick up good study strategies on their own. Instead they will need coaching on specific study skills that will enable them to be successful. Enroll your child in a study skills program at his or her school or in an afterschool program at a local learning center. You can also check out some home-based study skills programs. Personally, I like SOAR Study Skills by Susan Kruger.
  2. Relaxation Exercises. Your child will benefit from learning at least one relaxation exercise that he or she can use before and during tests to reduce anxiety. The relaxation techniques should be simple things that your child can do without having to rely on a phone or tablet app. For younger kids, PBS provides some helpful instructions on calming breathing exercises (http://www.pbs.org/parents/adventures-in-learning/2015/09/calming-breathing-exercise-for-kids/). For teens, AnxietyBC has a "How to Chill" webpage with a variety of relaxation exercises that can be used anytime and anywhere (http://youth.anxietybc.com/relaxation).
  3. Take the pressure off. Help your child or teen learn that his or her self-worth and self-esteem are not based on test scores. Point out all of the things in your child's life that will continue to go well regardless of how he or she performs on his or her next exam. Share all of the things that you love about your child that have nothing to do at all with his or her grades or test scores!
  4. Reduce distractions and request extended time on exams. Kids with ADHD may experience more test anxiety when they are in distracting classrooms or when they are taking timed tests. Consider requesting school accommodations that will allow your child to take tests in a quiet space and with extended time. Once your child has learned new study skills and has a better handle on his or her test anxiety, he or she may no longer need these accommodations and can return to taking tests in the regular classroom.
  5. Work with the school counselor. School counselors typically have a great deal of experience with helping kids overcome test anxiety. They can help your child learn strategies of tackling negative self-talk, fear of failure, procrastination, and can teach relaxation techniques. They can also help your child learn to advocate for himself or herself and learn to ask for extra help from teachers when needed.

Test anxiety is a very real problem for many kids and teens with ADHD, and it's not likely to get better on its own. Help your child master test anxiety by learning study skills, practicing relaxation exercises, and taking advantage of helpful resources at school. With the right skills and strategies your child's anxiety will go down and his or her test scores will go up in the process!

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Handwriting and ADHD Messy handwriting that results in illegible homework assignments and sloppy work is a frustrating problem for many kids with ADHD. Handwriting difficulties often leave parents and teachers wondering why kids who are bright and knowledgeable can seem to be so "careless" when they complete assignments. Kids and teens get frustrated because they lose points on homework and tests not because they didn't know the material but because their answers weren't legible. As kids get older and more of their written communication occurs electronically, having neat handwriting becomes less problematic on a day-to-day basis. But during the school years, handwriting weaknesses contribute to poor academic performance, anxiety, stress and lower self-esteem.

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 16:08:00 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/handwriting-and-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/handwriting-and-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Messy handwriting that results in illegible homework assignments and sloppy work is a frustrating problem for many kids with ADHD. Handwriting difficulties often leave parents and teachers wondering why kids who are bright and knowledgeable can seem to be so "careless" when they complete assignments. Kids and teens get frustrated because they lose points on homework and tests not because they didn't know the material but because their answers weren't legible. As kids get older and more of their written communication occurs electronically, having neat handwriting becomes less problematic on a day-to-day basis. But during the school years, handwriting weaknesses contribute to poor academic performance, anxiety, stress and lower self-esteem.

In more mild cases, handwriting difficulties may be due to factors directly associated with ADHD, like weaknesses in executive functioning or fine motor control. In more severe cases, a written expression learning disorder (dysgraphia) or a motor control disorder (developmental coordination disorder) may be an underlying issue. So, if your child or teen with ADHD struggles with handwriting, he or she is probably not being careless or failing to take pride in his or her work. In fact, he or she may care very much and want to have neat handwriting but face challenges that make it difficult for him or her to achieve this goal. Fortunately, as a parent you can help your child improve his or her handwriting and compensate for their challenges.

  1. Empathize with your child. If your child or teen has had persistent problems with handwriting - so much so that he or she can only write neatly if he or she works at a painfully slow pace or her or she seems unable to write neatly or efficiently at all, then writing is probably much harder for them than it is for most other kids his or her age. Chances are that over the years he or she received a great deal of negative feedback and criticism from adults and classmates about his or her handwriting. On the flip side, he or she probably also received very little praise when he or she did put effort into writing well. Let your child know that you recognize that writing is difficult for him or her, and acknowledge his or her effort even when his or her written work doesn't look as neat as you'd hoped it would. This validation will go a long way in helping your child follow through when you try to help him or her improve his or her handwriting, and will help lower his or her anxiety and stress overall.
  2. Get an evaluation. Persistent handwriting difficulties require an evaluation to determine the underlying cause of the problem. The evaluation should include an assessment of learning disorders and coordination problems, and should provide recommendations for programs and services to address the handwriting issues, as well as school accommodations (e.g., being allowed to use a keyboard, modified homework assignments, etc.). A psychologist or educational therapist will be qualified to complete this evaluation.
  3. Get your child involved in a handwriting program. For children with ADHD who do not also have a learning disorder, a targeted handwriting program may be all they need to see improvement. An experienced occupational therapist at your child's school should be able to help your child get started with a program. Most programs are specific to kids in elementary school and take either a multisensory approach or a cognitive approach to teaching handwriting. Multisensory approaches engage touch, sound, sight, and other senses and use multi-media, while cognitive approaches focus more on imitation, practice, and self-evaluation. Some kids will respond better to one approach over the other, but it can be difficult to predict which will work best for your child. Research does tell us however, that regardless of the approach it is essential that the handwriting program include regular practice sessions – at least 20 hours of practice over the course of a few weeks or months. The program should also include regular evaluations to determine whether or not handwriting is improving. If you don’t see improvement with regular practice over the course of a few months then it's time to try a different approach. If you'd like to try a program at home, Handwriting Without Tears is an evidence-based multisensory program that includes many opportunities for practice through workbooks and an iPad app.
  4. Teach keyboarding early. Keyboarding isn't a replacement for handwriting, but it is an essential tool for kids and teens with handwriting challenges. Help your child learn to type as early as possible, and request that your child be allowed to type his or her homework assignments. If you have a teen, encourage him or her to take an online keyboarding course that will help him or her become faster and more efficient at typing.
  5. Provide an incentive. Kids with ADHD struggle with motivation, especially for tasks that are hard or painful for them – like handwriting. So, even if your child or teen wants to improve his or her handwriting in the long term, chances are that he or she will go out of his or her way to avoid any handwriting task or practice exercise in the short-term. Help him or her overcome this resistance by providing an incentive for working hard on his or her handwriting. Allow him or her to earn points, privileges, or tangible rewards each time he or she practices without whining or complaining.

Dealing with handwriting problems can be challenging for kids with ADHD as well as their parents and teachers. But improvement is possible with a proper assessment, solid instruction, practice, and some very motivating rewards for all of your child's hard work.

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Simple Strategies for Helping your Child Listen and Follow Through When your child has ADHD getting them to follow through on seemingly simple requests can be frustrating and challenging. You've probably wondered more than a few times how your child is able to tune you out so effectively, to the point where he or she seems to literally not hear you when you ask him or her to do something. Or you struggle to understand what exactly happens when you ask him or her to go put on his or her shoes and socks only to have them come back 20 minutes later with a sock on one foot and no shoes in sight. Moments like these are par for the course when you have a child with ADHD, but there are things you can do to make these moments less frequent. The way that you give your child instructions can have a huge impact on his or her ability to follow through. And, when you pair these effective instructions with praise for a job well done, you'll see big improvements and less frustration all around.

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 15:45:45 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/simple-strategies-for-helping-your-child-listen-and-follow-through https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/simple-strategies-for-helping-your-child-listen-and-follow-through Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. When your child has ADHD getting them to follow through on seemingly simple requests can be frustrating and challenging. You've probably wondered more than a few times how your child is able to tune you out so effectively, to the point where he or she seems to literally not hear you when you ask him or her to do something. Or you struggle to understand what exactly happens when you ask him or her to go put on his or her shoes and socks only to have them come back 20 minutes later with a sock on one foot and no shoes in sight. Moments like these are par for the course when you have a child with ADHD, but there are things you can do to make these moments less frequent. The way that you give your child instructions can have a huge impact on his or her ability to follow through. And, when you pair these effective instructions with praise for a job well done, you'll see big improvements and less frustration all around.

5 Strategies for Giving Effective Instructions:

  1. Always get your child's attention first. Kids with ADHD often have trouble shifting their attention from one thing to the next. So, don't assume that your child is paying attention when you speak. Make sure you are in the same room as your child, then say your child's name, ask him or her to look at you, or put your hand on his or her shoulder. All of these steps will help ensure that he or she is ready to take in what you have to say.
  2. Give only one or two instructions at a time. Most children with ADHD can only absorb one or two instructions at a time, maybe three if they are a bit older. If you chain too many instructions together you will exceed what their mind can process and will compromise their ability to follow through on anything that you've asked them to do.
  3. Tell your child what to do instead of what not to do. Make it easier for your child to follow through by telling him or her exactly what it is that you want them to do, and don't leave it up to their interpretation. For example, if your child is running down the stairs and you tell him or her to "stop running" he or she can choose to slide down the bannister and still comply with your instruction. Instead, be clear and direct and tell him or her to, "Please walk down the stairs."
  4. Avoid "asking" your child do to something. It feels very natural for us to ask someone do something in the form of a question, "Would you get me a cup of coffee?" We communicate with other adults like this all the time and in many instances it would be rude not to - "Get me a cup of coffee now!" But, when you're giving instructions to your child, especially your child with ADHD, the same rules don’t necessarily apply. When you phrase an instruction as a question your child can take you quite literally and simply say no. "Would you clean up your toys?" can result in this response, "Um, not now, I'm busy." Well, you asked and they answered! If you instead say, "Please stop playing and clean up your toys now," you're not asking your child for a favor. You're telling him or her what you need him or her to do, and he or she will be more likely to follow though.
  5. Give your child time to react. It takes many kids with ADHD a little bit longer to process information than you might think, and in general kids process information more slowly than adults. So, give your child at least 5 -10 seconds to follow through before you repeat the instruction or start to feel ignored.

When you follow these 5 simple steps consistently you'll be surprised by how much better your child follows through when you ask him or her to do something. In fact, he or she may even show up with socks and shoes on both feet the next time you ask!

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Understanding Executive Functioning Skills and ADHD In the past few years there has been a surge in our understanding of executive functioning skills and how they overlap with ADHD. As a parent of a child or teen with ADHD you've likely come across articles about executive functioning online or heard the term mentioned by teachers at your child's school. However, many parents don't feel as though they really understand what executive functioning skills are or how they relate to ADHD. Developing a clear understanding of executive functions can help you think more broadly about your child's ADHD symptoms, and might even help you identify new strategies for helping your child succeed at school and at home.

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 15:17:27 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/understanding-executive-functioning-skills-and-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/understanding-executive-functioning-skills-and-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. In the past few years there has been a surge in our understanding of executive functioning skills and how they overlap with ADHD. As a parent of a child or teen with ADHD you've likely come across articles about executive functioning online or heard the term mentioned by teachers at your child's school. However, many parents don’t feel as though they really understand what executive functioning skills are or how they relate to ADHD. Developing a clear understanding of executive functions can help you think more broadly about your child's ADHD symptoms, and might even help you identify new strategies for helping your child succeed at school and at home.

Executive functions are brain-based abilities responsible for helping us with organization, focus, planning, delayed gratification, and emotion regulation. They represent the brain's central executive, responsible for overseeing the management of our decisions, behaviors, and emotions - especially when we are planning and working toward achieving a specific goal. Executive functioning skills exist on a continuum. Some people having very strong executive functioning abilities (these are people who are planners and seem to always be on top of everything in their busy lives!) and others have weaker executive functioning skills. As you might have guessed, research has shown that kids and adults with ADHD generally have weaknesses in executive functioning skills.

Dr. Thomas Brown, a leading expert on executive functioning skills and ADHD, breaks executive functions down into six separate interconnected clusters. As you read though the summary of these clusters below, think about your child and his or her specific strengths and weaknesses in these six areas. It might be helpful to consider these clusters within the context of an everyday activity like completing homework or getting ready for school in the morning:

  1. Analyzing and Activating: Taking a big picture overview of the job that needs to be completed, organizing thoughts and materials, prioritizing tasks, and initiating work.
  2. Focus: Focusing attention on the project or task, staying focused, and shifting attention back to the task in the fact of distractions.
  3. Effort: Continuing to put in effort until the task is completed, and working at a pace that isn't too fast and careless or too slow and unproductive.
  4. Emotion: Managing frustration when things get tough.
  5. Memory: Remembering and recalling the steps and information that is needed in order to reach a goal, and using "working memory" to make mental calculations along the way.
  6. Action: Monitoring progress and adjusting actions and plans as needed until the goal is reached.

All children develop executive functioning skills gradually as they age. A five-year-old child has limited executive functioning abilities, and will struggle to work consistently toward a goal or complete a multi-step task. As they age their executive functioning skills will gradually develop and by adolescence they will see significant gains in their ability to achieve long term goals and complete complex tasks. However, when a child has ADHD these executive functioning skills develop more slowly. In fact, it's not uncommon for a child, adolescent, or young adult with ADHD to have executive functioning skills that are developmentally about two years behind their peers. This is one of the reasons why a very bright student with ADHD might struggle to stay organized or complete and turn in simple homework assignments. Many aspects of the student's intelligence are highly developed and possibly even advanced, but the executive functioning skills that would allow them to reach their full academic potential are delayed.

As parents, if you can identify which executive functioning skills are weak areas for your child, then you can focus on teaching him or her these skills and providing supports that will help your child compensate until his or her skills are more developed. There are a number of excellent books available that you can use as a guide. My favorites are Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary "Executive Skills" Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Full Potential and Smart but Scattered Teens, both by Peg Dawson Ed.D. and Richard Guare, Ph.D. As you read and learn more about executive functioning you may just find that a targeted executive functioning skills-based approach is just what your child needs to move closer to reaching his or her full potential.

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Clean Your Room! 8 Steps to Help Your Child Get and Stay Organized Clean your room! This single sentence is all but guaranteed to trigger a cascade of arguments in any family with an ADHD child. Kids with ADHD struggle with organization, and their apparent resistance to keeping their room clean causes tremendous stress and frustration for parents and kids alike. It's typical for a parent to send a child with ADHD off to clean his or her room only to check on him or her an hour later and find that nothing has been done. Or to have their child proudly announce that he or she has finished cleaning when in fact he or she has only picked up a handful of items off of the floor. Does he or she not see the mess? Does he or she not care that his or her parents are becoming frustrated and threatening to take away privileges if he or she doesn't clean up? Many parents start to wonder if the frustration and hassle is worth it. Maybe they should just pick their battles and let their child's room stay messy?

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Mon, 13 Feb 2017 13:48:18 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/clean-your-room-8-steps-to-help-your-child-get-and-stay-organized https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/clean-your-room-8-steps-to-help-your-child-get-and-stay-organized Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Clean your room! This single sentence is all but guaranteed to trigger a cascade of arguments in any family with an ADHD child. Kids with ADHD struggle with organization, and their apparent resistance to keeping their room clean causes tremendous stress and frustration for parents and kids alike. It's typical for a parent to send a child with ADHD off to clean his or her room only to check on him or her an hour later and find that nothing has been done. Or to have their child proudly announce that he or she has finished cleaning when in fact he or she has only picked up a handful of items off of the floor. Does he or she not see the mess? Does he or she not care that his or her parents are becoming frustrated and threatening to take away privileges if he or she doesn't clean up? Many parents start to wonder if the frustration and hassle is worth it. Maybe they should just pick their battles and let their child's room stay messy?

If your child has ADHD and cannot seem to keep his or her room at least somewhat clean and organized, then there is a good chance that it’s not simple defiance or lack of caring on your child's part. He or she might have a real weakness in skills related to organization. These kids get overwhelmed when asked to clean up a mess, they struggle to consistently put things away where they belong, or create a logical plan for organizing a space. While it can be tempting to ignore your child's messy room - and there is definitely merit in choosing to pick your battles – your child will benefit in the long run if you help him or her learn the skills he or she needed to create and maintain a clean and organized room.

  1. Keep it simple. Avoid creating a complicated organization plan where multiple steps are needed to put away a single item. For example, avoid boxes with lids that stack on top of each other. Stacking boxes may seem like a simple solution, but in reality they require your child to complete multiple steps including taking down a number of boxes, lifting and replacing lids and replacing boxes in a neat stack (phew!). So, instead aim for clearly labeled, unstacked, lid-free bins that your child can toss things into with one step.
  2. Reduce the clutter. The fewer things your child needs to keep organized the more likely he or she is to keep his or her room clean. See my previous post for tips on helping your child get rid of stuff that they no longer need.
  3. Create a clean room checklist. While the phrase "clean your room" seems like a very clear statement to most adults, many kids don't actually know what this means! To them cleaning their room may literally mean just picking up a few items off of the floor, or shoving their clothes into their closet or tucking them away under their bed. Clearly define the meaning of "clean your room" by creating a clean room checklist. This checklist should be specific. For example: (1) all items are picked up off the floor, (2) clean clothes are on hangers or folded in drawers, (3) dirty clothes are in the hamper, (4) toys and books are in their spots on the shelves, (5) trash is in the trash can.
  4. Tackle only one section or checklist item at a time. The overall task of cleaning a room is overwhelming for most kids with ADHD. So, break it down into smaller chunks by asking your child to clean just one spot in his or her room (e.g., put away all of the toys that are in front of the bookshelf) or to complete one item on the checklist. Then, when they complete that task have them tackle another.
  5. Do it together. If your child hasn't been able to clean his or her room on his or her own so far, then he or she might need you to help him or her with the process until it becomes routine. Helping your child clean and organize can also help you identify and correct pitfalls in the organization plan that might otherwise derail your child.
  6. Take pictures. Take pictures of the organized space and attach them to your checklist. This will give your child a visual reminder of what a clean room should look like when he or she is finished. You can take before and after photos too so your child can see the progress he or she has made!
  7. Don't aim for perfection. Avoid setting the cleaning bar so high that it’s out of reach for your child. Think about what your child's room looks like now and his or her current ability to keep things organized. What would you consider to be a reasonable, modest improvement from the current situation? That's where you should set the bar. Then once he or she has achieved that goal, consider aiming for a higher level of organization.
  8. Pile on the praise. Remember that the task of cleaning a room is hard for your child. Praise his or her hard work and his or her effort. Let them know how proud you are! The more you acknowledge his or her effort the more likely he or she is to clean his or her room again.

Helping your child learn the skills he or she needs to keep his or her room clean and organized will definitely take some effort and planning at the start. But over time both you and your child will have fewer arguments and less frustration, and your child will learn skills that he or she will use for a lifetime.

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Helping Your Child Get Rid of Stuff! Opening presents over the holidays was fun and exciting, but now just a few short weeks later those presents have probably just been added to the mound of "stuff" that is cluttering your child's space and your home. For kids with ADHD, this extra stuff can make it much harder to stay organized, keep track of their things, and find what they need when they need it. As disorganization increases, so does frustration over lost and misplaced items, arguments over messy rooms, and difficulty focusing on important tasks like getting ready in the morning and getting homework done. For kids with ADHD, tackling clutter and staying organized is especially challenging, and most of the time it's not something they can manage on their own. They need extra help from parents to create and stick with an organization plan that works. The first step involves helping your child whittle down the amount of stuff that he or she has have until he or she is left only with the things that that he or she really needs or enjoys and uses regularly.

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Fri, 03 Feb 2017 13:45:01 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/helping-your-child-get-rid-of-stuff https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/helping-your-child-get-rid-of-stuff Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Opening presents over the holidays was fun and exciting, but now just a few short weeks later those presents have probably just been added to the mound of "stuff" that is cluttering your child's space and your home. For kids with ADHD, this extra stuff can make it much harder to stay organized, keep track of their things, and find what they need when they need it. As disorganization increases, so does frustration over lost and misplaced items, arguments over messy rooms, and difficulty focusing on important tasks like getting ready in the morning and getting homework done. For kids with ADHD, tackling clutter and staying organized is especially challenging, and most of the time it's not something they can manage on their own. They need extra help from parents to create and stick with an organization plan that works. The first step involves helping your child whittle down the amount of stuff that he or she has have until he or she is left only with the things that that he or she really needs or enjoys and uses regularly.

It's very common for kids with ADHD to want to hold on to more stuff than they can manage simply because the process of sorting through and getting rid of things feels mentally and emotionally overwhelming. So, how can you help your child learn to let things go and get rid of the stuff that he or she doesn't really need or enjoy?

  1. Help your child understand why it's important to get organized. Talk to him or her about things that aren't really working for him or her right now, and why you need to make some changes together. Sit with your child and look at pictures online of kids' bedrooms or playrooms and talk to him or her about what their dream room would look like. Does the room he or she has now look like that? Could it ever look like his or her dream room if he or she kept all of the stuff he or she has now?
  2. Donate to a charity. Let your child know that there are kids out there who don't have enough clothes or toys, and that they would really use the things that your child has outgrown and doesn't need anymore. So instead of sitting unused in a pile of clutter in your home, these toys and clothes could be used every day by someone who needs them. Find at least two charities in your area that accept donations, and let your child pick the charity that he or she would like to donate to. If it's possible, have your child go with you when you drop off the items so he or she can see the impact that he or she is making.
  3. Earn points. Motivate your child by having him or her earn points for each item that he or she gives away. Then, allow him or her to turn in these points for a special activity. Make sure the activity is something that he or she will really enjoy and is not something he or she gets to do every day. Maybe it's going ice skating, a trip to the pool, a round of mini golf, or building a fort in the living room. Whatever it is, let him or her pick the activity and remind him or her of the reward that is waiting for him or her after his or her hard work is done.
  4. Consider starting small. If your child is very resistant to getting rid of things then start with only a few items. Have your child pick out the items on his or her own. Then, one or two weeks later, talk to your child about how it feels to have given away the items. Does he or she miss them or even remember what he or she got rid of? For most kids they will find that they don't even miss their donated items after a little time has passed. Then take the next step by getting rid of a few more things, gradually increasing the amount until real progress is being made.
  5. Try a step down approach. For some kids the idea of getting rid of something permanently feels overwhelming at first. So, put items into a box that you can store away temporarily. After a few weeks, ask your child if he or she needs any of the things that were put in the storage box. Does he or she even remember what was put in there? Then remind him or her of steps 1, 2, and 3 above, and help him or her donate the items. This 'step down' approach can take some of the emotional sting out of the process, and eventually your child will be more open to getting rid of things right away.
  6. Take pictures. Offer to take pictures of special items before they are given away. Sometimes the hardest part of getting rid of something is dealing with the fear that you will lose all of the memories that you made when you were playing with or wearing the item. Having a picture makes letting go a little less scary.
  7. Be a good role model. Show your child that everyone needs to get rid of clutter in order to stay organized. Model good organization techniques by getting rid of things that you no longer need or enjoy. Talk to your child about the things you are getting rid of and what the process feels like for you. If it's hard, let him or her know. But also share with him or her how much better you feel when you have less clutter in your room too.

Getting rid of stuff is hard for everyone, but it's an important first step in helping your child stay organized. For kids with ADHD who struggle with organization, learning to reduce clutter is a skill that they will use throughout their lives. So, the effort you and your child put into this now will continue pay off for years to come!

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Using Negative Consequences Effectively Every parent needs to give their child negative consequences or punishment sometimes. The trick, as I discussed last week, is to use negative consequences sparingly and use positive strategies, like coaching, modeling, praise, and rewards, as often as possible to teach and reinforce good behavior. When you do need to use negative consequences, like taking away a privilege or favorite game or toy, there are a number of things you can do to make it more likely that these consequences will be effective, and your relationship with your child will remain positive.

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Mon, 23 Jan 2017 12:23:55 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/using-negative-consequences-effectively https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/using-negative-consequences-effectively Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Every parent needs to give their child negative consequences or punishment sometimes. The trick, as I discussed last week, is to use negative consequences sparingly and use positive strategies, like coaching, modeling, praise, and rewards, as often as possible to teach and reinforce good behavior. When you do need to use negative consequences, like taking away a privilege or favorite game or toy, there are a number of things you can do to make it more likely that these consequences will be effective, and your relationship with your child will remain positive.

  1. Keep it short. Research shows that shorter punishments are just as effective for children as longer punishments. So, if you're going to take away videogame time, for example, consider taking it away for only one day rather than for a week or longer.
  2. Don't give in. Negative consequences will only work if your child knows that you won't give in by taking away the punishment early or skipping the punishment altogether. When you give in, your child learns that you don't really mean what you say, and he or she will eventually stop taking you seriously. Following step #1 and giving out shorter punishments will make it easier for you to avoid giving in.
  3. Be consistent. It's important to put a negative consequence in place every time the problem behavior occurs. If you let things slide sometimes, then your child will know that he or she might be able to "get away" with the behavior.
  4. Give your child a warning. When you consistently give your child a warning before he or she receives a negative consequence, the warning alone should eventually be enough to stop the negative behavior. But, this will only work if you consistently follow through with the negative consequence whenever your child does not stop the behavior after he or she has been warned. Remember, your child needs to learn that you mean what you say!
  5. Always make an effort to teach new behaviors. Negative consequences only teach children what not to do - for example, do not pick on your sister. They do not teacher children what to do – this is how you and your sister can have fun playing a game together. So, when you find yourself repeatedly using negative consequences for the same behavior, carve out time in your week to teach your child the skills he or she needs in order to be successful. Then praise and reward these new skills. When you do this often you'll find yourself relying on negative consequences less and less over time.

Having to hand out punishments and negative consequences to your child is not something that any parent wants to do. So, it's important to know that the negative consequences that you do use are actually having an impact on your child's behavior. How can you tell if you are being effective? Look for a change in behavior over time – not just a change in the moment. Does your child fight less often with his sister now than he did last week or last month? If the answer is yes, then your strategies are working. But if you aren't seeing a change in the behavior over time, then it's time to try something else. Think strategically about other things that you can do to make the negative behavior less likely to happen. Are there skills your children need to learn? Do they need more sleep so they are less irritable during the day? Do they need more one-on-one time with a parent so they don't feel the need to seek out negative attention? Are there certain games or toys that often lead to conflict and should be limited?

Taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture will help you problem solve more effectively rather than just doing the same thing over and over again. When in doubt, get help from a professional who specializes in ADHD or child behavior challenges.

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Using Negative Consequences with Your ADHD Child Kids with ADHD often struggle to follow through on the things that are expected of them, make impulsive choices, and have a hard staying calm in stressful situations. This understandably leads many parents to feel like they are constantly correcting and reprimanding their child – not because they want to, but because they don’t know what else to do. Using positive strategies like giving attention, praise, and rewards for good behavior can go a long way in reducing the need for negative consequences and that constant stream of negative feedback. In an ideal world positive strategies would be all that you would need to help your child learn new skills and behave in ways that will keep him or her safe and happy. But in reality, positive strategies aren’t always enough. Every parent needs to use negative consequences sometimes, but knowing when to use them can be tricky.

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Mon, 23 Jan 2017 12:15:09 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/using-negative-consequences-with-your-adhd-child https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/using-negative-consequences-with-your-adhd-child Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Kids with ADHD often struggle to follow through on the things that are expected of them, make impulsive choices, and have a hard staying calm in stressful situations. This understandably leads many parents to feel like they are constantly correcting and reprimanding their child – not because they want to, but because they don’t know what else to do. Using positive strategies like giving attention, praise, and rewards for good behavior can go a long way in reducing the need for negative consequences and that constant stream of negative feedback. In an ideal world positive strategies would be all that you would need to help your child learn new skills and behave in ways that will keep him or her safe and happy. But in reality, positive strategies aren't always enough. Every parent needs to use negative consequences sometimes, but knowing when to use them can be tricky.

Overusing negative consequences can really take a toll on your relationship with your child and your child’s self-esteem. Kids who lose privileges, have toys taken away, or get sent to time out too often may start to avoid the adults who are handing out these punishments. This is especially true when those same adults don’t balance out the negative consequences for bad behavior with lots of praise and attention for good behavior. Kids also start to internalize the frequent negative feedback that they are receiving, and begin to feel like they "can't do anything right."

In addition, negative consequences generally only tell children what not to do. They don't help them learn what to do instead. Think about this typical scenario: a brother is constantly picking fights with his sister and they rarely play together without the playtime ending in tears. His parents want more than anything for him to get along with his sister, and they take way videogames whenever he starts picking a fight. He gets upset about losing his videogames and leaves his sister alone for a little while after he receives his punishment. So, taking away videogames stops the fighting in the moment, but does it teach him how to positively interact with is sister next time? Does he learn any new skills that might help him avoid future punishments? Nope. Only coaching or modeling a new behavior and pairing praise or rewards with new skills will help kids with ADHD learn and practice new ways of interacting with their world.

So, while negative consequences aren't ideal, there are some times when you simply need to use them:

  1. When your child is demonstrating a negative behavior that is so rewarding or interesting to him or her that no amount of praise or rewards will motivate him or her to change his or her behavior. This is often the case with something like stopping a videogame the first (or second) a child has been asked to do so.
  2. When your child is engaging in an impulsive or unsafe behavior that you need to stop immediately.


When should you avoid using negative consequences regularly with your child?

  1. When your child needs to learn a new skill in order to meet goals or expectations. For example, if your child is always late for school because he or she can't get ready on time, punishing your child for being late probably won't help change the situation. Your child likely needs help learning a new routine, and might need some support from you in order to get everything done on time in the morning. Providing support along with praise and rewards will teach new behaviors in a way that negative consequences cannot.
  2. When you've been using negative consequences repeatedly for the same problem, but the behavior has not improved over time. This means that negative consequences aren't working and it's time to try something else.

For those times when you do need to use negative consequences, there are things you can do to make these consequences more effective and less frequent. In my next post I'll talk about these specific strategies, and will give you some tips on how to maintain a positive relationship with your child.

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IEP vs. 504: What’s the difference? All students with ADHD have difficulty in school, so much so that many are eligible for special education services under one of two federal laws: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which covers Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act which covers 504 Plans. For students with ADHD, many of the accommodations and services that they need are covered under both plans, making it difficult to understand know which plan might be best fit for your child. Here’s a simple overview to help get you started:

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Mon, 23 Jan 2017 11:27:06 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/iep-vs-504-whats-the-difference https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/iep-vs-504-whats-the-difference Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. All students with ADHD have difficulty in school, so much so that many are eligible for special education services under one of two federal laws: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which covers Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act which covers 504 Plans. For students with ADHD, many of the accommodations and services that they need are covered under both plans, making it difficult to understand know which plan might be best fit for your child. Here’s a simple overview to help get you started:

Section 504 Plan
Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It is intended to ensure that students with disabilities are provided with an equal opportunity to succeed at school. With 504 plans students receive instruction through the same regular education curriculum that is provided to all students in the classroom. To help students with disabilities access this curriculum and participate in activities, Section 504 allows for specific accommodations and evidence-based services tailored to each student’s individual needs. For children with ADHD, these accommodations may be things like a quiet place to take exams, reduced homework assignments, or positive behavior plans in the classroom that help them stay on task. Typically 504 accommodations and services can be implemented by the child’s classroom teacher without assistance from additional school staff and professionals.

Students with ADHD are eligible for a 504 Plan if their disability substantially limits their ability to fully participate in all academic and non-academic activities at school. When the school makes a determination about whether or not the disability is "substantially limiting" they must do so without taking into consideration the effect of treatments like medication or behavioral interventions that may alleviate symptoms when they are in use. 504 Plans list the accommodations that will be provided for the student, but they do not include a review of the student's academic performance or any specific learning goals.

504 Plans are typically used for students with ADHD who have less severe impairments, or who do not qualify for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a detailed law that ensures students with disabilities are provided with schooling that clearly provides educational benefit– meaning that there is clear evidence that the child is able to learn and make academic gains in response to the instruction that they are receiving. For students with disabilities who are not able to learn through a standard educational curriculum, instruction must be tailored to meet their individual needs in the Least Restrictive Environment possible. This means that the educators should aim to have the student in a typical classroom environment to the greatest extent feasible. An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is the detailed working document created for each eligible child, and serves as the cornerstone of his or her educational program and services. An IEP may contain the same accommodations as a 504 Plan, but may also include additional special education services like speech therapy, social skills groups, or occupational therapy. Often (but not always) these individualized services are provided by educational professionals and staff other than the main classroom teacher.

It is more difficult to qualify for an IEP than a 504 Plan. Formalized testing is required to determine eligibility for an IEP. This testing is provided by the school when a student is referred for an evaluation (by a parent, teacher, doctor, therapist, etc.) due to poor school performance. The evaluation assesses cognitive factors, emotional factors, academic achievement, and behavioral functioning. In addition to determining IEP eligibility, results are also used to make decisions about the student’s individualized accommodations and services and their learning goals.

IEPs are also much more detailed than 504 Plans. They include information about the student’s current level of performance, learning goals for the student, and progress monitoring over the course of the school year. Parents are involved in reviewing the student’s current level of performance, identifying learning goals and reviewing progress toward those goals.

Even when you are armed with knowledge and information, determining which plan is right for your child can be difficult and will require input from teachers, school administrators, special education staff, and possibly outside professionals like child psychologists and special education advocates. If you think your child may benefit from extra services at school, schedule a meeting with the school’s special education coordinator and learn about the process. If at any time you feel like the school is not being responsive to your requests, continue to make your concerns known and enlist the help of outside professionals if necessary. Your child deserves to have the accommodations and services that he or she needs in order to reach his or her full potential with ADHD. As a parent you are your child’s best advocate when it comes to getting him or her the services that he or she needs.

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Catch Your Child Being Good this Holiday Season Spending time with family around the holidays can be wonderful, and for parents of kids with ADHD it can also be stressful. When you’re visiting family and friends that you only see a few times a year you want more than ever to have things go smoothly. It’s a tall order when your child’s routine is disrupted, and when he or she is so excited about the holidays! As a parent, when you are stressed, your child’s minor misbehaviors – the ones that you would typically let slide – may really get under your skin. So, you’re more likely to notice the things that your child is doing wrong, and overlook the things that he or she may be doing right. As a result, your child receives even more attention for his or her misbehavior, and this attention – even though it’s negative – often leads to an increase in challenging behaviors.

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Sat, 17 Dec 2016 18:39:14 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/catch-your-child-being-good-this-holiday-season https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/catch-your-child-being-good-this-holiday-season Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Spending time with family around the holidays can be wonderful, and for parents of kids with ADHD it can also be stressful. When you’re visiting family and friends that you only see a few times a year you want more than ever to have things go smoothly. It’s a tall order when your child’s routine is disrupted, and when he or she is so excited about the holidays! As a parent, when you are stressed, your child’s minor misbehaviors – the ones that you would typically let slide – may really get under your skin. So, you’re more likely to notice the things that your child is doing wrong, and overlook the things that he or she may be doing right. As a result, your child receives even more attention for his or her misbehavior, and this attention – even though it’s negative – often leads to an increase in challenging behaviors.

Making an effort to notice your child’s positive behavior, and praise him or her when he or she is doing something right can help break this cycle. When you “catch your child being good” you set them up for success. You start to lay the foundation for positive family interactions, you build his or her self-esteem, and you increase the chance of seeing more positive behavior in the future. In order for praise to be most effective, and actually lead to a change in family dynamics and your child’s behavior, you’ll need to be strategic about how and when you deliver the praise. The following guidelines will help you get off to a good start:

  1. Be Specific. Let your child know exactly what he or she did well. For example, “You did a great job helping your sister find her toy.” rather than “Good job!” When you’re specific your child knows exactly what it is that he or she did well, and will be more likely to do it again in the future.
  2. Be genuine. Kids respond well to praise when it’s heartfelt and genuine, and when your level of enthusiasm matches their behavior. For example, let’s say that your child does something that isn’t very hard for him or her, like tying his or her shoes, for example. You respond with over the top enthusiasm, “Wow! You tied your shoes, amazing!” You’re child isn’t going to find you very believable, and might even think that you’re acting strange. But, if you say something more genuine, like, “I noticed that you tied your shoes the first time I asked. Thank you.” Then he or she will be much more likely to accept your praise.
  3. Praise effort. Studies show that kids who are praised for their hard work and effort, rather than for their intelligence or abilities, are more likely to approach new challenges with a positive attitude and have the motivation to keep trying even when things are hard. So, if your child gets a good grade on a math assignment, rather than saying, “Nice job! You’re so smart at math!” focus on the things that he or she did in order to earn the grade, like, “You worked really hard on that assignment and double checked all of your answers before your turned it in. Your hard work really paid off! Nicely done!”
  4. Remember 5:1: It takes quite a few positive statements to offset the effects of negative feedback and criticism. So as a rule of thumb, aim for 5 positive comments for every negative statement. If this seems like a tall order, start with a smaller ratio, like 3:1 and work your way up.

Shift the balance in your home, from only commenting on the negative to really praising the positive. Noticing your child’s good behavior, and following these praise guidelines will go a long way in helping things go more smoothly this holiday season and throughout the year. Over time you’ll see even more good behavior and improved family relationships as your child continues to seek and receive more positive attention from you.

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Do kids really outgrow ADHD? When most of us were growing up it was believed that ADHD was a disorder that only occurred during childhood. Parents were often told that their children would probably outgrow their symptoms by the time they were teenagers, and most certainly by the time they were adults. Over the past two decades research has shown that this is actually not the case. In fact, studies have shown that about 70% of children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to meet criteria for an ADHD diagnosis in adulthood.

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Sat, 17 Dec 2016 18:34:17 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/do-kids-really-outgrow-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/do-kids-really-outgrow-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. When most of us were growing up it was believed that ADHD was a disorder that only occurred during childhood. Parents were often told that their children would probably outgrow their symptoms by the time they were teenagers, and most certainly by the time they were adults. Over the past two decades research has shown that this is actually not the case. In fact, studies have shown that about 70% of children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to meet criteria for an ADHD diagnosis in adulthood.

Despite current research evidence, the belief that children will outgrow their ADHD has persisted in our culture. As parents you may have relatives, friends, and even teachers tell you not to worry because your child’s symptoms will simply go away as he or she gets older. People usually mean well when they say this, but it can be frustrating if it makes you feel like your child’s current challenges are not being taken seriously.

So why has this belief persisted, even when we now know that many teenagers and adults do in fact have ADHD? One reason may lie in the child-centered way that ADHD has been defined and categorized. When ADHD was first included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental health disorders in the US, the symptoms and impairments were based solely on the presentation of ADHD in children. While there have been some minor adjustments to the symptoms and diagnostic criteria in the DSM over time to better account for the disorder’s presentation in adolescents and adults, the overall child-centered focus of the criteria has remained. As a result, some symptoms, like “often runs and climbs on things excessively,” or “often leaves seat in situations where staying seated is expected,” are in fact only seen in children. If we were to see an adult “climbing on things excessively,” for example, we would suspect that there is much more going on than ADHD!

So, in a sense, children do outgrow some symptoms of ADHD – at least on the outside. What many people without ADHD don’t realize is that the underlying ADHD feelings and impulses often stick around into adolescence and adulthood. A child who struggled to stay in his or her seat during class may have learned to stay seated as he or she got older, but he or she has continued to experience strong underlying feelings of restlessness. Another child who would “often blurt out answers” or “interrupt others” may develop greater awareness of these symptoms over time. He or she still experiences the urge to blurt out or interrupt during conversations, but now he or she works hard to hold his or her thoughts and not speak out of turn. Sometimes he or she may have a hard time focusing on conversations or staying in the moment because he or she is so distracted by the urge to jump in and speak. So, in other words, many of these childhood ADHD symptoms don’t go away over time. They just become less visible to other people.

As a parent there are many things you can do now that will help your child manage his or her symptoms well into adolescence and adulthood. The skills you teach them as children, especially social skills, organizational skills, strategies for doing things independently, will last a lifetime. Being open to having conversations with your child about his or her ADHD symptoms can create a safe space where your child can learn to accept his or her ADHD rather than judge and hide his or her symptoms. And if behavioral strategies alone are not enough, helping your child find a medication that will work for him or her can make a tremendous difference in his or her symptom management now and in the future. So, while your child may not ultimately outgrow his or her ADHD symptoms, he or she can improve over time with the right treatment and support from family and friends.

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Promoting a Growth Mindset My previous post discussed strategies for teaching Growth Mindset principles to your child. And while this is an important first step, the real power comes in reminding your child of these principles and promoting them on a day to day basis. Helping your child develop a Growth Mindset involves first making sure that he or she has the tools and strategies that he or she needs in order to be successful, and then remind your child that when he or she pairs these strategies with hard work and persistence he or she can grow their brains and become better at anything that he or she puts their mind to.

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Mon, 23 Jan 2017 10:06:00 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/promoting-growth-mindset https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/promoting-growth-mindset Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. My previous post discussed strategies for teaching Growth Mindset principles to your child. And while this is an important first step, the real power comes in reminding your child of these principles and promoting them on a day to day basis. Helping your child develop a Growth Mindset involves first making sure that he or she has the tools and strategies that he or she needs in order to be successful, and then remind your child that when he or she pairs these strategies with hard work and persistence he or she can grow their brains and become better at anything that he or she puts their mind to.

When it comes to making sure your child has access to strategies and tools that work for him or her, I recommend setting up a meeting with your child’s teacher. Find out which areas they think your child needs to improve in the most, and what suggestions they have for accelerating this improvement. If your child’s teacher suggests that your child receive additional help outside the classroom, then seek out additional learning services at school or in an after-school learning or tutoring program. Also, ask for suggestions about what you can do at home each week to help your child improve.

When your child is trying out new strategies and working on things that are hard for him or her, encourage a Growth Mindset by taking the following steps:

  1. Remind your child that when he or she works hard they are growing their brain. When we lift weights our muscles grow stronger. We know they are stronger because over time it becomes easier to lift heavier weights. Remind your child that when we challenge our brains by working on things that are hard for us, our brains get stronger too. We know they’re getting stronger because math problems, books, and writing assignments that were hard for us become easier over time. And we get more answers correct the first time around.
  2. Praise Growth Mindset goals. When your child is working hard, tie your praise to our Growth Mindset goals. Praise your child for stepping up to a challenge, trying out new strategies, working hard, and improving. Overall, you’ll be most successful at fostering a Growth Mindset when you focus your praise on your child’s process rather than on your child’s grades and achievement.
  3. Counter Fixed Mindset thoughts with Growth Mindset alternatives. When kids are frustrated they are likely to have a whole host of Fixed Mindset thoughts that get in the way. When they voice these thoughts, try to come up with Growth Mindset alternatives that can help your child think differently about his or her situation. Your child may not seem too receptive in the moment, especially if he or she is feeling very frustrated. But over time, your child will hear you and will start to come up with these Growth Mindset alternatives on his or her own. Here are some examples to help you get started:

Fixed Mindset: I always make mistakes!
Growth Mindset: When we correct our mistakes, we grow our brains.

Fixed Mindset: I can’t…
Growth Mindset: You haven’t done it … yet!

Fixed Mindset: This stuff is easy for other kids.
Growth Mindset: With new strategies and practice it will become easier for you too.

Helping your child develop a Growth Mindset will take time. After all, your child has probably been living with a Fixed Mindset for years. Be persistent and look for small, gradual improvements. Mindsets are fluid, so don’t be surprised if sometimes your child is able to maintain Growth Mindset and other times he or she is firmly stuck in a Fixed Mindset. The goal is to help your child spend more time in a Growth Mindset framework than he or she was able to in the past. Over time, his or her motivation and self-esteem will improve, and you’ll notice that he or she is more willing to take risks and step up to challenges at school and in life.

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Teaching a Growth Mindset Principles to Your Child In my last post I discussed the powerful impact that having a Growth Mindset can have on motivation and academic achievement. With a Growth Mindset you believe that through effort and the use of solid strategies you can become smarter and better at just about anything you put your mind to. And in fact, there’s a great deal of neuroscience research supporting the notion that we can in fact “grow our brains” and become smarter!

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Wed, 30 Nov 2016 12:02:08 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/teaching-a-growth-mindset-principles-to-your-child https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/teaching-a-growth-mindset-principles-to-your-child Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. In my last post I discussed the powerful impact that having a Growth Mindset can have on motivation and academic achievement. With a Growth Mindset you believe that through effort and the use of solid strategies you can become smarter and better at just about anything you put your mind to. And in fact, there’s a great deal of neuroscience research supporting the notion that we can in fact “grow our brains” and become smarter!

Unfortunately kids with ADHD may be more likely to have a Fixed Mindset. Their struggles with motivation and academics may have lead them down the path of believing that their hard work doesn’t really pay off, and there is nothing they can do to become smarter or better at the things that are challenging for them. And with this set of beliefs, mustering up the motivation to work hard at school or tackle challenging homework problems is extremely difficult. Fortunately, research has shown that mindsets can be changed – and that includes your child with ADHD. Parents and teachers can foster Growth Mindsets in their children and have a big impact on their motivation and achievement.

So, how do you go about encouraging a Growth Mindset? It takes two phases. First, teach your child a few core Growth Mindset principles. Then on a daily basis, emphasize Growth Mindset thoughts and actions to cement the new Growth Mindset lessons and encourage increased motivation over time.

So let’s start with Phase I: teaching three core Growth Mindset principles.

  1. We can grow our brains. Explain to your child that the brain is like a muscle. When we lift weights our muscles get stronger and they grow. The same thing happens when we “exercise our brain.” The more we challenge our brain the more it grows, and the more we grow our brain the better we become at things like math, reading, writing, and even fun things like videogames and sports. (Videogames may make the most sense to some kids: ‘Remember when you got that new game and didn’t know how to get past Level I, but then you kept playing and learning and you were able to not only get past Level I but get all the way to Level 4. And now you’re still playing and learning and soon you’ll be at Level 5? That’s because you were exercising your brain and challenging it to grow.”) There are some excellent videos online that teach kids about how they can grow their brain. For younger kids I recommend the Class Dojo Growth Mindset series https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zrtHt3bBmQ and for older kids I recommend the Khan Academy “Growing your Mind” video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtKJrB5rOKs.
  2. How our brains grow. In order to straighten our muscles, we challenge them through exercise. If we keep lifting the same light weight over and over again, then our muscles won’t really get stronger. We need to challenge them by gradually adding heavier weights. With our brains, we exercise them by doing challenging work. By trying things that may seem hard, and by making and correcting mistakes. Mistakes can actually be good things, because when we correct our mistakes our brain gets stronger! (Let’s go back to our videogame example: “When you first started Level 2, you struggled to defeat the monster. He won a lot of the time. But you kept hitting the reset button and challenging yourself to find a way to get around the monster. Each time you failed to beat him, you learned a little bit more about what might work next time.”)
  3. We need good tools and strategies. Your child has certainly tried to do challenging work in the past. But if your child has ADHD, there’s a good chance that there have been quite a few times when he or she were not able to succeed at the level that was expected of him or her. These failures may have made your child hesitant to take on new challenges, even if he or she knows that challenging work is good for him or her. So, make sure to let your child know that in addition to challenging work, they need strategies that will help them succeed. Tell your child that you recognize that he or she may not have had the tools and strategies that he or she needed in the past. But you’re going to do everything you can to help him or her learn different strategies and tools so that he or she can succeed now. And with your child’s hard work, combined with new strategies and tools, the sky is the limit! (And one last time we’ll revisit the videogame example: “And then when you reached Level 4, you really struggled with the dragon. But it was your babysitter Mark who gave you a great idea for a strategy to try – and it worked! Sometimes we need some coaching and help just to give us a little help in what direction to go in or what we might want to try. Mark didn’t give you the answers, but he gave you a strategy. And having that strategy helped you beat that Level. Sometimes life is like the videogame where we just need someone to give us a new strategy or a tool to help us do our work and then we can see the way forward.”)

In addition to teaching your child these key Growth Mindset principles, get started on figuring out ways to help your child learn new strategies for the things that are hard for him or her. Talk to your child’s teacher about subjects that are difficult. Find out which learning tools are currently working for your child and which tools are not. Kids with ADHD may need different learning strategies, so ask about alternate tools and strategies that they can try. Consider getting extra help for your child through their school or through a learning center or tutoring program (see my previous post on choosing a good tutoring center for your child). Remember that your child’s hard work will only lead to improvement when he or she is putting their effort into using the tools and strategies that work for him or her.

My next post, the last in this Growth Mindset series, I’ll talk about Phase II -- the things you can do every day to encourage a Growth Mindset in your child. You’re well on your way to instilling a Growth Mindset, and soon you’ll start to think about all of the ways that your child – and you – can rethink challenges and have a Growth Mindset approach to life.

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Growth Mindset and Motivation When you think about ADHD symptoms, things like distractibility, impulsivity, or hyperactivity usually come to mind. But along with these “typical” symptoms comes another challenge: low motivation. Kids with ADHD often struggle to muster up the motivation they need in order to be successful, particularly when it comes to schoolwork. Perhaps not surprisingly, research has shown that factors like motivation, the desire to improve, and persistence all greatly impact academic performance.

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Wed, 30 Nov 2016 11:54:27 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/growth-mindset-and-motivation- https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/growth-mindset-and-motivation- Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. When you think about ADHD symptoms, things like distractibility, impulsivity, or hyperactivity usually come to mind. But along with these “typical” symptoms comes another challenge: low motivation. Kids with ADHD often struggle to muster up the motivation they need in order to be successful, particularly when it comes to schoolwork. Perhaps not surprisingly, research has shown that factors like motivation, the desire to improve, and persistence all greatly impact academic performance.

But when you have a child with ADHD, what can you do as a parent that will really make an impact on your child’s motivation for schoolwork? There are several behavior management strategies that help to improve motivation on a moment to moment basis. I’ve talked about some of them here in this blog – including setting up routines, using rewards to motivate kids to try new behaviors, and strategies for helping your child engage with reading. These strategies are essential components of effective ADHD treatment plans, and can go a long way in helping to set your child up for success.

However, these behavior plans do little to address underlying motivational challenges. To truly address motivation and particularly motivation as it relates to academics and school, you need to also consider your child’s mindset – or the way that he or she thinks about his or her abilities and potential to improve. I’m a big fan of Carol Dweck’s seminal work, The Growth Mindset and how it helps all kids – including kids with ADHD – rethink success and failure and how they think about their own learning and intelligence.

Individuals with a Growth Mindset believe that the have the ability to improve their intelligence and abilities through hard work and the use of good learning strategies. This belief is backed by decades of science showing that we do in fact have the ability to “grow our brain” and improve our intelligence. When children are armed with this knowledge, they are motivated to work hard and tackle challenges because they believe that they can improve and overcome obstacles with effort. In contrast, individuals with a Fixed Mindset believe that their intelligence and abilities cannot be changed. When faced with a difficult task in a subject that they are “not good” at, they will shy away from the challenge and instead put their efforts into hiding their weaknesses and avoiding the task at all cost. Sound familiar?

Kids with ADHD may be more likely to get stuck in a Fixed Mindset than kids without ADHD. After all, they’ve had years of experience with their ADHD symptoms getting in the way and preventing typical learning strategies from working for them. So, they’ve inadvertently collected a great deal of evidence supporting the notion that nothing they do will help them improve in the areas that are hard for them. In addition, neuroimaging studies have shown that the part of the brain that controls ADHD symptoms (the prefrontal cortex), is also responsible for motivation and mindset. In other words, they may be biologically predisposed to fall into a Fixed Mindset more quickly.

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United You Stand Did you play this game as a kid? You run to one of your parents and ask, “Can I have a candy bar?” They say no, because you’ll spoil your dinner. So, what do you do, you ask another parent! “Can I have a lollipop?” Sure, they say! And when the parent who turned you down finds you eating a lollipop a few minutes later, your defense is bulletproof: With a finger pointed and a smirk on your face you proclaim, “But they said I could!”

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Mon, 07 Nov 2016 09:48:26 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/united-you-stand https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/united-you-stand Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Did you play this game as a kid? You run to one of your parents and ask, “Can I have a candy bar?” They say no, because you’ll spoil your dinner. So, what do you do, you ask another parent! “Can I have a lollipop?” Sure, they say! And when the parent who turned you down finds you eating a lollipop a few minutes later, your defense is bulletproof: With a finger pointed and a smirk on your face you proclaim, “But they said I could!”

Kids are smart about playing their parents off of each other to get what they want. And while your candy bar strategy as a kid might not have been a big deal, when parents of kids with ADHD are not on the same page the consequences can be significant. This is especially true when it comes to the “negotiating” that kids with ADHD are prone to do in order to get their way. While their negotiating tactics can be clever and downright impressive at times (“My kid could be a lawyer!”), they ultimately create stress for the whole family and can become increasingly problematic as children grow into adolescents. Limiting your child’s negotiating behavior can reduce stress and improve your relationship with your child. To minimize negotiations, you and your co-parent need to be as consistent as possible with the things that your child pushes limits on throughout the day (treats, screen time, chores, bedtime, etc.).

Now, you may be thinking: easier said than done! It’s sometimes difficult to get on the same page about what you’re going to be having for dinner, let alone all of these smaller things throughout the day. But actually, a few basic “rules of road” for the two of you can help you get on the same page and become a consistent parenting team.

Rule 1: Start small. Make a list of the things your child negotiates about regularly. Then pick on one thing on the list to focus on first. Set yourself up for success by starting with the easiest item on the list.

Rule 2. Give your child a heads-up. At a time when you, your co-parent, and your child are calm, have a group talk about the problem and how things are going to change. Keep it simple, positive, and brief. For example, “I know you’ve been wanting to go to bed later, and we’ve been arguing about that almost every night. We’ve both talked about it, and we’ve decided that since you’re getting a bit older, on Saturday nights you’ll be able to go to bed 10 minutes later than your usual bedtime. But every other night of the week, your bedtime doesn’t change. If you ask us to go to bed later we’re both going to tell you no. We might even walk away if you keep asking about it - not because we’re upset, but because we don’t want to argue."

Rule 3. Support each other. When you first try out your new plan you may have a hard time not giving in to your child. After all, sometimes it does seem easier to just give in right away. So, look to your co-parent for reassurance and support to help build up your confidence as you learn to stick to your plan.

Rule 4. Praise your child. If your child accepts your answer and doesn’t negotiate, whine, or meltdown, then let your child know that you’ve noticed the good behavior. “You did a great job going with the flow tonight when I told you that you couldn’t stay up late. I know that’s not always easy, but I’m really impressed with how well you handled it!” Kids get so much attention from their parents when they whine or negotiate, so make sure they get positive attention when they accept no for an answer!

Rule 5: Expand your plan. Once you’ve managed to be consistent with the first item on your list, expand your plan to include a second behavior. Follow the same rules above, and gradually address more items until you’ve covered most of your child’s “negotiation triggers” throughout the day.

Rule 6: Ask for help if you need it. Parenting is hard, and even harder when your child has ADHD. Don’t be afraid to turn to a professional to get some coaching on how to be consistent and co-parent successfully. Even a little coaching can go a long way, and everyone in your family will benefit.

Presenting a united front will make parenting easier and ultimately more enjoyable. It’s nice to know that someone else understands your frustrations, shares your concerns, and has your back. So, try out these basic rules. They’ll go a long way toward creating a less stressful household that will benefit everyone in your family.

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Finding a Tutor for Your Child Your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, and you’ve been trying hard to do everything you can to help your child. You’re working with a therapist, explored or started medication, and you’ve put behavior plans into place at home. You’ve even partnered with your child’s teacher to get extra help in the classroom. And while some things are getting better, your child’s grades are not improving and you’re worried about your child falling behind his or her peers. It might be time to enlist the help of a tutor to give your child the academic boost that he or she needs to succeed. But – how do you know how to find a tutor who will be a good fit? What should you look for in a tutor or a tutoring program when your child has ADHD?

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Mon, 07 Nov 2016 09:45:10 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/finding-a-tutor-for-a-child-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/finding-a-tutor-for-a-child-with-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, and you’ve been trying hard to do everything you can to help your child. You’re working with a therapist, explored or started medication, and you’ve put behavior plans into place at home. You’ve even partnered with your child’s teacher to get extra help in the classroom. And while some things are getting better, your child’s grades are not improving and you’re worried about your child falling behind his or her peers. It might be time to enlist the help of a tutor to give your child the academic boost that he or she needs to succeed. But – how do you know how to find a tutor who will be a good fit? What should you look for in a tutor or a tutoring program when your child has ADHD? Here’s my helpful checklist that will help you evaluate options in your area:

The vibe. Your child’s tutoring experience starts with how he or she will feel about the space and the staff. Is the space warm and inviting? Does it look like a place that your child would be drawn to? How’s the rapport between the staff and students? What does the energy in the room feel like? Trust your instincts: if something doesn’t feel right it’s time to look elsewhere.

Strong staff engagement with your child. It may seem like a no-brainer, but every child in the room should be engaged with a staff member. Some students may be doing individual work, but staff should be overseeing these students and checking in on their progress. You should get the feeling that the staff genuinely care about their students and the work that they are doing. And that the students feel comfortable looking to the staff and teachers for help when they need it.

Challenging activities. Tutoring should not be about a teacher doing work for a student. Instead it should include structured learning activities that are adapted to your child’s specific academic level. These activities should start at a fairly low level of difficulty to help your child get his or her feet wet and build confidence, and then gradually become more challenging as your child develops new skills, strategies, and knowledge. Instructions should always be clear and concise, and even challenging work should be within the child’s reach. The work should never be so challenging that your child is constantly struggling, feeling defeated, or disengaged.

Self-directed work time. No matter the curriculum or teaching strategies that are in place, tutoring should always include some independent work time. During these time-limited periods your child will have the opportunity to complete assignments on his or her own but can also ask for assistance when needed. This helps kids gain confidence, and learn strategies that will carry over to independent work time at school and at home.

Space! Are there individual work areas as well as small group spaces? A solid desk and comfortable chair? Good lighting? Does it feel overcrowded or just right? The space should be clean, well-organized, well-lit and have designated space for activities. There should be a sense of shared care for the space, from the owner all the way down to staff and students.

Specific ADHD training. While there are great tutoring choices out there, you’re looking for one that specifically has the training, knowledge and experience of working with kids with ADHD. While many centers may say they work with students who have ADHD, ask about specific ADHD training that has been provided to the staff and teachers. Learn about the specific strategies that they use for dealing with typical ADHD-related challenges, like having difficulty staying seated, talking too much, or being easily distracted. Look for a combination of positive reinforcement (praise), clear instructions, engaging, structured activities, frequent breaks and a limited use of negative consequences.

Choosing a tutor or a tutoring center can be tough – and time consuming. But ensuring a good fit between you, your child, and the center is the key to success. Tutors with experience and training in working with students who have ADHD can provide the additional support that your child will need in order to reach his or her full academic potential.

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Helping Your Kid Find Their Tribe Last year, Huffington Post called it “the catch phrase of our digital generation: ‘Find Your Tribe’. It’s been used as a call for those seeking a like-minded community and it’s everywhere. Yoga groups. Cooking groups. Blogathons. Ultimate Frisbee clubs. You name it! But what seems like a luxury for most of us is actually a necessity for kids with ADHD: having a group of like-minded kids (and adults who support them) creates an environment that fosters learning, connection, and growth.

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Mon, 07 Nov 2016 09:38:19 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/helping-your-kid-find-their-tribe https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/helping-your-kid-find-their-tribe Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Last year, Huffington Post called it “the catch phrase of our digital generation: ‘Find Your Tribe’. It’s been used as a call for those seeking a like-minded community and it’s everywhere. Yoga groups. Cooking groups. Blogathons. Ultimate Frisbee clubs. You name it! But what seems like a luxury for most of us is actually a necessity for kids with ADHD: having a group of like-minded kids (and adults who support them) creates an environment that fosters learning, connection, and growth.

Every parent wants their child to have friends, and it’s heartbreaking to see or hear of your child being excluded or left behind. But it becomes even more difficult when your child has ADHD and desperately wants to connect with others, but his or her impulsivity, distractibility, or social skills get in the way. So when you see your child struggling to connect, you want to help. But how? How can you help your child find their tribe? Let’s start off by saying: your child’s tribe doesn’t need to be big! Research shows that for kids with ADHD having just one close friend can make a difference. Having quality friendships even with a small group can help build self-esteem and resiliency, and can of course reduce loneliness.

Begin by getting your child involved in an activity that interests him or her. It may sound simple, a structured setting and an interesting activity will provide your child with the foundation that he or she needs to start building his or her tribe. Involve your child in choosing the activity, and make sure to put your own preferences and interests aside! If you push your child into signing up for something that he or she doesn’t enjoy, you run the risk of having him or her feel alienated and different from the other kids who have enrolled because they are excited and interested.

Watch and observe your child during the activity. Is he or she connecting with another child? Does it seem like both kids are having fun? If so, seek out the parent of the other child and suggest a follow-up play date. “I noticed our sons really enjoyed today’s planetarium workshop. My son loves space but doesn’t have too many buddies who also share his interest. Would you and your son like to meet up at the museum sometime this month for a planetarium show together? The boys might enjoy connecting again over their love of space.” Give your child the chance to reconnect with his or her new friend within the context of their shared interest before venturing into open-play opportunities.

In addition to new activities, think about current activities that your child participates in. If your child attends a tutoring center, religious ed. class, or music lesson then he or she is meeting kids every day outside of school who have the potential to become good friends. Ask your child if there’s anyone from his or her afterschool activities who he or she would like to hang out with. Help him or her come up with a plan for talking with this child about a shared interest, and then inviting them to get together outside of school – preferably to do something related to something that they both enjoy.

And lastly, during a get-together, provide your child with some subtle social skills coaching. Talk to him or her ahead of time about what it means to be a good host or a good guest. Remind your child to take turns, and to look out for his or her new friend to make sure they are having a good time. If your child isn’t picking up on social cues, discretely pull him or her aside and give him or her some strategies to try out. If a conflict comes up, rock-paper-scissors is always a great tool to fall back on - it works just about every time!  

Helping your child find his or her tribe can build self-confidence and help your child feel more comfortable in his or her own skin. A little support from parents can go a long way in helping kids with ADHD make valuable connections that may just turn into the close childhood friendships that they have been missing.

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Does ADHD Increase Risk for Addiction? A recent New York Times article entitled, The 4 Traits That Put Kids At Risk For Addiction, featured the results of a study and corresponding treatment program developed by Dr. Patricia Conrod at the University of Montreal. Dr. Conrod’s research points to several ‘personality traits’ that “can identify 90 percent of the highest risk children, targeting risky traits before they cause problems.” The four traits identified in the study? Sensation-seeking, impulsiveness, anxiety sensitivity and hopelessness. As a parent of a child with ADHD who suffers from impulsiveness (one of the cornerstone behavior issues of ADHD), you may then wonder: does this mean my child will struggle with addiction as a teen or an adult?

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Mon, 07 Nov 2016 09:33:47 -0500 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/does-adhd-increase-risk-for-addiction https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/does-adhd-increase-risk-for-addiction Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. A recent New York Times article entitled, The 4 Traits That Put Kids At Risk For Addiction, featured the results of a study and corresponding treatment program developed by Dr. Patricia Conrod at the University of Montreal. Dr. Conrod’s research points to several ‘personality traits’ that “can identify 90 percent of the highest risk children, targeting risky traits before they cause problems.” The four traits identified in the study? Sensation-seeking, impulsiveness, anxiety sensitivity and hopelessness. As a parent of a child with ADHD who suffers from impulsiveness (one of the cornerstone behavior issues of ADHD), you may then wonder: does this mean my child will struggle with addiction as a teen or an adult?

My own research has focused on alcohol and drug use in college students with ADHD. So I wanted to take a moment to share with you what the research today shows on ADHD and addition, and what steps you can take to help your teen and young adult avoid falling into some of these patterns. Research on ADHD and addiction does indeed show that both males and females with ADHD are at increased risk for alcohol and drug-related problems and addiction. My own research shows that while college students may report using the same amount of alcohol or marijuana as their peers without ADHD, they experience greater negative consequences and impairment as a result of their use. Across multiple studies by a variety of researchers, adolescents with ADHD are more likely to start using alcohol or drugs earlier than adolescents without ADHD. And, early initiation of alcohol or drug use, even in small amounts at first, is associated with increased risk for alcohol or drug problems later in life. The individuals with ADHD who are at the greatest risk for addiction are those who have a history of alcohol or drug addiction in their family. In fact, researchers have even identified a shared genetic link between ADHD and alcohol use disorders that may contribute to this risk.

As parents there are things that you can do now to help protect your child or teen from developing alcohol or drug-related problems. I recommend focusing on four areas:

  1. Seek effective ADHD treatment. Children and adolescents whose ADHD symptoms are well controlled through behavioral interventions or medication management may be less likely to self-medicate or impulsively seek-out alcohol and drugs. Some parents are concerned that ADHD treatment with stimulant medications may increase the risk for drug addiction later in life. But in fact, research shows no increased risk and some studies suggest that early treatment with stimulant medication may actually protect against the development of alcohol and drug addiction later in life.
  2. Teach coping strategies. Poor coping and stress management skills are a consistent predictor of alcohol and drug related problems among college students and adults. Teaching your child or teen to effectively manage his or her stress and respond in a healthy way to life’s ups and downs can help protect him or her against addiction. Help your child get involved in stress-relieving extra-curricular activities that he or she can turn to again and again throughout their life. Also encourage him or her to learn mindfulness strategies that have been proven to reduce stress in teens and adults. I recommend The Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness Skills to Help you Deal with Stress, by Gina Biegel as a starting point.
  3. Monitor your child or teen. Monitoring how your child or teen is spending his or her time and knowing who your child’s friends are will help you intervene early if you think he or she is experimenting with alcohol or drugs. Make sure your child is participating in structured activities afterschool (the time when kids are most likely to be unsupervised), and don’t let your child spend time at the homes of friends whose parents allow alcohol or marijuana use in their house.
  4. Talk to your teen about the risks. Let your teen (or preteen) know that his or her ADHD puts him or her at increased risk for alcohol or drug addiction. If there is a history of alcohol or drug addiction in your family, share this with your child. He or she may not want to hear it from you, and may seem very dismissive during these conversations, but talking to your child can still make a difference. If you drink alcohol, model responsible drinking for your child or teen. The things you do are just as powerful as the things you say when it comes to influencing your child.

 

A diagnosis of ADHD does not mean your child is destined for a life of addiction. What it does mean is that ADHD doesn’t usually go away. ADHD is usually a lifetime diagnosis that requires constant vigilance. Throughout your child’s life, beginning with diagnosis and all through adulthood, he or she will be confronted with situations that challenge him or her differently than his or her peers because of his or her ADHD. But the key to success, now and in the future, is acknowledgement and awareness, together with a set of tools and strategies to overcome those situations and thrive!

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A Spooktacular Halloween with ADHD Spiderman. Elsa. Pokémon. Batman. Halloween is always an exciting holiday for kids, dressing up as their favorite characters and heading out for Trick-or-Treating. All that candy! For any parent, managing the bag of candy that comes home that night can be challenging. But for parents whose children have ADHD, with all of that candy comes extra stress. For years researchers have been studying the effects of sugar on kids with ADHD. If you’ve ever attended a child’s birthday party then you’ve witnessed the surge of energy that fills the room after cake and ice cream have been served. So, it may seem like a no brainer that kids with ADHD, who already have a lot of energy, are going to be even more hyperactive after eating sugary food and drinks– which may leave you wondering why researchers even need to study something that seems so obvious!

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Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:30:21 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/a-spooktacular-halloween-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/a-spooktacular-halloween-with-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Spiderman. Elsa. Pokémon. Batman. Halloween is always an exciting holiday for kids, dressing up as their favorite characters and heading out for Trick-or-Treating. All that candy! For any parent, managing the bag of candy that comes home that night can be challenging. But for parents whose children have ADHD, with all of that candy comes extra stress. For years researchers have been studying the effects of sugar on kids with ADHD. If you’ve ever attended a child’s birthday party then you’ve witnessed the surge of energy that fills the room after cake and ice cream have been served. So, it may seem like a no brainer that kids with ADHD, who already have a lot of energy, are going to be even more hyperactive after eating sugary food and drinks– which may leave you wondering why researchers even need to study something that seems so obvious! Well, the results from this research may surprise you. Many studies have found no causal relationship between sugar and hyperactivity in kids with ADHD, while others suggest that only a subset of kids with ADHD experience a negative reaction to sugar. Another line of research indicates that certain food dyes, which are often found in sugary foods and drinks, only modestly increase hyperactivity in kids with ADHD, and may have the greatest effect on kids who are very sensitive to food additives.

But wait, you know your child, and you know their ADHD gets worse when they eat sugar. You’ve seen it! Well, your child may simply be more sensitive to sugar or food dyes than many of the kids in these studies. Or, maybe there are alternative explainations that published research findings have not yet addressed. For starters, kids with ADHD are often more emotional than kids without ADHD, and when they get excited they are bursting with energy and enthusiasm. So, on holidays like Halloween they may get caught up in the excitement and their hyperactivity may shoot through the roof regardless of what they eat. Alternatively, when any child (or adult) eats way too much sugar in one sitting – far more sugar than has been examined in any studies – they become more hyperactive, inattentive, and irritable. Impulsive kids with ADHD are less likely to have an “off” switch when it comes to eating candy, and in fact some researchers have shown the kids with ADHD eat more sugar than kids without ADHD on a regular basis. In practice this means that they will continue to eat more candy long after many other children have stopped, especially when presented with a nearly bottomless bag of Halloween treats. And since they have eaten so much more sugar, it wouldn’t be surprising if they experienced greater side effects than kids without ADHD.

If Halloween candy causes problems for your child, either because they eat too much or because they are very sensitive to the effects of sugar and food additives, then there are things that you can do to limit how much candy they eat without taking the fun out of Trick-or-Treating. The Switch WitchTM www.switch-witch.com is a great option that kids love. The night of Halloween, kids leave a pile of candy next to an adorable stuffed witch, who magically trades it out for special non-sugary gifts while they sleep. Kids still get treats, like small toys or healthier fun foods like popcorn, which helps them feel okay about giving up their candy. As an alternative, some parents simply allow their kids to trade their candy for money, 10 cents for each piece or a dollar per pound, which usually goes over pretty well too! Not sure what you would do with all of the candy that your child won’t be eating? Consider donating to a local soup kitchen or to troops stationed overseas through a candy buy-back program at a local dentist’s office www.halloweencandybuyback.com or through Operation Gratitude www.operationgraditude.com.

Sugar can be “tricky”, not wanting to deny your kids the fun and connections to friends that happen around birthday cakes, ice cream and Halloween candy. But moderating the sugar intake of all kids – and especially those with ADHD and sugar sensitivities – can actually help keep your child’s energy and emotions in balance so they can connect with friends and enjoy the parties and holiday that they look forward to all year long.

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Helping Kids with ADHD become Strong Readers Reading skills are central to every academic subject, and kids who struggle to read are at risk for difficulty in math, science, history, and writing. Research shows that kids with ADHD are more likely to have reading challenges than kids without ADHD, possibly because of working memory and processing speed weaknesses. Reading problems may be subtle at first and involve difficulty identifying letters or sounds. Over time, problems can include slower reading speed, difficulty with decoding, poor sight word identification, and poor reading comprehension. Once a child has fallen well behind his or her peers in reading he or she is unlikely to catch up without extra support. Research shows that kids with reading difficulties do best when they receive interventions as early as possible. So, if you suspect that your child’s reading skills aren’t developing as well as they should be, talk to your child’s teacher now.

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Mon, 03 Oct 2016 15:11:11 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/helping-kids-with-adhd-become-strong-readers https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/helping-kids-with-adhd-become-strong-readers Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Reading skills are central to every academic subject, and kids who struggle to read are at risk for difficulty in math, science, history, and writing. Research shows that kids with ADHD are more likely to have reading challenges than kids without ADHD, possibly because of working memory and processing speed weaknesses. Reading problems may be subtle at first and involve difficulty identifying letters or sounds. Over time, problems can include slower reading speed, difficulty with decoding, poor sight word identification, and poor reading comprehension. Once a child has fallen well behind his or her peers in reading he or she is unlikely to catch up without extra support. Research shows that kids with reading difficulties do best when they receive interventions as early as possible. So, if you suspect that your child’s reading skills aren’t developing as well as they should be, talk to your child’s teacher now.

Understanding how to help a child with ADHD improve his or her reading skills can be challenging. I usually recommend starting with an academic assessment. Results from a thorough evaluation will let you and your child’s teacher know exactly which reading skills are weak, will identify whether or not your child has a specific reading disorder that needs to be addressed, and will explain how your child’s ADHD symptoms and difficulties with motivation are impacting his or her reading development. All of this information will help you and your child’s teachers identify strategies and services that are tailored to meet your child’s needs. Extra instructional support at school and through afterschool learning and tutoring programs can help your child learn basic and complex reading skills that he or she may have missed during regular classroom instruction.

Many kids with ADHD are “reluctant” to read and go out of their way to avoid of reading. When they do read they choose books that are too easy for them or are very short. Unfortunately, this reluctance limits their opportunities to practice reading and gain essential skills. As a parent, there are many things you can do to help your child get the reading practice that is needed, without engaging in stressful arguments or negotiations. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  1. Read to your child. Even kids who do not like to read enjoy having someone else read to them. Reading to your child can help improve his or her skills, especially when you have your child read along and ask your child to share his or her predictions and observations about the story.
  2. Take turns reading. If your child resists reading, offer to alternate reading aloud with him or her. For young children this might mean that they read one word or sentence and then you read the next word or sentence. For older children you can alternate paragraphs. Keep going and before you know it, you’re child will have read half of a book!
  3. Supplement with skills practice on reading apps. Studies suggest that kids with ADHD may benefit from practicing their reading skills using computer-based reading programs. Bluster is a fun vocabulary building app, Montessori Crosswords is great for learning phonics, and Mad Libs can be a fun way for kids 4th grade and up to practice vocabulary and reading comprehension.
  4. Help your child explore websites on topics that they enjoy. Exploring interesting websites can be a great way for kids to practice reading without even realizing they are building new skills! Sit with your child and ask him or her to share what he or she is learning as he or she reads. This will improve his or her comprehension, and you’ll be sure that he or she is not skipping the text and only looking at pictures.

With support and practice kids with ADHD can develop into strong readers. If you suspect that your child’s reading skills are not as strong as they should be, don’t wait. Talk to your child’s teacher right away so you can get started with a plan to get your child the help that he or she needs.

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The Power of Owning Your ADHD When hackers sought to discredit US Olympians by releasing their medical records, it was revealed that Simone Biles had sought and obtained an exemption for the use of a therapeutic medication. The medication, as it turns out, was prescribed to treat her ADHD. While some athletes have yet to comment on their released information, Simone was quick to address the topic. Rather than retreating, she responded proudly and in a way that not only acknowledged her diagnosis but also showed the world that she owns her ADHD. The public’s response to her statement has been overwhelmingly positive.

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Thu, 14 Sep 2017 17:03:13 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/the-power-of-owning-your-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/the-power-of-owning-your-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. When hackers sought to discredit US Olympians by releasing their medical records, it was revealed that Simone Biles had sought and obtained an exemption for the use of a therapeutic medication. The medication, as it turns out, was prescribed to treat her ADHD. While some athletes have yet to comment on their released information, Simone was quick to address the topic. Rather than retreating, she responded proudly and in a way that not only acknowledged her diagnosis but also showed the world that she owns her ADHD. The public’s response to her statement has been overwhelmingly positive. (As of this writing her tweet has received 51,000 likes and 12,000 shares, and has been discussed in countless articles and media segments.)

Simone Biles is a shining example of how when you own your ADHD you can not only succeed, but succeed at the highest levels. So, what does it mean to own your ADHD? It means acknowledging and accepting that ADHD is a part of who you are, taking action to treat your symptoms, and advocating for yourself so that you can receive the help that you need. But how can kids learn to own their ADHD, especially in a world that isn’t always supportive? It’s a process and a journey that parents can help guide and champion.

  • Acknowledge and Accept. Coming to terms with an ADHD diagnosis can be challenging. Feelings of denial, anger and depression are not unusual. But to be honest, these feeling are far more common among parents of children with ADHD than among the kids themselves. Kids are often relieved to learn that there is a reason why they have been struggling, feeling out of place, or thinking that they are different. As parents you can help your child accept his or her ADHD diagnosis by teaching him or her that ADHD is not something to be ashamed of. It is not a personal weakness or failure. Instead, it’s something that people are usually born with. It’s something that they have inherited just like other characteristics, like their height. Having ADHD just means that they have some specific challenges, and these challenges can be managed and overcome with treatment and support. Share Simone Biles’ tweet with your child. Talk about how she didn’t let ADHD get in her way, and how when she publicly acknowledged her ADHD diagnosis she received 50,000 likes from people who support her!
  • Take Action. Once you and your child acknowledge and accept his or her ADHD, create an action plan and share it with your child. Let your child know that doctors, scientists, and educators have been studying ADHD for decades, and there are treatments that work. When you make a plan, remember that it doesn’t need to be perfect. At the beginning, it may only include one or two action items, and that’s okay! For your child, simply knowing that you have a plan will help put him or her at ease. It clearly shows your child that taking action is what you need to do if you want to succeed with ADHD. Also talk to your child about the actions that he or she will need to take to help himself or herself, like attending appointments and committing to trying out new strategies at school and at home.
  • Advocate. People with ADHD need a network of support in order to thrive. They need this as kids, and they will continue to need this as adults. So, talk to your child about the people you will be reaching out to for help. Your child’s support team can include doctors who will provide medication and/or behavioral treatments, teachers who will provide extra support in the classroom, yourself as a parent who will learn strategies to support your child at home, relatives who you will call on for extra help, coaches and mentors who will teach your child skills through sports or the arts, and tutors who will help your child succeed in school. When you feel your child is ready and when it is appropriate, include your child in meetings at school when ADHD-related accommodations or the need for additional services are being discussed. Allow your child to participate by sharing what it is that he or she needs help with, and include your child in conversations about possible solutions.

At 19 years old Simone Biles is able to own her ADHD because the adults in her life taught her how to accept her diagnosis, take action to get treatment, and advocate for herself to receive support from teachers, coaches, teammates, and friends. As parents, the steps you take now to help your child own his or her ADHD will enable your child to strive to reach his or her full potential without letting ADHD get in the way.

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The ADHD and Math Connection Kids with ADHD often struggle with math. Difficulties with sustained attention, working memory (manipulating numbers in your head), organization and planning all interfere with math learning and performance. Starting from an early age, kids with ADHD struggle to memorize math facts and are prone to making errors on simple math problems (3-2=6). As they progress through school, they may struggle with word problems and more complex calculations by missing key details or having difficulty sequencing problem solving steps. As a result, it’s not uncommon for students with ADHD to be performing at least one year below grade level in math even when they don’t have a specific learning disorder. This can be incredibly frustrating for parents and teachers, and the student themselves – especially when they know that they are capable of doing better.

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Fri, 30 Sep 2016 20:34:16 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/adhd-and-math-connection https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/adhd-and-math-connection Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Kids with ADHD often struggle with math. Difficulties with sustained attention, working memory (manipulating numbers in your head), organization and planning all interfere with math learning and performance. Starting from an early age, kids with ADHD struggle to memorize math facts and are prone to making errors on simple math problems (3-2=6). As they progress through school, they may struggle with word problems and more complex calculations by missing key details or having difficulty sequencing problem solving steps. As a result, it’s not uncommon for students with ADHD to be performing at least one year below grade level in math even when they don’t have a specific learning disorder. This can be incredibly frustrating for parents and teachers, and the student themselves – especially when they know that they are capable of doing better.

The relatively recent introduction of Common Core math has added another layer of complexity for kids with ADHD. Unlike older models of math instruction, which focused on rote memorization of math facts and mastery of basic computational models, Common Core math emphasizes the teaching of problem solving strategies. Students are often required to solve a single math problem in multiple ways so they learn different strategies for obtaining the answer. They may also be required to explain their process and strategy in writing. While a solid argument can be made for the value of the Common Core problem solving approach over traditional memorization and computation, students with ADHD often find the process tedious, redundant, and lengthy – three factors that severely tax their ability to stay on-task, focused, and motivated.

Although math may not come easily to kids with ADHD, most can perform at grade level with modified instruction and additional support. Pushing kids with ADHD to reach their full potential in math is important! Studies show that students who complete higher levels of math in high school fair better in the job market and earn higher salaries. So, while it may be tempting to let your child slide in math and allow him or her to focus instead on subjects that come more easily, you will help your child in the long run if you provide the math support he or she needs now.

Here are a few tips to help get your child on track and keep him or her going:

  • Identify your child’s math learning style. Is he or she a visual learner? Does he or she learn best by doing? Does he or she benefit from drawing or mapping out the process, or from having tangible items that can be manipulated? Do they need someone to verbally talk him or her through math logic and reasoning in a one-on-one or group setting? Then work with your child’s teacher to put strategies into place that match your child’s style.
  • Have your child memorize basic math facts. Have your child “overlearn” these facts so he or she can recall them quickly and easily. This will help him or her work through math problems more quickly, more confidently, and with fewer errors. It’s never too late to commit math facts to memory. So, if your child didn’t master them in elementary school, help your child do it now. Kids with ADHD may find it easier to memorize math facts using an app, like Sushi Monster or Math Board.
  • Help your child connect with math. Kids with ADHD find it easier to stay focused and motivated when they are interested in a subject. So, help make math interesting for your child! Math is essential to almost every aspect of our lives, including every sport, music, art, and technology-related interest that your child may have. Do search the web with your child to learn how math is important to the things he or she enjoys most. The University of Cambridge has some great online resources that really bring math to life. I especially love: Wild Maths, Plus Magazine, and the Math and Sport Millennium Mathematics Project.
  • Get extra support. Some kids with ADHD simply need extra support at school or afterschool from a learning center or tutor. Request an assessment and extra support from your child’s school if you think your child is not keeping up with his or her peers in math. If possible, find a learning center or tutor to provide extra support after school. Just make sure they have experience working with kids who have ADHD.

With extra support, encouragement, and motivation kids with ADHD can succeed at math, and may even learn to love the subject along the way!

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What Kids with ADHD Wish Their Teachers Knew For the past five years a Colorado elementary school teacher has asked each of her students to write down one thing that they would like her to know about them. Last year she started sharing her students’ responses online and the Twitter hashtag #iwishmyteacherknew went viral. This week the story was picked up by The New York Times and the teacher, Kyle Schwartz, recently published a book on the topic.

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Mon, 03 Oct 2016 14:42:31 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/what-kids-with-adhd-wish-their-teachers-knew https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/what-kids-with-adhd-wish-their-teachers-knew Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. For the past five years a Colorado elementary school teacher has asked each of her students to write down one thing that they would like her to know about them. Last year she started sharing her students’ responses online and the Twitter hashtag #iwishmyteacherknew went viral. This week the story was picked up by The New York Times and the teacher, Kyle Schwartz, recently published a book on the topic.

 

The honesty and vulnerability reflected in the students’ responses has tugged at the heartstrings of teachers and parents across the country. They remind us that kids intuitively know what our educational system too often seems forget - that their social and emotional lives define who they are as students and affect their ability to learn.

 

(Source: http://iwishmyteacherknewbook.com/)

Perhaps more than any other students, kids and teens with ADHD are misunderstood. Their outward behavior and performance often doesn’t reflect their internal world. Their ADHD symptoms make it hard for them to meet the expectations of teachers and classmates, and they get worn down by the daily struggle to fit into classrooms that weren’t designed with their brains in mind.

Students with ADHD wish their teachers knew that:

  • They are frustrated and discouraged before they even get to class because their ADHD makes it so hard to get ready for school every morning and out the door on time.
  • They don’t choose to only focus on things that are really interesting to them. It’s just that no matter how hard they try they can’t seem to get their brains to click into gear when something is dull.
  • They can’t stand that they disappoint people.
  • They feel embarrassed when their teacher criticizes them in front of the class, even if they don’t let their feelings show.
  • They get discouraged when teachers tell them to try harder. They’re already trying hard, but it’s difficult to see because their ADHD keeps getting in the way.
  • They feel like they don’t fit in and they don’t know why.
  • They wish they had more friends, but nothing that they do seems to get kids to like them more.
  • They need help. And they know it. But they don’t always know how to ask for it.

There is so much that kids and teens with ADHD want their teachers to know about them, and this list is only the tip of the iceberg. Maybe one of the most important generalized insights is that students with ADHD don’t always understand why things are hard for them but they desperately wish they could ‘fit in’ and meet the expectations of their teachers, fellow students, and parents. Every student with ADHD struggles, but how that struggle plays out is different for each individual. I would encourage teachers to spend some extra time getting to know their students with ADHD. Ask them to write down something they wish you knew about them. Talk to them about the things that are hard. Then work together on strategies that will help them reach their full potential.

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SAT and ACT Success for Students with ADHD For high school students the school year may just be starting, but it’s never too soon to start planning for college admissions tests like the SAT and ACT. Standardized tests are challenging for most students, and even more so for teens with ADHD. With ADHD it can be difficult to complete timed tests, avoid careless mistakes, and keep calm in stressful conditions. So, it’s especially important to support your teen by putting a standardized test plan into place as soon as possible.

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Fri, 30 Sep 2016 20:21:52 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/sat-and-act-success-for-students-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/sat-and-act-success-for-students-with-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. For high school students the school year may just be starting, but it’s never too soon to start planning for college admissions tests like the SAT and ACT. Standardized tests are challenging for most students, and even more so for teens with ADHD. With ADHD it can be difficult to complete timed tests, avoid careless mistakes, and keep calm in stressful conditions. So, it’s especially important to support your teen by putting a standardized test plan into place as soon as possible.

Register on Time

If you have a teenager with ADHD you know by now that completing tedious, multi-step tasks and meeting deadlines are not their forte. While it’s important for all teens to gain independence during high school, resist using the SAT or ACT sign-up process to teach a life lesson. Take some of the burden off of your teen by learning about the deadlines and taking the lead in the sign-up process. This will reduce stress and will allow your teen to focus their energy on studying for the exam.

Request Accommodations
Students with ADHD are often eligible to receive testing accommodations on standardized tests. These accommodations are intended to help students demonstrate their knowledge to the best of their ability while minimizing the problems caused by their ADHD symptoms. This may mean receiving extended time on exams to account for the slower pace at which students with ADHD complete academic work, taking the exam in a private room to minimize distractions, or using a calculator to help offset a propensity to make careless mistakes.

The SAT and ACT have stringent criteria for the documentation required to qualify for accommodations. These requirements typically include a thorough psychoeducational evaluation that was completed within the last 5 years. Getting a psychoeducational evaluation scheduled and completed takes time – usually a few months – so plan ahead. Once you have the documentation that you need, it takes at least a few weeks for SAT and ACT representatives to review your accommodations request. So, submit your documentation early. For more information about the specific documentation requirements, see the College Board (SAT and PSAT) and ACT, Inc. websites. Your teen’s school guidance counselor or special education coordinator can also be an excellent resource. They should have a great deal of experience helping students submit documentation and request accommodations.

Enroll Your Teen in a Test Prep Program
Studying for the SAT and ACT involves doing just the type of tedious academic work teens with ADHD often struggle with the most. A test prep program that provides structure, social support from teachers and peers, and accountability will go a long way in helping your teen stay on track with a study plan. Look for a test prep program with teachers who have experience working with ADHD students. Help your teen stay motivated by planning out rewards that they can earn as they study. Tie the rewards to the things they can truly control, like the amount of time they spend studying and the number of test prep study sections they complete. Avoid tying rewards to scores on practice tests or the actual exam. Help your teen identify a reward they can earn at least once a week, or if necessary, more immediate rewards that they can earn after each study session. This will help them stay motivated in the moment as they work toward their long-term goal.

By being a partner in the SAT and ACT prep process you’ll help your teen reach their full potential on these exams. Just remember to start the planning process early, request accommodations if you think they will be helpful, and find a test prep program with teachers who know how to work with students who have ADHD. The investment you make now will help set your teen up for success on their college applications.

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Setting Your Child Up for Success When they need an Assessment In my last post I discussed talking to your child about ADHD in a way that is supportive and helpful. But what happens when your child needs an assessment for academic challenges or ADHD symptoms? Many parents worry that their child will find the evaluation process intimidating, or wonder if their child will think they are being tested because there is something “wrong” with them. Other parents have concerns about how their overly active, distractible, or anxious child will tolerate the testing – especially if their child struggles to stay on task under normal circumstances. The good news is that the psychologists and educators who conduct these assessments have a great deal of experience working with kids who have academic and attention problems. They typically love working with kids like yours!

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Thu, 08 Sep 2016 10:51:50 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/setting-your-child-up-for-success-when-they-need-an-assessment https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/setting-your-child-up-for-success-when-they-need-an-assessment Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. In my last post I discussed talking to your child about ADHD in a way that is supportive and helpful. But what happens when your child needs an assessment for academic challenges or ADHD symptoms? Many parents worry that their child will find the evaluation process intimidating, or wonder if their child will think they are being tested because there is something “wrong” with them. Other parents have concerns about how their overly active, distractible, or anxious child will tolerate the testing – especially if their child struggles to stay on task under normal circumstances. The good news is that the psychologists and educators who conduct these assessments have a great deal of experience working with kids who have academic and attention problems. They typically love working with kids like yours! The positive one-on-one attention that your child receives during the evaluation process will help make it go smoothly – and maybe even be fun for your child! And as a parent there are some things that you can do to set your child up for assessment success:

  1. Work with a professional who you like and respect. If you respect and enjoy the psychologist or educator who is conducting the evaluation, then there’s a good chance that you child will too! Kids and adolescents pick up on social cues from their parents, and if you seem to be at ease with the process your child will feel much more relaxed themselves.
  2. Discuss your concerns with the professional. Share your concerns with the professional who is conducting the evaluation. Ask them what types of strategies they use to help kids like yours have a positive evaluation experience. If you have suggestions for what might help your child, let the professional know. They might be able to use some of these same strategies during their testing sessions.
  3. Create positive expectations for your child. Have your child start off on the right foot by letting them know that you’ve met with the doctor (or educator), and you really enjoyed meeting with them. Tell your child that you think they’ll like the doctor/educator too, and that you think they’ll have fun during the appointments.
  4. Focus on learning styles. When talking to your child about the evaluation it can be very helpful to describe it as a process that will help you and your child figure out how they learn best. Let them know that everyone learns differently. For example, some kids learn best by watching a demonstration of how something is done, other kids learn best by reading about things, while others learn best in a hands-on way – by doing things. In addition, let your child know that it will help everyone understand which subjects are harder and easier for your child, and how they can help your child be successful in the areas that are more challenging.
  5. Even resistant kids can enjoy the process. If you have a child who is resistant to going to an evaluation appointment, try not to worry too much. Just because your child might not want to go doesn’t mean that they’ll have a bad experience once they’re there. I’ve had plenty of kids and teens come into my office feeling reluctant or even upset about having to attend the appointment (especially when it’s on a Saturday). But once things get started and we get to know each other, the kids settle in and forget that they didn’t want to come in the first place. Usually they are even happy to come back for a follow-up appointment. After all, it’s not often that kids get so much uninterrupted time from an adult who is so interested in what they have to say!

Assessments can be powerful tools for learning about your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and the things you can do to help them succeed academically. Proactive and positive communication before and after the assessment are key to helping your child feel comfortable so you can both get the most out of the evaluation process.

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How do I talk to my child about ADHD? When you learn that your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, it’s not easy to know whether you should share the diagnosis with your child. Some parents worry that their child will feel different, or there is something wrong with them if they have ADHD. Others wonder if their child will use ADHD as an excuse for bad behavior or getting out of homework.

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Tue, 20 Sep 2016 11:36:42 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/how-do-i--talk-to-my-child-about-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/how-do-i--talk-to-my-child-about-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. When you learn that your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, it’s not easy to know whether you should share the diagnosis with your child. Some parents worry that their child will feel different, or there is something wrong with them if they have ADHD. Others wonder if their child will use ADHD as an excuse for bad behavior or getting out of homework.

In most cases, it’s best to talk to your child about ADHD sooner rather than later. Here’s why: Most kids with ADHD already feel like they are somehow different from other kids. They notice that their friends and classmates don’t seem to struggle to focus the way that they do, or don’t forget or lose things as often, or have such a messy desk. But they don’t know why. Telling your child that he or she has ADHD lets him or her know why he or she feels different from other kids. It validates your child’s feelings, and helps him or her understand that it’s not his or her fault if things don’t come easily to him or her. In addition, you’re going to need to make some changes to how you’ve been doing things at home in order to help your child manage their ADHD. If your child knows about their diagnosis, you can clearly explain the reasons for these changes and how they are going to help make things better. If your child understands why things are changing, then they’ll be more likely to go with the flow.

So how do you talk to your child about ADHD?

  • Pick a good time and place for the conversation. Don’t do it when you or your child are tired, hungry, or have just had an argument. Choose someplace quiet for the conversation, someplace private where your child won’t be distracted.
  • Talk about the doctor. Refer to the appointment your child had with the doctor who provided the diagnosis for your child (as long as it was a good experience). Say something like, “Remember when we met with Dr. …” It provides context for the conversation, and helps kids understand where this is coming from.
  • Talk in terms of strengths and weaknesses. Explain to your child that everyone has things that they’re really good at and come pretty easily to them. Point out what one of these things is for your child. Then let him or her know that everyone also has things that are harder for them, and share one thing that is harder for your child (e.g., remembering to write down homework assignment, staying focused at school). Then let your child know that he or she is not the only one who has a hard time with this. In fact, it’s so common, that we even have a name for it! It’s called ADHD. Then end on a positive by pointing out one of your child’s strengths that will help him or her tackle their ADHD.
  • Be relatable.As you talk about strengths and weaknesses, be relatable to your child by talking about your own strengths and weaknesses and the way that your strengths have helped you deal with some of your weaknesses.
  • Share that it’s good to know about ADHD.Let your child know that it’s a really good thing that we know about ADHD, because now you’ll be able to help your child with the things that are hard for him or her.  You’ll be able to help him or her improve, one step at a time.
  • Check-in with your child. Finish by asking your child how he or she is feeling, and if he or she has any questions.  Don’t be surprised if your child doesn’t have any questions – yet.  All children process information differently and sometimes even get shy when conversations focus on tough topics. Check-in again a few days later in a casual one-on-one situation, and you might be surprised to hear what your child has been thinking.

While you might be concerned or apprehensive about talking with your child about their diagnosis, being open and honest can get you started off on the right foot.

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Partnering with Your Child’s Teacher As your child begins the school year in a new classroom, the early steps you take to partner with your child’s teacher can make a big difference in getting things off to a good start. Kids with ADHD will typically need extra help in the classroom, and when teachers know that they have support from parents they feel much more appreciated for their efforts. With 20-30 children in a class, teachers often begin the year knowing only a few key details about each of their new students. As a parent, you know your child’s full history. You know what makes him or her tick, which strategies your child has responded to with previous teachers, and which strategies were not so successful.

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Thu, 08 Sep 2016 10:55:53 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/partnering-with-your-childs-teacher https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/partnering-with-your-childs-teacher Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. As your child begins the school year in a new classroom, the early steps you take to partner with your child’s teacher can make a big difference in getting things off to a good start. Kids with ADHD will typically need extra help in the classroom, and when teachers know that they have support from parents they feel much more appreciated for their efforts. With 20-30 children in a class, teachers often begin the year knowing only a few key details about each of their new students. As a parent, you know your child’s full history. You know what makes him or her tick, which strategies your child has responded to with previous teachers, and which strategies were not so successful. Most teachers will appreciate learning these details from parents, especially when it’s presented collaboratively. Always keep in mind that teachers are ultimately in charge of their classroom and likely have substantial experience teaching children with ADHD. In fact, they may have some excellent tools and strategies that others have not tried in the past and end up being a great fit for your child. So, keep an open mind when your child’s new teacher shares their thoughts about how to teach your child and manage his or her attention and behavior challenges.

Planning a teacher meeting early in the school year will also provide an opportunity for you to learn about the academic expectations in your child’s new classroom – and in particular, homework expectations. I have worked with so many families whose children struggle with homework, expending two, three, or even four times more effort on homework than other children in their class. But since these kids ultimately turn in their assignments on time, their teachers never realize that homework is such a challenge for them. Once they understand what is happening, many teachers will recommend modifications to reduce the burden. For example, they may recommend that your child complete only one page of practice math problems instead of two, or break large projects down into small components with individual due dates. In addition, if your child struggles in a particular subject area and you have already enrolled him or her in a learning center or are working individually with your child at home, then share this information with your child’s teacher. They’ll appreciate your extra effort.

Lastly, if your child’s teacher recommends a daily behavior chart in the classroom, offer to check the chart every day. Provide praise, and maybe even rewards, when your child meets the teacher’s daily point or sticker goal. This will allow you to monitor your child’s progress every day. It will also help your child feel motivated to do his or her best, knowing that his or her parents will be proud.

So don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher at the start of this new school year. Opening up the lines of communication early will help get things off to a good start, and will set your child up for success all year long.

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How to Help when Grandparents are Undermining Your Parenting Plan In many families grandparents are essential members of the childcare team. The relationship that a child has with their grandparent is undeniably unique and special, but when a grandchild has ADHD a grandparent’s childcare role can be complicated. Many parents thrive on “spoiling” their grandchildren, letting them get away with small things that their parents might not allow. For a typical child, this may not cause any significant challenges and is in fact something that makes the relationship between a child and a grandparent so special. But for a child with ADHD, their grandparents may inadvertently be sending mixed messages that make it difficult for parents to implement behavior plans consistently.

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Tue, 16 Aug 2016 09:25:26 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/how-to-help-when-grandparents-are-undermining-your-parenting-plan https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/how-to-help-when-grandparents-are-undermining-your-parenting-plan Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. In many families grandparents are essential members of the childcare team. The relationship that a child has with their grandparent is undeniably unique and special, but when a grandchild has ADHD a grandparent’s childcare role can be complicated. Many parents thrive on “spoiling” their grandchildren, letting them get away with small things that their parents might not allow. For a typical child, this may not cause any significant challenges and is in fact something that makes the relationship between a child and a grandparent so special. But for a child with ADHD, their grandparents may inadvertently be sending mixed messages that make it difficult for parents to implement behavior plans consistently. On the flip side, some grandparents may lose patience with their grandchild’s impulsive or hyperactive ADHD behavior, and lash out at the child or parent. Too often, this adds tension and stress to an already challenging situation. Both of these frustrating circumstances can lead to grandparents undermining even the best ADHD parenting plan. So how can you help grandparents get on board with your parenting strategies and behavior plans? It’s possible with patience, education, and partnership. So take a deep breath and read on.

Start by sharing how much you appreciate the relationship the grandparent has with your child. Express your genuine gratitude for all of the help the grandparent already provides, and let them know that you need their help with managing your child’s ADHD as well. Talk with them about ADHD. Find out what they know about the disorder, and how they think it affects your child. Try to gently fill in the gaps, and ask if they’d be willing to learn more about ADHD and the treatment strategies that you’re using at home. Consider sharing books and videos that you’ve found helpful, or a book especially for grandparents, like Help! My Grandchild Has ADHD: What These Children and Their Parents Wish You Knew, by Judy Kirzner.

Then have a follow-up conversation about the specific strategies that you use to manage your child’s ADHD. Talk about your behavior plan, the clear expectations that you have put into place, and the rewards that are tied to these expectations. Explain why it is so important for your child to have structure in their day, and why they can only receive rewards when they have actually been earned. Grandparents love nothing more than to see their grandchildren happy, so be sure to share the positive effects that these plans have had on your child! Let the grandparent know how much happier, calmer, and more motivated their grandchild is when you’re sticking with the plan. Then ask the grandparent if they’d be willing to help by also following the plan. Support the grandparent’s efforts by posting a visual reminder of the routines, expectations, and rewards at home where it can be seen by everyone.

The next two steps are key: praise and patience! When your child’s grandparent follows through, show your appreciation and let them know how much it means to have them on board. When grandparents receive positive feedback they’ll be more likely to continue to stick to the plan. But remember, grandparents are human and they are bound to make mistakes. So try to be patient. Rather than waiting for them to do everything perfectly, notice and praise the little things you catch them doing right each day. When you need to address something that hasn’t gone well, strive to provide constructive feedback in a neutral tone of voice.

Lastly, help your child’s grandparent continue to do what they do best – occasionally spoil your child! Encourage them to schedule fun one-on-one time when they can indulge their grandchild and take a break from the daily routine. This will allow them to meet their own needs as a grandparent, and will strengthen their bond with their grandchild.

With effective communication and patience, you can help the grandparents in your child’s life become parenting allies and provide your child with the support they need to thrive with ADHD.

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I Feel Like I’m Bribing my Child! What’s the difference between bribes and rewards? Children with ADHD often need rewards and structure to help them succeed at challenging or mundane tasks and learn new behaviors. While rewards are a valuable ADHD management tool, it’s not uncommon for parents who use rewards to say that feel like they are simply bribing their child to get them to meet basic expectations. It’s important to remember that kids with ADHD actually need rewards to help with motivation. However, bribes and rewards are two very things with very different effects on behavior.

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Fri, 05 Aug 2016 09:58:25 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/difference-between-bribes-and-rewards-for-parents-and-child https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/difference-between-bribes-and-rewards-for-parents-and-child Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Children with ADHD often need rewards and structure to help them succeed at challenging or mundane tasks and learn new behaviors. While rewards are a valuable ADHD management tool, it’s not uncommon for parents who use rewards to say that feel like they are simply bribing their child to get them to meet basic expectations. It’s important to remember that kids with ADHD actually need rewards to help with motivation. However, bribes and rewards are two very things with very different effects on behavior.

Rewards are something your child earns for their hard work and effort. They are established ahead of time, paired with clear expectations, and given only after the child has followed through. Rewards are part of a plan that parents are ultimately in charge of managing, and lead to positive interactions that foster feelings of accomplishment. When children are rewarded after a behavior they are more likely to repeat that same behavior again. Bribes, on the other hand are typically given to a child before they follow through desired behavior. Often they are used as a last resort, and as a result they frequently come about during a power struggle or negotiation. They rarely lead to long term changes in behavior. In fact, they often accidentally encourage negative behavior!

Consider this example: A child is at a restaurant with his family. While he’s waiting for his meal, he whines and complains about being bored, and is up and out of his seat bothering the diners at the neighboring table. This is an uncomfortable, common situation for many parents, and one everyone wants to change as quickly as possible.

If you respond by pairing a reward with clear expectations you’ll remind your child that you agreed before dinner that first he would stay seated for the entire meal, and then as a reward he would be able to order dessert. You’ll then give him an activity to keep him busy and praise his good behavior during the meal. He’ll earn his reward, feel good about his effort, and have more motivation to stay seated the next time he’s in a restaurant.

If you respond by using a bribe, you’ll first ask your child repeatedly to stop getting out of his seat. When he doesn’t comply you’ll feel frustrated and maybe even worry that the family dinner will be ruined. So, you resort to a bribe by asking your child if he will sit down if you give him a piece of candy. He takes the candy, sits down for one minute and then is up out of his seat again.

In this case the bribe actually reinforced the child’s negative behavior. He received candy while he was out of his seat, and was not required to first meet any expectations. Once the candy was finished, he stood up again because he was bored and restless, and had nothing motivating him to stay seated. Chances are he’ll leave the restaurant feeling bad about his behavior, and will not be motivated to behave differently next time.

So, how can you avoid bribes and instead focus on constructive rewards? Set clear expectations ahead of time whenever possible, and share these expectations and the possible reward with your child. Using a “When-Then” statement can be helpful, “When you stay seated for the entire meal, then you’ll be able to order dessert.” Don’t allow your child to negotiate about the reward in the moment, and make sure to provide rewards only when they’ve been earned. This shows your child that you are in charge of the plan, and removes their ability to negotiate or engage in a power struggle.

When rewards are used correctly, they can set your child up for success, reduce family conflicts, and teach your child that they can accomplish challenging tasks when they have the right motivation. So, rest assured that when you stick to a behavior plan that includes rewards, you’re not bribing your child. Instead, you’re using a valuable tool designed to help them manage their ADHD symptoms.

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Getting Ready for Middle School and High School with ADHD It may only be July, but back-to-school shopping commercials and sales are already under way! As you create the list of school supplies and backpacks that your family will need for the next school year, remember that teens with ADHD also need extra programs and support to succeed academically. By planning for extra support now, you will ensure that your teen has everything that he/she needs to succeed right from the start.

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Thu, 28 Jul 2016 09:44:06 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/getting-ready-for-middle-school-and-high-school-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/getting-ready-for-middle-school-and-high-school-with-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.  4 Key Areas to Prepare for Before Day 1

It may only be July, but back-to-school shopping commercials and sales are already under way! As you create the list of school supplies and backpacks that your family will need for the next school year, remember that teens with ADHD also need extra programs and support to succeed academically. By planning for extra support now, you will ensure that your teen has everything that he/she needs to succeed right from the start. I recommend having a plan in place that targets the three areas below. Involve your teen in the planning as much as possible, so you’ll both feel confident and prepared heading into the school year.

  • To be effective in school, kids need to be organized. Where do books go? Where do you take notes? Where do you write down assignments that need to be completed? Where do you keep handouts and worksheets? And what should you do with notices from school? Teens with ADHD have weak “executive functioning skills” which makes it hard for them to stay organized. Start off the school year right by helping them create systems. Color-coded notebooks by subject, simple folder systems for storing worksheets and assignments, assigning places for everything from school supplies to school notices, and visual calendars.
  • Goal Setting. One of my favorite tools that a high school English teacher used with his students was the Grade Contract. At the beginning of the semester, he asked each student to decide on the grade they wanted to achieve in the class, and then shared the work they would need to do to achieve to reach that grade. The Grade Contract helped each student set specific goals and promoted a keen understanding the milestones they would need to meet along the way. In a less formal sense, parents can have discussions with their kids about course goals the academic year. You can help your teen break down each goal into the necessary milestones, and provide them with the support they need to achieve their goals. Having a roadmap for your child makes the end goal less daunting and helps your child stay focused and on-task. Since kids with ADHD struggle to sustain motivation for long term goals, attach rewards and motivators to each milestone and check-in regularly.
  • Time Management. Staying on task and completing an assignment means understanding how to manage the time at hand. It’s helpful to coach your child through the steps of the first few assignments of the school year. Ask your child to articulate the assignment that needs to be completed, then write out the plan of attack together -- “First this, then that, next this, and after that…” Have your child check-off each of the steps as he/she goes. After your teen announces he/she has completed the assignment, review the checklist. Praise hard work and effort! If he/she has missed a step, have him/her make corrections before turning in the assignment. Eventually, you can try pulling back on your support and have your teen create his/her own plan of attack. If it goes well, you can supervise from a distance. If your teen is still struggling, then don’t hesitate to stay involved or get him/her extra time management support and skills training.

If your child needs more support than what you can provide at home, learning centers like Huntington Learning Center offer great programs like the Advanced Study Skills Program that help kids improve their organization and executive functioning skills and give them practical tools and tips for improving their goal setting, time management, memorization and recall, and study guide use.

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PLAY BALL - Why Fall Sports Are Great For Kids with ADHD With the school season fast approaching, now is the time to start thinking about your child’s extracurricular activities. Think sports are not the place for kids with ADHD? Think again! Youth sports can be one of the most valuable experiences your child has in their development and is especially well-suited for kids with ADHD.

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Thu, 28 Jul 2016 09:35:42 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/why-fall-sports-are-great-for-kids-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/why-fall-sports-are-great-for-kids-with-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. With the school season fast approaching, now is the time to start thinking about your child’s extracurricular activities. Think sports are not the place for kids with ADHD? Think again! Youth sports can be one of the most valuable experiences your child has in their development and is especially well-suited for kids with ADHD.

  • Youth sports provide a unique, life lessons classroom. There are very few places where kids learn teamwork, where it’s okay (and in fact encouraged!) to make mistakes and learn from them, where you learn to control your emotions, and where you learn how to set and achieve goals. Kids also learn good sportsmanship – winning with class, and losing with dignity. You’d be hard pressed to find another place where you child could learn so much!
  • Kids learn the benefits of routine. It’s sometimes hard to convince your child that their morning routine actually sets hin/her up for success. But that lesson becomes a bit clearer to kids in sports. They start to understand the benefits of ‘practice’ before games, they start to understand the importance of following steps or plays to achieve a goal, and they start to see how following that routine leads to success (goals scored!). The ability to learn the importance of a routine and adhering to that routine then rubs off in other non-sports areas.
  • Kids learn teamwork. Relating to other kids can sometimes be a challenge for kids with ADHD, especially in a classroom environment. In sports, success comes when kids work together and early-on kids start to see the benefits of teamwork. They understand that in order to score points, they need the other players to communicate and understand each other. And oftentimes kids with ADHD who otherwise struggle to connect with other kids can find quick common ground on the need to pass, to call for a ball, or to look ahead for a teammate. When kids can master that teamwork in the sports environment, they oftentimes can parlay those lessons into life outside of sports.
  • Mistakes are okay. Kids with ADHD are often down on themselves, always being disciplined or scolded for their out-of-bounds behavior. They feel like they are always making mistakes. But in sports, mistakes are okay – actually, they are encouraged. Coaches remind kids that in order to learn how to do it right, they need to do it wrong and learn from those mistakes. And even more importantly, that past mistakes don’t matter – that you “brush it off” and “move to the next play”. Learning that type of thinking allows kids with ADHD to recognize that, for example, they might make a mistake in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean they will keep making those mistakes or will forever be the “bad kid, but instead that they can learn from their mistake and do it differently next time.
  • Staying positive. Along those same lines, sports help teach kids how to stay positive. Do you remember the McDonald’s commercial where the coach takes the losing team to McDonald’s after the game, while the winning team just gets a trophy? Somehow losing was actually a more positive outcome! Kids learn in sports that there are positives to be had even in loses and that sports is about having fun, spending time with your friends, learning new skills, and trying something new. And for kids with ADHD who may feel down on themselves about school or are not looking forward to another challenging academic year, sports can be a bright spot – something for them to look forward to, to get excited about, and to be engaged with you and their friends.
  • Focus on effort, not outcomes. In sports, kids learn that they can’t control the outcome – they can’t control whether they win or lose, because that really depends on the other side. What they can control is the effort they put forth. They learn to “control the controllables” – their effort, their commitment to learning, and their willingness to take risks and make mistakes to get better. That lesson, too, can translate to their life outside of sports and help them be far more resilient as they work to improve, say, their math skills.
  • Exercise! Last but not least, the research is clear: kids with attention-issues benefit from exercise. Think about it: you’d find it hard to concentrate and get your work done if you weren’t allow to step away from your desk and clear your head. That’s even more true for growing kids. They need a break! They need time to run around, use their muscles, get some fresh air, and release some of that pent up energy. Running the length of a soccer field multiple times in practice and games is great for them! And when it’s over, they can then sit down at the kitchen table to tackle homework.

So go ahead! Register for a fall sport this season. One last piece of advice: introduce yourself to your child’s coach right away. Let them know that your son or daughter has ADHD, and share the strategies that work best for your child. More often than not coaches respond positively to having this information upfront. It helps them plan ahead and strategize about which ADHD management activities may work best. If your child’s coach doesn’t respond well, it may be a sign that this coach isn’t the right fit. You know your child and their ADHD better than anyone. When you partner with your child’s coach, you’ll help create an ideal environment for your child to learn and grow.

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College Supports for Students with ADHD If you are sending your teen off to college this August, now it the time to make sure that the proper ADHD supports will be in place when they arrive. Even though your teen is about to gain a great deal of independence, they will likely need help and encouragement to get their ADHD supports in place before college begins.

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Tue, 20 Sep 2016 11:35:31 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/college-supports-for-students-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/college-supports-for-students-with-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. If you are sending your teen off to college this August, now it the time to make sure that the proper ADHD supports will be in place when they arrive. Even though your teen is about to gain a great deal of independence, they will likely need help and encouragement to get their ADHD supports in place before college begins. Research campus services with your teen, and help them send emails and make phone calls if they need to schedule appointments. Aim to create a solid plan that covers each of these areas:

  • Academic Accommodations: Think about the academic supports that your teen has accessed during high school. Did they have a 504 Plan, an individualized education plan (IEP), or an informal plan that allowed them to have things like extended time on tests or the ability to take exams in a separate room with no distractions? These accommodations and others are available to college students with ADHD who need them. In order to qualify, colleges require documented evidence of an ADHD diagnosis. At most schools, this means recent results from an evaluation that includes cognitive and achievement testing, as well as an assessment of ADHD symptoms and impairments. Often a signed letter from a pediatrician or psychiatrist is not sufficient. Contact the college’s learning support center to find out about their requirements. Also find out about other academic supports on campus, like tutoring services and writing centers. Encourage your teen to sign up for services when school starts – rather than waiting until they are struggling. It’s all about preventing academic problems before they happen.
  • Medication management: If your teen takes medication to manage their ADHD, find out if the psychiatrists on-campus provide ADHD medication management services. Some colleges and universities require students to see doctors and psychiatrists off campus to have their ADHD medication prescriptions filled. Others require a diagnosis from an off-campus physician before they will begin prescribing medications. The campus medical center will be able to answer questions about the services provided on-campus, and will give referrals for off-campus providers if one is needed.
  • Social Success. All college students, and especially those with ADHD, have more success socially when they join clubs and participate in extracurricular activities. Have casual conversations with your teen about the activities they’d like to participate in on campus. Encourage them to learn about the clubs and sports available at their school. Just don’t take over and do the research for them unless they ask for your help (and even then, do the online research together)! They’ll be more likely to join if they feel like participating was their own idea and not something their mom or dad told them to do.
  • Talk about Alcohol. My own research and that of my colleague’s has shown that college students with ADHD are more likely to experience problems with alcohol on campus than students without ADHD. Even if students with ADHD drink the same amount of alcohol as their peers without ADHD, they are likely to experience greater negative consequences. Plus, if school is already difficult to manage with ADHD, adding alcohol to the mix is only going to make it harder. Make sure your teen knows the risks, and that their risks are greater because of their ADHD. If your teen isn’t going to be receptive to this information coming from you, have them talk with another trusted family member who they look up to, or an older friend, or a therapist or teacher who they respect.
  • Counseling services. If you think your child may have difficulty with the transition to college, help them preemptively schedule a few sessions at the school’s counseling center. Counseling center therapists are experts when it comes to the college transition. If your child needs ongoing support, they’ll be able to provide referrals to off-campus providers who specialize in ADHD.

With proactive supports in place, your child can begin their college career on the right foot and help ensure four years of success.

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Video Games and ADHD Videogames are everywhere - on our phones, online, in our homes, at friends’ houses and even at school. Parents of kids with ADHD often ask about the effect that videogames may be having on their child. They want to know if videogames will make their child’s ADHD worse, or if spending too much time playing videogames may have caused their child’s ADHD in the first place. Some parents have such a hard time getting their kids to stop playing videogames that they wonder if their children are actually addicted to their screens.

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Tue, 20 Sep 2016 11:35:16 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/video-games-and-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/video-games-and-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Videogames are everywhere - on our phones, online, in our homes, at friends’ houses and even at school. Parents of kids with ADHD often ask about the effect that videogames may be having on their child. They want to know if videogames will make their child’s ADHD worse, or if spending too much time playing videogames may have caused their child’s ADHD in the first place. Some parents have such a hard time getting their kids to stop playing videogames that they wonder if their children are actually addicted to their screens.

For starters, there’s no evidence to say that videogames cause ADHD. There are some studies showing that kids with ADHD spend more time playing videogames than kids without ADHD, but the relationship isn’t necessarily causal. It might be the case that kids with ADHD choose to spend more time playing because they crave activities that are highly engaging and provide immediate rewards. Parents of kids with ADHD may also allow more videogame time. It can be so challenging to get some children with ADHD to turn off videogames, that parents can understandably get worn down by all of the battles and negotiations.

While videogames may not cause ADHD, growing evidence suggests that playing videogames regularly may in fact make ADHD symptoms worse. This may be because of the way that videogames interact with the ADHD brain as well as the documented negative impact of regular gaming on sleep, academic skills, social skills, and physical activity. Time spent playing videogames is time devoid of social interactions that teach kids with ADHD important social skills that don’t come naturally. It’s sedentary time with an absence of the important physical activity needed to help keep ADHD symptoms in check. And it’s highly stimulating time in the evening which makes it harder for kids with ADHD to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Equally concerning is evidence showing that kids and teens with ADHD are in fact at increased risk for developing problems with videogame and Internet overuse or addiction.

If as a parent you are concerned about how much time your child spends playing videogames, or the way they react when they aren’t allowed to play, then I would encourage you to trust your instincts and take action. You can start by setting firm limits around the amount of videogame time you allow. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids over the age of two spend no more than 2 hours watching screens each day. Since videogames represent a fraction of a child’s daily screen time, I recommend limiting videogames to no more than 30 minutes per day. If your child refuses to turn off videogames after 30 minutes, then you may need to eliminate videogames altogether for a few weeks. Then reintroduce them with a firm 30 minute rule in place. If the struggle continues, then you will need to take the videogames away again until your child learns that you mean it when you say, “It’s 30 minutes or nothing.” Without a doubt your child is going to complain that “other kids get to play videogames all the time!” Just remember those “other kids” may not have ADHD or parents who are as informed and diligent as you are about setting the limits that their children need.

While videogames themselves are not to blame for their ADHD, videogames unfortunately exacerbate ADHD conditions and prevent kids with ADHD from pursuing activities needed to help manage their systems and build skills to overcome their symptoms. Prioritizing activities that build social skills, as well as activities that include physical activity, will help kids with ADHD manage their condition. And setting firm limits now on your child’s screen time – videogames included – will pay off immediately and in the long run.

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Helpful Apps for ADHD There are an abundance of apps targeting kids and adults with ADHD. But how do you know which ones will be most helpful for your child? The apps that have been most helpful for the kids and families that I work with tend to focus on specific challenges that kids with ADHD face. They’re focused on problems like following routines, keeping track of time, making friends, and staying calm. These challenges aren’t unique to ADHD; in fact they’re things that many kids struggle with. So when you’re in the app store, look for programs targeting specific problems, rather than apps that simply have ADHD in their name.

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Tue, 20 Sep 2016 11:36:11 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/helpful-apps-for-adhd- https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/helpful-apps-for-adhd- Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. There are an abundance of apps targeting kids and adults with ADHD. But how do you know which ones will be most helpful for your child? The apps that have been most helpful for the kids and families that I work with tend to focus on specific challenges that kids with ADHD face. They’re focused on problems like following routines, keeping track of time, making friends, and staying calm. These challenges aren’t unique to ADHD; in fact they’re things that many kids struggle with. So when you’re in the app store, look for programs targeting specific problems, rather than apps that simply have ADHD in their name.

Following Routines. Kids with ADHD need extra help turning everyday tasks and activities into routines and habits that they can do consistently. Brili Routines allows parents to create routines that can be followed anytime and anywhere. Kids view the routines in a game-like format with a picture for each task. The game challenges them to complete each task, stay on time, and earn points along the way.

Habit Tracker for Teens and Parents. Teens and parents with ADHD also need help scheduling routines will eventually develop into good habits. The Productive Habit Tracker allows you or your teen to schedule activities and tasks that repeat on a daily basis, or occur only on select days of the week. This tracker uses a colorful interface with visual prompts, and allows you to track your progress. Progress can be paired with rewards for extra motivation.

Activity Breaks. Research shows that brief activity breaks during homework time helps kids recharge and stay focused while they are working. Brief structured activities that are under 5 minutes work best for kids with ADHD. GoNoodle is a program that was originally designed for teachers who needed classroom activity breaks. But parents can also use it at home. Kids chose from dance- and sing-alongs, Zumba® for kids, track and field activities, and more. Most activities are under 5 minutes!

Social Skills. Learning and practicing good social skills can be hard for kids and teens with ADHD. There are quite a few social skills apps and programs out there, but my personal favorites are The Social Express® for elementary school kids and Middle School Confidential™ for pre-teens and teens. The Social Express® contains 81 webisodes that teach conversation skills, attentive listening, conflict resolution, and self-management. The Social Express® was originally designed for use in schools, but as parents you can access the curriculum and one-on-one activities to use at home. The Social Express® can be accessed through any web browser or an iPad app. Middle School Confidential™ is a graphic novel series about common social challenges faced by pre-teens and teens. The first three books are available as apps and focus on being confident, making real friends, and dealing with family conflicts. The engaging graphic novel format resonates with teens, and keeps them interested and engaged.

Staying Calm. ADHD can make it hard for kids and teens to calm down when they feel anxious or frustrated. As a parent, you’ve probably noticed that simply telling your child or teen to calm down rarely helps, and may even make the situation worse. Providing strategies and tools to help kids regulate their emotions can help. For kids I recommend Breathing Bubbles and Calm Counter. For teens I recommend the Take a Chill. Breathing Bubbles is a colorful calming app that helps kids identify their worries and stress, place their worries inside of virtual bubbles and take deep breaths while they float away. Calm Counter includes social stories designed to teach kids that we all get angry sometimes, and “I need a break” exercise that help kids identify their emotions and cool down. Take a Chill is a wonderful app designed especially for teens. It contains calming exercises, progress trackers, reminders, and assessments that help kids identify their stress and work through it in a healthy way.

These any many other mobile apps and websites provide great support for the lessons that you and your child’s teachers, social workers, and after school tutors are working hard to teach and reinforce. The engaging nature of this technology is sometimes just the thing to really bring that lesson home in a fun, memorable way. And it creates ‘positive screen time’ for kids with ADHD, fostering a more healthy relationship between your child and technology.

Have a favorite app or program you’d like to share? Comment here – I’d love to hear from you. I’m always interested to hear about new apps and websites and to check them out!

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Summertime Friends Kids with ADHD often struggle with friendships during the school year. They may have a hard time picking up on social cues, initiating and maintaining conversations, being empathetic toward their peers, and staying calm when they feel frustrated or offended. As a result, research shows that kids with ADHD are more likely to have conflicts with their classmates or be ignored and overlooked by their peers. These social patterns can be hard to break – especially when kids are interacting with the same group of classmates day after day and year after year. Summer provides a fresh start for friendships.

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Thu, 08 Sep 2016 12:33:15 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/summertime-friends https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/summertime-friends Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Kids with ADHD often struggle with friendships during the school year. They may have a hard time picking up on social cues, initiating and maintaining conversations, being empathetic toward their peers, and staying calm when they feel frustrated or offended. As a result, research shows that kids with ADHD are more likely to have conflicts with their classmates or be ignored and overlooked by their peers. These social patterns can be hard to break – especially when kids are interacting with the same group of classmates day after day and year after year. Summer provides a fresh start for friendships. Meeting new kids in a new setting is sometimes all it takes to get summer friendships off to a good start. As a parent, there are things you can do to help set your child up for success so they can make the most of their fresh start this summer.

Teach friendship skills. Talk to your child about what it takes to make a new friend. Kids with ADHD often need to learn social skills, the same way that they need to learn skills in order to read or play a sport. Coach your child on ways to start a conversation, join a group, and be a good sport during games and activities. Role play these skills with your child, and prompt them to use these skills when you observe them playing with other kids. At the end of this post I’ve included a few simple steps to help you get started.

Encourage playdates and get-togethers. Studies show that kids who invite their peers to do fun activities are better liked than kids who don’t offer invitations. So, help your child think of fun activities that they can do and help them invite their new friend along. Activities can be something as simple as going to the playground for a few minutes at the end of the day, or a bigger activity like a playdate at home or a trip to the movies.

Get help from summer program counselors, educators, and coaches. Kids with ADHD often need support throughout the day to make and maintain new friendships. Talk to your child’s counselors, tutors, and coaches about the skills that you’re working on with your child. Let them know that your child could use some extra support when it comes to making new friends. You can even ask one or two summer staff members if they’d be willing to try out the coaching tips included in this blog. You’ll likely be surprised by how willing people are to help your child make new friends.

Enroll your child in activities that allow them to shine. The demands of the school year can make it hard for a child with ADHD to feel confident academically and socially. Capitalize on summer’s flexibility by enrolling your child in the activities that he or she feels most confident about and enjoys the most. This confidence will naturally carry over into their interactions with new friends who share the same interests.

Boost confidence by building academic skills. Enroll your child in group tutoring and academic programs over the summer, in addition to fun activities. They’ll meet other kids like them and will have an opportunity to see that they’re not the only one who needs a little extra help to keep up at school. They’re bound to enjoy and even look-up to some of these kids, and will learn that even cool kids struggle sometimes. These sessions also provide an opportunity for your child to practice conversation and good sportsmanship skills, and they can invite classmates to join them for activities outside of class. And the biggest benefit? They’ll be learning academic skills that will put them ahead when school starts in the fall. How’s that for a confidence booster!

Perhaps more than any other issue, parents of kids with ADHD worry the most about their child making and keeping friends. Summertime can be a great chance for your child to hit the reset button and create strong friendships with kids who share their same interests. Seize the opportunity, practice some of the tips included here, and you might just see your child blossom this summer.

PARENT COACHING TIPS
Keys to Good Conversations

  1. Make eye contact.
  2. Ask questions about something you think the other person might be interested in.
  3. Give the other person a chance to talk (try not to be a conversation hog!).
  4. Keep the conversation going. Share something about yourself that’s on-topic, or ask another on-topic question.
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Family Vacations Worth Remembering Family vacations provide us with some of our fondest and most enduring childhood memories. As a parent, you want to create vacations that are full of fun, laughter, and family bonding. But, when one or more of your children has ADHD, making this vision a reality can seem daunting. Sibling conflicts, emotional outbursts, impulsivity, and hyperactivity can make road trips, flights, hotel stays, and activity-filled days especially challenging. With some planning and specific attention to the needs of your child, successful summer vacations are possible! Follow these tips to get started.

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Tue, 07 Jun 2016 15:00:59 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/family-vacations-worth-remembering https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/family-vacations-worth-remembering Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Family vacations provide us with some of our fondest and most enduring childhood memories. As a parent, you want to create vacations that are full of fun, laughter, and family bonding. But, when one or more of your children has ADHD, making this vision a reality can seem daunting. Sibling conflicts, emotional outbursts, impulsivity, and hyperactivity can make road trips, flights, hotel stays, and activity-filled days especially challenging. With some planning and specific attention to the needs of your child, successful summer vacations are possible! Follow these tips to get started.

Have realistic expectations. Family vacations do not need to be perfect in order to be great. Often the pressure to make special memories and enjoy every moment of a hard-earned vacation makes families less tolerant of irritable moods and disruptive behavior. Remember that kids (and parents!) will have bad moments during vacation just like they do during the rest of the year. Try to remember that these moments will pass and will not derail the rest of your vacation. If bad moments are becoming too frequent, try to identify the underlying cause. It may be that your child is hungry, tired, or overscheduled. Small changes to any of these areas may make a big difference.  

Involve your child in the planning. Kids with ADHD tend to do best when they are engaged in activities that they find highly interesting. Encourage your child to select one or more activities that will be geared especially toward them. Make sure each sibling has an opportunity to choose at least one activity. If your vacation involves visits to historical sites, let your child act as the “family expert” for their favorite site. This will encourage them to learn about the history before you travel, and they’ll have fun sharing their knowledge during the trip.            

Create space for “alone” time. When tensions run high during family vacations, it is often due in part to the fact that everyone has had a little too much “together” time. Everyone needs some alone time to decompress and recharge, but how much alone time is needed will vary greatly from person to person. Think about your own family. Are there members who need more alone time than others? Create alone time breaks by allowing children to listen to music on headphones, read a book independently, or watch a video by themselves. After their break, they’ll be recharged and ready for the next family activity.

Allow for one-on-one parent-child time to reduce sibling conflict. During family vacations, it’s not uncommon for siblings to compete for their parents’ attention. Add into the mix the fact that kids with ADHD often require more attention to keep their behavior in check, and attention-seeking conflicts will inevitably pop up. Keep these conflicts to a minimum by scheduling one-on-one parent-child time with each of your children. These one-on-one breaks can be as short as 15 minutes, or longer if there are special activities that you would like to do individually with each of your children.

Set small goals and reward good behavior. Kids with ADHD thrive with structure and external motivators like praise and rewards. Build structure into your vacation by setting mini-behavior goals for your child, and by providing praise and rewards when they meet these goals. For example, if your child struggles to stay seated during meal times, set the goal of only getting out of their seat 2 times during the meal. If they meet their goal, then they can get a special treat when the meal is over.

Family vacations aren't without any stress, but with a few of these tips in place, you might just find that the stress level will stay down, the enjoyment will be up, and fond memories will be created.  Travel safely, and have a great vacation!

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? Avoid Backsliding This Summer Did you know that most kids lose two months of grade level equivalency in math and at least one month in reading over the summer? What’s worse is that the loss compounds over the years. So, for example, if a child doesn’t read books regularly during the summer throughout all of elementary school, he or she will lose as much as two years’ worth of achievement by the time he or she reaches middle school!

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Mon, 26 Jun 2017 16:09:47 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/avoid-backsliding-this-summer https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/avoid-backsliding-this-summer Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Did you know that most kids lose two months of grade level equivalency in math and at least one month in reading over the summer? What’s worse is that the loss compounds over the years. So, for example, if a child doesn’t read books regularly during the summer throughout all of elementary school, he or she will lose as much as two years’ worth of achievement by the time he or she reaches middle school!

Decades of research on learning loss over the summer is very convincing. So, while it can be very tempting to back off from academics completely, all kids need to engage in some educational activities during the summer. Kids with ADHD and learning differences need summer academic support the most. By the end of the school year, most kids with ADHD are already at least a few months behind their peers in academic skills - usually because they have struggled to stay focused and complete work at the same pace as their classmates.

Create a summer educational plan for your child now, before summer begins. This way you’ll be ready to start as soon as the school year ends. Taking even a short break from academics when summer starts will make it harder for your child to get back into academic gear. So, as tempting as it may be to take a break, make things easier on yourself and your child by starting your child’s summer education plan right away.

  • Include one or two hours of academic activities in your child’s daily schedule. Summer provides an opportunity for kids to develop all kinds of skills – social, athletic, creative, and academic. So, don’t overload them with academics. But do consistently carve out one or two hours every weekday for educational skills.
  • Work with a learning center. If it is at all feasible, I highly recommend working with a learning center to get your child the academic support that he or she needs. Reputable learning centers, like Huntington Learning Centers, will conduct an academic assessment with your child at the start of their tailored academic program. This is essential, because it allows your child to work on the areas where he or she needs help the most.
  • Avoid control battles. If homework time has been a struggle all year long, then you may dread having this same battle around summer academics. Minimize control battles by setting clear expectations, empathizing with your child about how hard academics can be, and rewarding your child for his or her hard work.
  • Schedule family reading time. Over the summer your child should be reading every day. Make this a habit for your whole family by scheduling 30-minutes of family reading time every day. Turn off the electronics and minimize distractions. Your child will be much more receptive to reading when everyone is doing it together. If it doesn’t seem feasible for parents and kids to read at the same time, then block out 30-minutes each day when all of your kids read together.
  • Make reading fun. Many kids with ADHD would rather eat a giant bowl of broccoli than read a book. Take extra steps to make reading fun. Go to the library and let your child pick out his or her own books. If your child prefers to read books that are below his or her grade level, then compromise. Allow your child to read the easier book on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Make Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays the challenging book days.

Creating an educational plan for your child will not only help avoid backsliding over the summer. It will allow your child to strengthen his or her academic skills and start the new school year off with confidence.

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The Money Talk: Conversations Every Parent should have with their ADHD Child Did you know that adults with ADHD are 3 times as likely to suffer from significant financial stress as adults without ADHD? Research also shows that they are twice as likely to receive financial assistance from their parents at young adults, and about 50% more likely to struggle to save money and pay their bills. Managing money is challenging for everyone, but especially for someone with ADHD. So, it’s important to start discussing money with kids who have ADHD – and to start early!

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Tue, 07 Jun 2016 11:01:36 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/money-talk-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/money-talk-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Did you know that adults with ADHD are 3 times as likely to suffer from significant financial stress as adults without ADHD? Research also shows that they are twice as likely to receive financial assistance from their parents at young adults, and about 50% more likely to struggle to save money and pay their bills. Managing money is challenging for everyone, but especially for someone with ADHD. So, it’s important to start discussing money with kids who have ADHD – and to start early!

Need some help getting started with “The Money Talk” with your preschool or elementary school child? I like breaking up the Money Talk into three smaller ‘mini-talks’ over the course of a few weeks. Kids with ADHD learn best through hands on activities. So I’ve also included some activities that you can use during your conversations.

  • Mini-Money Talk #1: Where Money Comes From. In your initial conversation about money, it’s important to lay a solid foundation starting with where money comes from. (Hint: It comes from working!). Talk about your job, and the jobs that other people have – make sure to include a variety of professions. Share stories about your first job, and how it felt to earn your first paycheck!
  • Mini-Money Talk #2: The Difference Between a Want and a Need. In this second conversation, let you child know that the money you earn at a job can be spent on all kinds of things. But ultimately things fall into two categories: wants and needs. Needs are things our family has to have: food for dinner, water for the shower, and electricity for the lights. But wants are “extras” – things that we don’t need to have, but it might be nice to have. And we can’t buy “wants” until we have met our “needs.” Share a personal story about something special that you wanted, but had to save up to buy so that you could pay for the things you needed first.

Wants & Needs Activity: On Post-It notes, write down the amount of money that goes toward different “needs” (housing, food, gas & electric, school, etc.). Together with your child, count out the money for each category. Then count out the amount that is left to spend on fun things – the things that you want. Ask your child how he or she thinks they should spend the money in the “want” pile. Would he or she spend it now, or save it up for something special?

  • Mini-Money Talk #3: How Credit Cards Work. Credit cards make the concept of money even harder for kids to understand. Yet, it’s the number one way that kids see us spending money – so it’s not a topic that we can ignore. I recommend explaining how credit cards work through an activity rather than a conversation.

Credit Card Activity: Have your child set up a pretend store at home, with price tags on the items. Then have your child use a credit card to “buy” some things in the store. Next, act as the credit card “bill collector” and write up a bill for the purchase. Give your child the bill, and have them count out the money (real or pretend money) to pay the bill and hand it over to you. This will help them understand how credit cards and money are connected. Next time you’re in a store, point out that you’re going to need to send the credit card company some hard earned cash for those purchases when you get home!

Once you’ve opened the door with your first mini-conversations about money, it will be much easier to keep talking about this topic with your child. You may even find your child asking questions the next time he or she sees you spending money at a store or leaving a tip at a restaurant. This curiosity is great, and will encourage you to keep the lessons coming! I’ll be following up with a post about how to use an allowance to teach kids with ADHD about money. By then you’ll have already had your money conversations and will be more than ready for this next step!

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Dinnertime Strategies: Peace around the table Having dinner together as a family is an important part of a child’s development. Family dinners support healthier eating habits and provide an opportunity for kids and parents to connect and decompress after a hectic day. But in families of kids with ADHD, dinnertime can be a challenge. The impulsivity and hyperactivity that comes with ADHD can make it hard for kids to stay seated, wait patiently, and have enjoyable conversations. The good news is that with some structure and support, kids with ADHD can be successful at the table. Start with these 5 tips.

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Tue, 07 Jun 2016 10:57:37 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/dinnertime-strategies https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/dinnertime-strategies Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Having dinner together as a family is an important part of a child’s development. Family dinners support healthier eating habits and provide an opportunity for kids and parents to connect and decompress after a hectic day. But in families of kids with ADHD, dinnertime can be a challenge. The impulsivity and hyperactivity that comes with ADHD can make it hard for kids to stay seated, wait patiently, and have enjoyable conversations. The good news is that with some structure and support, kids with ADHD can be successful at the table. Start with these 5 tips:

  1. Provide clear expectations. Tell your child exactly what is expected of him or her during dinner. Focus on very specific behaviors, like “stay in your seat,” “talk without interrupting,” “no electronics at the table.”
  2. Be realistic. If your child really struggles with a behavior, then make sure your expectations not beyond your child’s reach. For example, if your child currently gets up from his or her seat four times during dinner, then he or she will likely find it very difficult to sit for the entire meal. A more reasonable expectation may be to allow him or her to get up only once or twice during dinner. Once he or she has mastered this, then you can expect him or her to work on staying seated for the entire meal.
  3. Try using a talking stick. If family members struggle to have good conversations during dinner, then try using a talking stick. The person holding the talking stick speaks while others listen and ask questions. Then the stick gets passed to the next person at the table. You may need to set some ground rules around topics that can be discussed – especially if things have a tendency to become way too silly, or too tense.
  4. Pay attention to good behavior. It can be easy to accidentally give your child less attention when he or she is quiet and following the rules and more attention when he or she is misbehaving – and demanding your negative attention. You’ll see better behavior at the dinner table if you give your child the most attention when he or she is behaving well. He or she will be much less likely to engage in attention-seeking behavior if he or she is included in conversations and feels seen and heard at the table.
  5. Reward good behavior. When your children meet your mealtime expectations, provide them with a reward. Some of my favorite rewards include: healthy desserts, the privilege of listening to music during dinner, playing a quick game as a family at the end of the meal, or points toward a larger reward at the end of the week. Just make sure the reward is something that your child really wants, and let him or her know about the reward ahead of time. During dinner, point out good behavior and tie it to the reward, “You’re doing a great job staying in your seat. If you keep this up then we’ll be able to listen to music during dinner again tomorrow!”
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The Magic of the Marble Jar Last week we talked about family rules. A family marble jar can be a great add-on to your family rules. It’s a fun, simple way to keep your child with ADHD and other family members motivated to follow the rules. Here’s how it works: Pick one or two family rules that you really want your children to focus on. When a family member is spotted following one of these rules, then they get to put a marble in the jar. When the jar is full, the whole family earns a treat. There are a few tricks to making the marble jar a success.

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Mon, 06 Jun 2016 18:13:09 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/magic-marble-jar https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/magic-marble-jar Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Last week we talked about family rules. A family marble jar can be a great add-on to your family rules. It’s a fun, simple way to keep your child with ADHD and other family members motivated to follow the rules. Here’s how it works: Pick one or two family rules that you really want your children to focus on. When a family member is spotted following one of these rules, then they get to put a marble in the jar. When the jar is full, the whole family earns a treat. There are a few tricks to making the marble jar a success:

  • Pick the reward before you start. Make sure the reward is something the whole family is motivated to earn. Ideally, it will be a special activity that doubles as quality family time.
  • Be consistent. The marble jar only works when your kids actually earn marbles! Aim to catch your children following the rules at least once a day. It can actually be harder to notice good behavior than it is to notice bad behavior. So you’ll need to make it a point to keep your eyes and ears open for marble-worthy actions.
  • Pair the marbles with praise. Be enthusiastic when your children earn a marble. Be specific with your praise by telling them exactly what they did well. “Wow, you were so patient at dinner, waiting your turn to speak. You just earned another marble!”
  • Adults can earn marbles too! Model the family rules for your kids by noticing when other adults in the house follow the rules too. If your rule is, “We put things back where we found them,” and your partner puts the TV remote back in the remote basket instead of leaving it buried in the cushions, then go ahead and add a marble to the jar!
  • Try not to go more than two weeks between rewards. Kids with ADHD often struggle with delayed rewards. If you go more than two weeks between rewards, your child may lose motivation. If you think it will take more than two weeks to fill up your jar, draw a line on the side of the jar at point that seems like a more reasonable target. Or consider using cotton balls instead of marbles. Cotton balls will fill up the jar much faster.

When you follow these basic steps you’ll be experiencing the magic of the marble jar in no time! It’s a great way to teach new skills and behaviors, while staying positive and keeping it fun.

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Family Rules for Kids with ADHD Family rules are like a code of conduct for your household. “We clean up after ourselves.” “We follow directions the first time.” “We wait our turn to talk.” Family rules are great. They provide clear expectations. They help parents be consistent. And they cut down on the amount of arguing or negotiating that occurs when rules are broken. But when a child has ADHD, coming up with family rules that work for everyone can be tricky. Kids with ADHD may not be able to meet the same expectations as other kids in the family. In fact, it’s not uncommon for an older child with ADHD to have more difficulty with the family rules than their younger brother or sister. So, how do you come up with rules that will work for everyone?

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Tue, 20 Sep 2016 11:35:50 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/family-rules-for-kids-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/family-rules-for-kids-with-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Family rules are like a code of conduct for your household. “We clean up after ourselves.” “We follow directions the first time.” “We wait our turn to talk.” Family rules are great. They provide clear expectations. They help parents be consistent. And they cut down on the amount of arguing or negotiating that occurs when rules are broken. But when a child has ADHD, coming up with family rules that work for everyone can be tricky. Kids with ADHD may not be able to meet the same expectations as other kids in the family. In fact, it’s not uncommon for an older child with ADHD to have more difficulty with the family rules than their younger brother or sister. So, how do you come up with rules that will work for everyone? These four tips will help you get on the right track:

  1. Focus on “do” rules rather than “don’t” rules. All kids, especially those with ADHD, learn best when they are told what to do rather than what not to do. Consider this example: the doorbell rings when your child’s best friend arrives for a playdate, and your child starts to run down the stairs. You call out, “No running in the house!” What does your child do? They slide down the banister. Did your child follow the instruction? Yes they did! But did they do what you really wanted? Not even close! If you had told the child what to do “Remember, we walk in the house,” then they would have clearly known what was expected, and would have been more likely to follow the direction.
  2. Keep the list short. Kids with ADHD have a hard time keeping track of lengthy lists of rules. So, limit your list to 5 rules. Rules that apply across a variety of situations can help you meet this goal. For example, “We respect others” captures a wide range of problem behaviors, like grabbing a toy from another child, using a sassy tone of voice, criticizing a sibling, etc. Some of my favorite family rules for kids with ADHD are, “We wait our turn to talk.” “We follow directions the first time.” “We show good sportsmanship whether we win or lose.” “We put things back where they belong.”
  3. Set rules based on ability level. Think about each child in your family, and his or her actual ability to follow each of the rules right now. Consider this house rule, “We put things back where they belong.” ADHD will make it hard for kids to follow this rule, even as they get older. If your child almost never puts things back right now, you may need to remind him or her to follow the rule in the beginning. So, try starting with this version instead: “We put things back where they belong with one or fewer reminders.” Eventually, as new behaviors become habits, you can increase your expectations and drop the reminders portion of the rule.
  4. Praise and reward good behavior. Kids with ADHD rely on feedback from others and positive reinforcement to follow rules and learn new behavior. So, praise your child when you see them following one of the rules. And the praise should be specific to the rule. “Great job putting your toys back on the shelf where they belong!” Do this often! The more often you praise your child the more likely you are to see changes in behavior.

When structured correctly, family rules can work for kids with ADHD and their siblings. In fact, they’ll provide a solid foundation that will help your family flourish!

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Bedtime Nightmares: 5 tips to reduce the stress It’s a typical night for a family with an ADHD child. You plan to have your child in bed by 8:00, but when 8:00 comes around so soon, you wonder where the evening has gone. Your child is bouncing off the walls, or zoned out in front of the TV, and you have a million things to do before bedtime. You call out to them from the other room, telling them to stop what they’re doing and get ready for bed. But when you go to check on her 15 minutes later, she hasn’t made any progress!

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Mon, 25 Apr 2016 10:06:54 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/bedtime-5-tips-to-reduce-stress https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/bedtime-5-tips-to-reduce-stress Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. It’s a typical night for a family with an ADHD child. You plan to have your child in bed by 8:00, but when 8:00 comes around so soon, you wonder where the evening has gone. Your child is bouncing off the walls, or zoned out in front of the TV, and you have a million things to do before bedtime. You call out to them from the other room, telling them to stop what they’re doing and get ready for bed. But when you go to check on her 15 minutes later, she hasn’t made any progress! Feeling frustrated, you hover, you nag, and you do things for her that you think she should be able to do on her own. When she’s finally in bed, she’s complaining that she’s not tired and can’t sleep, and you’re both irritated. Yet again, you’re ending the day on a sour note. Sound familiar?

 Bedtime can be challenging, especially when your child has ADHD. Try these tips to break the bad bedtime cycle:

  1. Have a set time each night for when your child starts getting ready for bed, and stick to it. Leave enough time to get everything done (teeth brushed, tomorrow’s clothes picked out, etc.) that they will be done in time for bedtime.
  2. Turn off all of the screens at least 1 hour before bedtime. The blue-light that emits from LED screens disrupts sleep. Especially for kids!
  3. When you tell your child to get ready for bed, get their attention first, then tell them to get ready for bed. That way, you know they’ve heard you. Then stay with them until they’ve started to get ready for bed. (Don’t walk away when you tell a child to go to bed. You’ll come back in 15 minutes to find nothing has happened.) Staying focused and staying with them lets them know that you mean business.
  4. Create a list with the steps of your child’s bedtime routine, and post it up in a place where your child can check it every night. They may need you to supervise them, or provide a couple of reminders when they are first starting to use their new checklist.
  5. Provide a lot of specific praise when your child follows through, “I really like how you looked at the checklist and then started to brush your teeth right away!” If they need some extra motivation, provide a reward when they complete all of their bedtime routine steps. For example, if they finish their steps by 8:20, then you’ll read a book together for 10 minutes.
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Picking a Summer Camp for Kids with ADHD Summer is a great time for kids with ADHD to explore creative, athletic, and academic interests and make friends outside of school. Kids with ADHD struggle socially and academically throughout the school year. So, even more than most kids, they need access to summer programs that allow them to test out new skills social, athletic, artistic, and academic skills in a warm, safe environment.

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Wed, 11 May 2016 09:50:55 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/picking-a-summer-camp-for-kids-with-adhd https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/picking-a-summer-camp-for-kids-with-adhd Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Summer is a great time for kids with ADHD to explore creative, athletic, and academic interests and make friends outside of school. Kids with ADHD struggle socially and academically throughout the school year. So, even more than most kids, they need access to summer programs that allow them to test out new skills social, athletic, artistic, and academic skills in a warm, safe environment.

Your child’s summer plan should be two-fold. First, it should include camp experiences that allow them to do the things they already enjoy and develop new skills by trying out sports and arts that they’ve never done before. Second, it should include an educational plan that will keep them from backsliding over the summer. Kids with ADHD need academic support year round to maintain their skills and be prepared for school in the fall.

This week we’ll talk about strategies for finding the right summer camps and social programs for your kids. Next week, we’ll talk about how to avoid academic backsliding over the summer.

As all parents of kids with ADHD know, finding the right summer camp is challenge! Here are some things to look for in a camp that’s a good fit for your child:

  • Does the camp have activities that my child is excited about? Kids with ADHD are most focused and often at their best when they are engaged in activities that they find interesting. So, have your child come up with a list of fun things they’d like to do at camp this summer, and search for programs that have at least some of these activities.
  • Look for camps that have a small staff to student ratio. Kids with ADHD typically need a bit more supervision than kids without ADHD. If your child tends to struggle socially in new settings, having more counselors around will help them catch problems early, before they escalate into crises.
  • Look for camps that have a high level of structure. Kids with ADHD tend to struggle most during unstructured time, so in most cases, the more structure the better.
  • As a parent, you know your child better than anyone. Think about your child’s strengths and weakness. How would you like to see them grow this summer? For example, would you like to see them become less shy and more comfortable around kids their own age? Would you like to see them improve their good sportsmanship skills? Or would you like them to be in a setting where the adults are more positive than their teacher may have been last year? Choose a camp that gives your child a chance to explore and work on these areas.
  • Once you’ve narrowed down your selections and have made your list of growth goals for your child, contact the camps. Talk to them about the strategies they use to manage behavior, how they facilitate friendships or handle social conflicts, how they structure their days, and the camper to counselor ratio. When it comes to managing behavior, make sure the camp is using praise, positivity and earning privileges, as opposed to things like time-outs and removal of privileges as punishments for kids. Look for camps that have games and activities that help kids get to know each other. Also look for camps that pay attention to the differences in individual children and pair them up with teammates, bunkmates and partners that are well suited for each other.

Most importantly, the camp should be someplace that both you and your child are excited about!

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The Organized Backpack? Yes, it’s Possible! Have you looked inside your child’s backpack lately? If your child has ADHD there’s a good chance that it’s pretty messy in there! ADHD can make it hard to stay organized, and messy backpacks often lead to lost homework, missing or crumpled permission slips, and heavy loads that weigh kids down. Try these tips to help your child clean out their backpack and keep it neat all year long.

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Tue, 12 Apr 2016 19:02:10 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/the-organized-backpack https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/the-organized-backpack Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Have you looked inside your child’s backpack lately? If your child has ADHD there’s a good chance that it’s pretty messy in there! ADHD can make it hard to stay organized, and messy backpacks often lead to lost homework, missing or crumpled permission slips, and heavy loads that weigh kids down. Try these tips to help your child clean out their backpack and keep it neat all year long.

  • Make a list. Together with your child make a list of things that should be in the backpack. Be very specific. For example, if your child likes to keep library books in their backpack, allow them to carry only one book (two at most) at a time.
  • Have a homework folder. Select one specific folder that is used to bring homework sheets to and from school. Use the left side of the folder for unfinished work, and the right side for completed worksheets. Check the homework folder every day to make sure the “completed” side is empty when your child comes home. Kids with ADHD often forget to turn in completed work!
  • Have a second folder for notes to parents and other papers. Keep permission slips, notes for parents, and papers that don’t belong in the “homework folder” in a second folder. This keeps the backpack from getting cluttered with loose paper.
  • Use a pencil pouch. Keep pencils, pens, and erasers in a pouch. They’ll be easy to find and will be less likely to be lost or broken.
  • Set limits on toys in the backpack. Kids often want to keep non-school related items, like figurines, stuffed animals, or trading cards, in their backpacks. Usually they’ll get into trouble with teachers when they pull these things out in class. So, it’s best to keep them at home. If your child insists on bringing toys to school, set limits. Allow only one item at a time.
  • Do a backpack check every day. To keep the backpack in tiptop shape, you’ll need to do a quick backpack check every day. Give your child lots of praise when they’ve used their checklist and organization plan! If they are backsliding, catch it early. Try not to criticize. Just let them know what is out of place and how to fix it.
  • Clean out the backpack every week. Pick a time once a week when your child will go through the backpack checklist and do a cleanout. Check the backpack once the cleanout is complete, and help them along the way if they need it. Praise their effort! If they meet their checklist goal, consider providing a small reward.

An organized backpack is a great way to start teaching important organization skills that can help kids stay focused and get things done.

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Morning Mayhem? Try These 7 Steps Mornings can be hard for kids with ADHD and their parents. Having ADHD can make it hard to wake up in the morning, keep track of time, and get things done independently. So, it’s very common for families of kids with ADHD to feel rushed, stressed, and disorganized before the school and workdays even begin. Starting your day off this way is hard on you and your child. A few simple changes can make mornings better.

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Tue, 07 Jun 2016 11:05:53 -0400 https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/morning-mayhem https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/adhd-blog/morning-mayhem Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D. Mornings can be hard for kids with ADHD and their parents. Having ADHD can make it hard to wake up in the morning, keep track of time, and get things done independently. So, it’s very common for families of kids with ADHD to feel rushed, stressed, and disorganized before the school and workdays even begin. Starting your day off this way is hard on you and your child. A few simple changes can make mornings better.

  • Good mornings start with a good nights’ sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children between the ages of 6-13 require 9 to 11 hours of sleep, and teens between the ages of 14-17 need 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
  • Wake your child up at the same time every day. This routine will help regulate their circadian rhythm and make it easier for them to get out of bed in the morning.
  • Create a checklist. Together with your child, make a list of the things they need to do each morning. Try to keep the list limited to no more than 7 items. For example:
    • Wake up with only 1 reminder from mom by 7:20
    • Brush my teeth
    • Wash my face
    • Brush my hair
    • Get dressed
    • Eat breakfast and finish my 7:50
  • Post the checklist in a spot where your child can see it every morning. Make it look fun and let your child decorate it -- it helps your child feel like they own the routine too.
  • When your child finishes all the steps, provide a lot of praise. Make sure your praise is truthful, specific and positive. “Great job brushing your teeth without needing a reminder.” or “7:45am and done? High five! Way to go!”
  • Consider providing your child with a reward as an extra incentive to finish their morning routine independently and on time. Rewards can be simple, but they should be immediate. Things like picking a special snack for lunch, choosing the radio station in the car on the way to school, getting a special hair style, or getting 10 minutes of screen time.
  • When your child is first learning their new routine, you may need to provide supervision and an occasional reminder. So, try to get yourself up and ready a bit early on the first few days of the new routine. This way you’ll be able to give your child your full attention when they need it.
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