More than any other disorder, the legitimacy of ADHD as a mental health diagnosis is questioned by armchair experts everywhere. Anyone who has ADHD themselves or has a child with ADHD has encountered family members and friends who are more than happy to share their belief that ADHD doesn’t actually exist - “I was hyper when I was a kid too, but I didn’t have ADHD. It’s just kids being kids.” “Kids are too coddled these days, so they don’t respect their teachers.” “If parents would just discipline their kids, then they wouldn’t behave this way.” “If kids didn’t spend so much time watching TV and playing videogames, then they wouldn’t have ADHD.”
When parents seek out the help of a psychologist or meet with their child’s teacher, discussions typically focus on finding solutions for ADHD-related challenges. While these problem-focused conversations are necessary - and are often very helpful - they run the risk of being so ADHD-centric that a child’s strengths and positive qualities are overlooked. As a result, a child isn’t really discussed as a whole person, but is instead talked about only within the context of his or her ADHD. Ultimately, this focus does the child a disservice, because opportunities that capitalize on the child’s strengths are overlooked.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.