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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

April 5th, 2014


By Paula Santa-Donato, LCSW, Professional and Personal Coach specializing in ADD

“How did it get so late so soon?”

Dr. Seuss

As a Professional and Personal Coach specializing in ADHD, clients often come to me because they are challenged by time management – planning, organizing, prioritizing, chronic lateness, decision making– which leads to stress, anxiety, work/life imbalance, stagnant personal and professional growth, and that all too familiar feeling of being overwhelmed.

They are often professional and successful individuals who have ‘compensated’ – sometimes for a very long time – and are either being threatened with the possibility of losing a job, realizing they can no longer function ‘this way’, and/or are now willing and open to embrace change, receive the support and challenge of working with a coach, and be held accountable for their progress.

While working with my clients, I first help them realize and acknowledge their strengths (we build on these) and begin to accept their weaknesses (we work our way around these).  And a common ‘weaknesses’ or challenges, as I like to call them, might be what Russell Barkley calls ‘time blindness’.  It affects current planning and future planning.

Do some of these statements sound familiar? ‘I was supposed to be at a meeting by….!’ ‘I got lost in my email (or the internet).’  ‘I started doing ‘xyz’ and the next thing I knew, it was 3 o’clock and I didn’t get to anything I planned to do!’

What to do about impaired temporal vision?

No special Google glasses here!  Working on your time blindness takes effort, practice, and, well, …. Time!  It may seem crazy, but the more time you invest in addressing your time blindness, the more control you will have over time management issues, and thus, the more ‘time’ you will have in general.

Increased time awareness can be achieved taking small steps. Look at it as a muscle waiting to be strengthened with proper exercise. You have to start slow and easy with what your body in its current condition can handle. As the muscle gets stronger you can build up the amount and rigors of the exercise.

Do you know how long you take to get ready in the morning?  How long it takes you to review your e-mail each day?  How long that project you need to complete for your boss is going to take?

First, breath…I say this because I don’t want you to panic reading this!

-Be mindful of the time.  A clock, a watch, your phone or tablet, can be your friend and not your enemy. Chances are while you may often look at a watch or clock – you are not really allowing it to register the true meaning of where you are in your day, plan or activity.  So stop when you see what time it is and have the time enter your awareness.  Appreciate the value of time.

There are many gadgets (visual count down clocks, vibrating watches, clocks, and alarms) and apps (Nag, Due for iOS, Repeat Timer, Nice Timer) out there that help with this. I encourage you to explore which one might work for you so that you may enhance your awareness of time.

-Chart how long tasks take to complete.  Most ADD’ers either underestimate time needed (leaving 10 minutes for a 30 minute commute) or over-estimate time needed (feeling overwhelmed by a project because they ‘estimated’ it is going to take 8 hours when in reality it only takes 2).

I gently encourage them to chart a few tasks in a week – not every one because that gets overwhelming – and see how they do.  I provide them with a ‘time evaluation’ form that has them write down the task, the time they estimate it will take and the time it actually does take!  This can be absolutely revealing to clients.  A ‘Eureka’ moment! Many clients have said – even though they initially rebelled against doing the exercise – it ultimately helped them manage their time more effectively.  With practice, they were better able to evaluate the amount of time they needed to allot to a task.  I also tell my clients to add 20-25% to their estimate.  For example, if you need to write a report and you ‘estimate’ it will take you 30 minutes to complete – allot 40 minutes and see how you do.

Try practicing the above and see how it works for you and look for my next article highlighting more time management tips.

Paula Santa-Donato is a personal and professional coach specializing in working with adults with ADD. She helps clients clarify and achieve meaningful goals while dealing with the practicalities of daily life and work.  Individualizing her approach to each client, Paula helps her clients recognize and realize their strengths and build upon that foundation to achieve their goals.  Clients appreciate her knowledge of ADD, coupled with a warm, compassionate, intuitive, and positive energy.   







April 5th, 2014

5 Early Career Planning Tips for Teens with ADHD

By Robin Roman Wright, BCC, Career & ADHD Coach

Teens with ADHD are hindered by a propensity to procrastinate, “get stuck,” get bored and/or argue with those in authority. For these teens, guidance can make a huge difference.

Many teens with ADHD are bright and creative, however ADHD high school students are often frustrated and less successful than they would like to be. Missing deadlines, leaving boring tasks half done or experiencing difficulty getting along with authority figures get in the way of academic success. What’s more, when these same teens go on to higher education, they are likely to encounter these same issues.

While learning strategies to deal with these tendencies is an important part of being successful, it is just as important to ignite a desire within teens to shoot for a goal that is challenging, interesting and attainable.

In order to develop the vision of what can be, and the motivation to attain it, teens need an understanding of their abilities, a realistic picture of what is possible, and a feeling of efficacy. Therefore, it is important for teens with ADHD to begin career planning early in their lives – middle school is not too early, and senior year, while not ideal, is not too late.

In order for a teen to become a self-supporting young adult, who launches successfully into the world of work, he or she needs to carefully consider:

  • His or her strengths
  • His or her personal style and the type of people that s/he is likely to get along with
  • Work environments and roles that play to the individual’s strengths and interests.

Each teen needs to think about the kind of life that he or she wants to lead, the difference s/he wants to make in the world, and identify the possible scenarios of what could be given his/ her talents, skills, and interests.  Financial requirements, including the student’s own resources, also need to be factored into the planning. As a next step, each teen needs to learn about what it takes, or what other people have done, perhaps even finding and talking with others who are living the kind of life that s/he envisions. Lastly, a teen needs to consider what skills and knowledge s/he is willing to learn that will lead to school success and job satisfaction.

The trick here is to help teens learn to manage their time and activities in order to reach personal academic and vocational goals that have meaning and importance for them.  It is so common for adults who care about their teen, to pressure students to meet external goals and standards that appear arbitrary or unimportant to the teen.  This becomes a tug-of-war.  The teens don’t see the necessity of working hard for these external reasons; teens with ADHD are further hindered by a propensity to procrastinate, “get stuck,” get bored and/or argue with those in authority. For these teens, guidance can make a huge difference. Facilitating personal discovery about their talents and strengths, opportunities to reflect on their hopes and dreams, time to research the opportunities in the workplace are strategies that can reduce the intensity of the “struggle.” The opportunity to participate in this discovery process can help students become internally motivated.

My teen coaching clients open up and tell me what interests them, what problems they have solved that energized them, and what topics capture their fancy.  My clients are hungry for someone to help them identify what they are good at.  After we identify skills and knowledge, we then look at where their particular skills and talents can be valuable in the workplace.

While career coaches and counselors are at an advantage because we are third parties with a singular focus, parents and others can provide valuable support in the career planning process.

There are several helpful hints and resources available to adults who want to help ADHD teens explore career options.

Tips for Parents and Other Interested Adults:

  • Notice and nurture your teen’s interests
    • While a student may not be “living up to his/her potential” in the classroom, he/she may be playing basketball, tennis or a myriad of other sports.  He or she may be interested in acting or medieval swordsmanship.  If you see her/him fascinated by something help him/her learn more about it and/or get better at it.
  • Notice and mention the things your teen does well.
    • If your teen produces an interesting piece of art work or is a particularly engaging swim instructor or has a good eye for fashion, mention it.  Be as specific as possible about what you like about his or her work or action.
    • Don’t overly praise teens with ADHD for small victories.  Doing so might backfire by highlighting the fact that they didn’t achieve as much as, or it took them longer than, their same age peers.
  • Help teens go to camp, get a summer or part-time job, participate in community service activities or obtain an internship.
    • These activities help teens get exposure to more of what the world has to offer.
    • Such experiences help teens to “try on different roles, responsibilities and environments.”
  • In order to help teens expand their perspective, ask questions such as,
    • “What kind of life do you want to create for yourself?” While this may be too lofty for some teens, for others it will help them see that they can impact their own destiny.
    • Another set of questions is, “What fascinates you? What do you like to learn and do?”
      • This can be followed by a “show and tell.”  Spend time together reviewing subjects that the teen is interested in.  Ask to see the samples of “work” (usually done outside of school during free time) and comment on the quality of the work.
      • This may lead to a discussion regarding what you can do to help the teen learn more about this topic, field of study, or employment options in this field.
  • Think outside the box.
    • Take the advice of Carol Christen, co-author, “What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens,” and help your teen identify a three-part plan.  What is the field or occupation that he or she wants to enter?  What are the options for obtaining an entry level position in that line of work?  She recommends getting answers to these three questions before making plans about what you are going to do after high school:
      • “What entry –level job (a job you can get with a high school diploma) could I get in my favorite field that would help me get experience for better jobs in this field?
      • What job could I get in my favorite field with two years (or less) of further training or education?
      • What job could I get in my favorite field with a bachelor’s degree or advanced training?” (p. 66)

Make a decision about what to do right after high school based on careful consideration of your goals, financial resources, interest in academic work at this point in time, the current job market and your learning differences.  Every worker today has to see himself as a life-long learner.  We will constantly be re-tooling to stay relevant and marketable.  It is not necessary to attend a 4-year school right after high school graduation in order to be successful later in life.  There are other paths.

  • Check out ideas that are emerging from people like Anya Kamenetz, Writer and Author, contributing editor at Fast Company, The Hechinger Report and other news outlets.  She wrote a book called, “DIY U Edupunks, Entrepreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education.”  She sees technology as changing the landscape of higher education.  DIY U stands for, “Do It Yourself University.”  The concept is that with new educational initiatives, such as MIT’s Open Courseware effort, students can find ways, or will be able to find ways, to educate themselves.  Maybe now, but certainly in the not too distant future, there will be many teens who can learn marketable skills via free or discounted courses on the web.  The potential for ADHD teens, who dislike or have difficulty in a school setting, to use these new educational options is exciting and worth investigating.

Raising teens with ADHD and helping them transition from high school to higher education, and/or work, is not an easy process.  Find support through your local CHADD Chapter (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder) which offers support through monthly meetings.  The National CHADD organization also offers a database of helpful articles.  The link to the national website is www.chadd.org.

If you would like to consider using a career coach to help your teen or young adult identify possible career paths that would be interesting and a good match for him or her, please call the Sudbury Hallowell Center at (978) 287-0810 and ask to set up a complimentary inquiry session with Robin Roman Wright, BCC, Career & ADHD Coach.

Recommended Reading On This Topic:

  • Bolles, Richard N. and Christen, Carol.  What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens. CA: Ten Speed Press, 2010. (New edition available 04/2014.)
  • Corman, Catherine A. and Hallowell, Edward M.  Positively ADD: Real Success Stories to Inspire Your Dreams.  New York, Walker & Company, NY.
  • Eikleberry, Carol, PhD.  The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People.  CA.  Ten Speed Press, 2007.
  • Gray, Kenneth Carter.  Getting Real: Helping Teens Find Their Future (Second Edition).  CA.  Corwin Press, 2008.
  • Hallowell, Edward M, MD.  The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to Help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy.  New York.  The Ballantine Publishing Group, 2002.
  • Kamenetz, Anya. DIY U Edupunks, Entrepreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2010.


(This article has been adapted from an earlier article published by the author.)

March 31st, 2014

Dr. Hallowell Explains that to worry alone can be toxic in this Women’s World Magazine article.

Worry Dr Hallowell

Dr. Hallowell Explains that to worry alone can be toxic in this Women’s World Magazine article.

March 30th, 2014

Dr. Hallowell Responds to Esquire’s ADHD Article “The Drugging of the American Boy”

Ryan D’Agostino’s article in Esquire Magazine, “The Drugging of the American Boy,” (3/27/14) raises many important issues, one of which I’d like to address here.

We desperately need to reframe how we look at what’s called ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Currently we see ADHD through a medical model.  To be sure, the medical model is far superior to the moral model, which held sway for most of human history, condemning these children as “bad,” “lazy,” “willful,” “incorrigible,” or even “possessed,” and inflicting frequent harsh and cruel punishments upon them, which only made their situation worse.

Thankfully, the moral model gave way to the medical model in the 20th century.  While some ignorant, backward people still invoke the moral model to explain the symptoms of ADHD, no informed person any longer does so.

However, there is a problem with the medical model. The medical model–in which I was trained, since I am an M.D.–focuses on pathology, on what’s wrong, what’s disordered, diseased, disabled, dysfunctional, disturbed.  Every child–and every adult–who has ADHD, (including me, and I also have dyslexia, another widely misunderstood condition) possesses many talents and strengths, all of which the medical model ignores, even buries.

If you are seeking treatment for strep throat or kidney disease, this makes sense.  You don’t need your doctor to tell you what’s healthy about your throat even though right now it has streptococci living on it, or, even though your kidneys are sick now, your liver and pancreas look great.

However, when we make a diagnosis of the mind, it is critical to include the positives with the negatives.  That’s because we identify with our minds.  “I” essentially refers to one’s mind, because that’s where the sense of self resides.  you don’t identify with your throat or your kidney, unless you’re psychotic; but you do identify with your mind.   When you tell a person he has a sick mind, you assault his sense of self.

That’s how the medical model does damage to someone who has ADHD.  By ignoring the many positives that so often accompany this fascinating condition, when we diagnose ADHD we medical professionals inadvertently create new and crippling disorders: shame, fear, loss of hope, loss of belief in one’s self, diminished ambition and belief in the possibility of achieving greatness.  Many times have I heard mothers say to me, “My doctor told me that having ADHD meant my son could not go to medical school or do anything of note in his life.  He told me I should mourn the loss of the son I thought I had and help the son I actually do have eke out a decent life for himself.”

This kind of inadvertent dream-breaking happens all the time.  Were it true that a person with ADHD can achieve little, then it might make sense to help a parent lower her expectations.  But it is not true.  You can find people who have ADHD at the highest levels in our society: Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, self-made billionaires, CEO’s, professors, brain surgeons, rocket scientists, successful entrepreneurs of every stripe, professional athletes, inventors, Academy Award winners.  You name the field, you can someone who has ADHD (and dyslexia) at the top.

We need to stop breaking dreams.  The psychologist, Carol Dweck, has spent her lifetime at Stanford researching and proving that Henry Ford’s axiom is, in fact, true: whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. We need to stop telling people who have ADHD that they can’t, and start telling them the truth, which is that they can.  And then we need to show them how.

It is time to replace the deficit-based medical model with a more accurate and all-encompassing strength-based model, a model that recognizes not just what goes wrong with a person, but also what goes right.

What goes right in most people who have ADHD is what changes the world for the better.  People who have this trait–I think of ADHD as a trait, rather than a disorder–are the inventors (Edison was a classic), pioneers, innovators, dreamers, visionaries, creatives, entrepreneurs, and game-changers that this world needs now more than ever.

To break these kids when they are young, to destroy their sense of strength and replace it with a conviction of being disabled and defective, this is malign madness that creates tragic consequences.  And yet, it happens every day, thousands of times, in schools across America and around the world.

Yes, kids who have ADHD (and it’s not just boys, millions of girls have it, too–they just tend to be day-dreamy, rather than disruptive, so they don’t get diagnosed but get dismissed as slow or shy) require more effort on the part of teachers, parents, coaches, and everyone else who interacts with them.  But, if they get the right treatment–the teacher who sees their “special something,” the grandparent who gets a kick out of them, the coach who takes them under his wing–then, over time, they can, and most often do, shine.  And they shine with a special sparkle.  They come up with the new idea, the alternative approach, the life-saving intervention that saves the day.

I explain ADHD to kids by saying, “You are very lucky.  You have a Ferrari for a brain.  you have a race car brain.  your problem is you have bicycle brakes. It’s hard for you to control the power of your mind.  But, don’t worry, I am a brake specialist.  If we work together, instead of spinning out on curves, you will become a champion and win many races.”  Race car brains. Bicycle brakes.  Let’s band together and strengthen these brakes so the adults these kids grow up to become can give us the creative  solutions we so desperately need.

These are the same kind people who dared to say the Earth was not at the center of the Solar System, or that the world was not flat, or that germs caused disease, or that the king has no clothes.  These are the people who can’t help but speak the truth–and often get into trouble for doing so.

How dearly we need them now!  It is time for us to wake up to the gifts these kids–and adults–possess and, rather than disposing of the wrapped package as defective, unwrap the magnificent gifts within.

March 26th, 2014

Dr. Hallowell, April 24, 2014 – 11th Annual Young Child Expo & Conference 2014 – NYC

April 24, 2014 - 11th Annual Young Child Expo & Conference 2014 – NYC – “A Strength Based Approach to ADHD: Dr. Hallowell’s Special Sauce”

Hosted by: Young Child Expo     Click here to register to attend

March 17th, 2014

April 2 – NYC – CRAZYBUSY: Overbooked, overworked and About to Snap! Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD

April 2, 2014 – NYC – CRAZYBUSY: Overbooked, overworked and About to Snap! Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD

Hosted by: CHADD NYC    Time: 6:00-7:30PM

Where:  65 East 89th Street, Manhattan  (The Parish Office of St Thomas More, between Madison and Park Avenues)