An Ode to Autumn

Swirling around, swept into the air like dry leaves before a great storm, we’re tossed about by forces we invented but no longer control. The wind rules, picking us up and taking us where it blows. Busy. Fast. Wired. Going who knows where. Welcome to our crazybusy world.

Today I encourage you to take a few moments to pause and reflect on the beauty that surrounds us – the colors, the crispness in the air, the sunshine and more. Listen to my Distraction mini podcast “An Ode to Autumn” and learn why Autumn is my favorite season of the year. What is yours?

Are you saying to yourself,  “I’m too busy to pause and take in the colors of autumn?”

If yes, then click here to learn how to take back control of your time in this Crazybusy world.

For those of you who like great poetry, I recommended this poem by John Keats in my podcast:

To Autumn  

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinéd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
hou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barréd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
hen in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Exercising your ADHD Brain

Exercising your ADHD brain keeps it young and fit, much as exercising your body keeps your body fit. Of course, you can overdo mental exercise,  just as  you can overdo physical exercise; this leads to exhaustion, either mental or physical. But as a general principle of mental hygiene, stretching your brain every day is an excellent way to stave off the mental ravages of aging.

Mental exercise can be quite specific. The following exercises, from my book Delivered from Distraction, were designed to improve attention and organizational abilities. They were developed by experts on physical training in Russia and given to me by Simon Zaltsman, a physical trainer I worked with. These exercises will challenge you Don’t be surprised if you get angry or frustrated and don’t complete them the first time.  But as Simon told me, “You can do them. Just persist.” If you try these exercises once a day, you should soon find that your attention span is lengthening and your ability to stay on task is growing stronger. Also, the quality of your focus should sharpen.

  1. Position one blank sheet of paper to your right and another to your left; then take a pencil in each hand. Simultaneously, draw a vertical line on the right sheet and a circle on the left sheet. Repeat three times, alternating figures on the right and left sheets.
  2. Draw a triangle on one sheet while drawing a square on the other. Then switch: draw the square on the first sheet and the triangle on the other.
  3. Draw a circle on one sheet while drawing a triangle on the other. Switch figures and do it again.
  4. Draw two circles on one sheet while drawing one square on the other. Then switch.
  5. Draw two squares on one sheet while drawing one triangle on the other. Then switch.
  6. Draw a triangle on one sheet while drawing a square on the other and also tracing a circle on the floor with one leg. Then switch hands (and switch to the other leg.)
  7. Draw a circle with one hand and a triangle with the other while tracing a square on the floor with one leg. Then switch all.
  8. Draw a triangle with one hand and two squares with the other while tracing a circle on the floor with one leg. Then switch all.
  9. Draw a triangle with one hand and a square with the other while tracing a circle on the floor with one leg and nodding your head twice forward and twice backward.
  10. Draw a triangle with one hand and a square with the other while tracing a vertical line with the eg on the same side as the hand that is drawing the triangle, and a horizontal line with leg on the same side as the hand that is drawing the square. Then switch all.

Yes, these are extremely difficult, aren’t they? But don’t despair. Keep Simon’s words in mind, and do as many as you can in 10 to 15 minutes. Just like when you go the gym, the key is to keep at it. Gradually you will see results. Your attention will improve. In addition, it is likely that your organization ability will improve as well as your ability to control your impulses. You may also see marked improvement in your coordination.

You can find more of my tips on boosting your ADHD brain in this ADDitude article on 25 Everyday Brain Boosts from our ADHD Experts.

Another way to exercise your mind is through Mindfulness.

Click here to learn about Feeding Your ADHD Brain.

What Is Neuropsychological Testing?

Neuropsychological Testing: What Is It and Why Do It?

People often talk about “testing” or “neuropsychological assessment.”  What is this assessment? Why do people have it done? Finally, what does it entail?

Neuropsychological testing is usually recommended if you are looking for accommodations for school, standardized testing or work.  Likewise, neuropsychological testing may be recommended if the clinician suspects underlying learning issues or has other questions that the clinical interview does not answer.

Answer the questions below to determine if you or your child should have a Neuropsychological Assessment.  If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, read more and consider scheduling an assessment. 

Questions for Parents:

  • Do you have a child who struggles in school?
  • Are there gaps in your child’s performance in different areas? 
  • Interested in understanding how your child learns best?
  • What are their strengths?
  • What are their challenges?
  • Concerned about whether your child is struggling simply due to ADHD? 
  • Or if there are underlying learning disabilities?
  • Do you think that your child might need accommodations to give them the best shot at reaching their learning potential?
  • For older children, are you concerned that your child may need accommodations to do their best on standardized testing?
  • Interested in having you and your child’s school learn strategies to best help them learn and achieve?

Questions for Adults:

  • Have you ever wondered about your ADHD diagnosis,?
  • What are the signs that you have it? l 
  • Did you ever wonder how your brain works?
  • Curious about your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Perplexed why you’re not able to do certain things as easily as your peers?
  • Wondering if it’s just ADHD or if something else is going on too?

What is neuropsychological assessment and why is it important?

Neuropsychological assessment consists of:

  • a series of tests, completed between one day and a handful of days;
  • evaluating one’s intellectual abilities;
  • academic processes;
  • achievement;
  • memory;
  • language skills;
  • visual-motor coordination;
  • reasoning abilities;
  • executive functioning skills; and
  • attention.

Furthermore, testing can also look at whether there are underlying psychological issues that are impacting learning or day-to-day functioning.

What To Expect:

Clinicians select a series of tests that makes the most sense for each individual. These tests are based on the concerns you, your child, or your child’s school may have. Some tests are completed using paper and pencil, and others are verbal or computer-based.  Questionnaires are completed by patients and those who know the patients well. As part of the testing process, this is always followed by a comprehensive clinical session.

Through the use of neuropsychological assessment, parents learn more about how their children process information. As a result, they can determine whether a learning disorder is present.  Likewise, this can be used to come up with strategies to optimize their ability to learn. In addition, the assessment can be used to build a system of accommodations in school.  Most noteworthy, it can be used to help them reach their potential and thrive in their environment. 

Neuropsychological Testing for Adults

Likewise, neuropsychological testing can also be useful for some adults, enabling them to:

  • understand more about how their brains work, or
  • to assess cognitive concerns, whether related or unrelated to ADHD.

As a  result, this can help adults to better understand themselves and how they can work most efficiently. 

NOTE: Outside the ADHD world, neuropsychological testing is also often used to:

  • assess for damage related to brain-affecting diseases or
  • traumatic brain injuries

When is the best time to do testing?

Neuropsychological testing is a time-consuming endeavor, in most cases occurring over multiple days of at least a few hours each day. As such, testing sessions are typically scheduled for early in the day to maximize alertness. Since children are off from school, summertime and school vacations are often ideal times for children to complete testing.

Scheduling a Neuropsychological Assessment

So if you are interested in pursuing or learning more about a neuropsychological assessment at The Hallowell Centers, you can set up an appointment with our intake coordinator.  To schedule an appointment at The Hallowell Center, simply call the number below for the center closest to you. 

 Boston MetroWest  at 978-287-0810  

ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment – What You Should Know

What you should know about ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment

Getting an ADHD Diagnosis: 

Make sure you consult with a well-trained specialist. The doctors who have the most training in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are child psychiatrists. If you are an adult, be aware that all child psychiatrists also are trained in adult psychiatry. Ask the person you see if he or she has extensive experience in working with patients in your age group. It is imperative that you consult with a professional who has extensive experience. Therefore, if you can’t find such a person, start by calling the department of psychiatry at the medical school nearest to you.

The diagnosis rests upon a careful history taken from the identified patient as well as at least one other person. This could be a parent, spouse, sibling, or close friend, as well as, if possible, teacher comments.

First of all, you should develop a comfortably connected relationship with the person diagnosing and treating you so that you can turn to him or her with trust whenever the need arises.

The history may be supplemented by neuropsychological testing. This is paper-and-pencil testing that includes puzzles and games. It’s actually often fun to take these tests. They are not diagnostic of ADHD, but they add valuable information.

Treatment begins with education.

The patient and concerned others need to learn what ADHD is, and what it is not. A diagnosis of the mind, like ADHD, must be fully understood if it is to be mastered and made good use of. At its best, ADHD can become an asset, rather than a liability, in a person’s life. But, for this to happen, the person has to develop a deep appreciation for how ADHD works within him or her.

To understand ADHD, a person could begin with one of my books, like Delivered From Distraction, or with some other book on the topic. Just be sure you read a book by a highly qualified expert who writes clearly and well.

Treatment proceeds with a restructuring of one’s life.

Usually, disorganization is a leading problem in the life of the person who has ADHD. Often an organizational coach can help enormously in developing new habits of organization and time management.

Treatment should also include physical exercise

You should exercise at least 4 times per week. Dr. John Ratey’s work and his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, notes that physical exercise is one of the best treatments we have for ADHD.  Learn more about Treating ADHD.

Proper nutrition plays an important role in the treatment of ADHD in all ages.

The key simply is to eat well, avoid junk food and sugar, and eat whole foods. Above all, don’t self-medicate with carbs, as many people with ADHD are tempted to do.

Learn More

If you missed Dr. Hallowell’s Distraction Q&A on ADHD, getting a late in life diagnosis and more, LISTEN NOW!

If you think you might have ADHD, CLICK HERE to learn what the Hallowell Centers can do for you.

For those people who crave more information about ADHD, we have put together a suggested reading list HERE.  

Learn about Stimulants and ADHD.

The Pennies Are Everywhere!

The other day one of my patients was talking about her father, who died in 1981. “He started college in 1929, and we all know what happened that year. So college came to a sudden end for my father. He became incredibly tight with money from then on, to the point of putting locks on the rotary phones and picking up pennies when he saw them on the sidewalk as if he’s just struck gold.”

This patient, whom I’ll call Sarah, was raised Jewish but now follows a non-traditional spiritual path. She has strong spiritual views, but they do not fit any standard faith or religion. But she delighted in telling me how often she sees pennies all over the place, ever since her father died. “The pennies are everywhere,” she said, with an elated giggle, her red curly hair bouncing, belying her 60 years of age. “It didn’t take me long to realize it was my dad sending me those pennies, letting me know he was watching over me from the other dimension.” She sat back with a wide smile of satisfaction on her face.

As some of you who read this newsletter know, I, myself, believe in God. I’m an Episcopalian. But I’m not doctrinaire. I like the prayer that goes, “Lord, please help me always to search for the truth, but spare me the company of those who have found it.”

My version is that God is Love.

Where you find love, there you find God. Where there is no love, God is absent. Today’s world is painfully short on love. It seems that love is a really tough sell. Why people reject it beats me. Because there’s nothing better. And without it, we wither.

It’s there for the taking, love is. As Sarah said, the pennies are everywhere. Love is all around, if we will but reach out and give it, reach out and receive it, if we will but come out of hiding. Don’t hold back.

Pat a dog. Smile at the check-out lady. Help the mom with the crying baby. Forgive a friend you know you want to make up with. Think of three things you’re grateful for. Say “Thank you” to two people today and say “I’m sorry” to one. Stop and talk to the panhandler, whether or not you chose to give him money. Go a day without reading or watching news and use that time to give others compliments.

Look for the pennies. You will find them everywhere.

Try Judging Less, Understanding More

Dr. Hallowell shares some thoughts on why we should try judging less, understanding more in our “Gotcha!” world in this week’s Distraction mini episode. He says, “It’s time to cut each other some slack,” as he likens our current social climate to a meat tenderizer. We are all flawed and we need each other’s understanding, not judgment!

There’s an old French proverb he loves that goes, “Tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner,” which Evelyn Waugh translated and quoted in Brideshead Revisited, “To understand all is to forgive all.”

LISTEN NOW and learn Dr. Hallowell’s thoughts on why we should try judging less and understand more.

Distraction wants to hear from you! What do you think? Are we judging each other too quickly nowadays? Send an email or voice memo with your thoughts to

Finally, there are times when the world judges the actions of others. Such was the case in the college admissions cheating scandal. Even Dr. Hallowell sat in judgement of them when he first heard of the scandal. He thought it represented everything venal and detestable about wealth and privilege and underscored the hypocrisy of so many people who pretend to be one person but are in reality another. However, when he thought of his own little hypocrisies, he decided to look at the humanity of the Varsity Blue scandal and learn from it, rather than heap more scorn and contempt upon people he didn’t even know.  

Read Dr. Hallowell’s blog post, “Varsity Blues – What Do You Really Want For Your Children?” and learn why he had a change of heart.