ADHD Diagnosis and The Parents Role

ADHD Diagnosis: The Good, The Bad, and The Parents Role: If you are the parents of an ADHD child, you may worry, and rightfully so, that the diagnosis can make your child feel labeled or set apart from other kids. It is important that your child not feel defined by ADHD. Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is like being left-handed; it’s only a part of who you are. Try to answer any questions your child has about ADHD, but keep the answers simple and brief. Some older children may want to read a book about ADHD, but they don’t need to become experts on ADHD – just experts on living their lives as fully and well as they can.

One of the most important things for the parents of a child with ADHD to do is help that child feel good about who he or she is. You’ll need to search out and promote the positives – both about life and about your child – even as you deal with the all-too-obvious negatives. If your child feels good about who he is and about what life has to offer, he will do far better than if he does not.

The Positives of ADHD:

All 3 of my children have ADHD. When they were diagnosed, my reaction was not typical. Because I’m an expert in the field and I have ADHD myself, I was actually excited. I know that ADHD is as much a marker of talent as it is a potential problem, and I know the problems can be taken care of.

I am thrilled my kids can think outside the box, are intuitive, persistent, and creative, have a “special something about them,” have huge hearts and a desire to march to the beat of their own drums. All these positives are what make people with ADHD so interesting and potentially successful. Knowing all this, I was thrilled that my kids had a condition that could lead them into phenomenal lives. But I was so happy only because I have the special knowledge most parents do not yet have. I embrace the condition of ADHD. I do not see it so much as a disorder, but as a trait, a trait that can lead to huge success, joy, and fulfillment in life. My wife was a little more skeptical.

The Challenges of ADHD:

It is true that people with ADHD tend to contribute to the world in a very positive way. But first, they must get a handle on what’s going on. And they cannot do it alone.

My wife, being married to me, also understands ADHD and how positive it can be. But, being a mom, she was also a bit afraid, especially with our first child. Would things REALLY work out all right? Did I (me, Ned Hallowell) REALLY know what I was talking about when I said this could be a blessing, not a curse? At the beginning, she was apprehensive.

ADHD is a trait that can lead to very bad outcomes (the prisons are full of people with undiagnosed ADHD). With tendencies toward impulsive behaviors, and stimulation-seeking activities, people with ADHD are at increased risk. They are more likely to suffer from addiction, to get into accidents, to engage in not-well-thought-out-risk-taking behaviors. Having ADHD is like having a race-car engine for a brain, with weak brakes. Once you strengthen your brakes, you’re ready to win races! But those breaks really need some work, first.

The challenges of ADHD show up in all aspects of our children’s lives – in school, in social dynamics, in family relationships, and especially in their self-concept. Our kids run the risk of believing that their “bad behaviors” are a reflection of them. It is our job, as the adults in their lives, to teach them to manage their challenges, while celebrating their strengths.

What’s the Role of the Parent?

One of the reasons my kids, thank God, are doing well is because my wife provided the love and structure that they needed. I could not have done that on my own, nowhere near. My wife, Sue, deserves so much credit for being such an awesome mom. She always has faith in the positive, even when she is dealing with problems and conflicts. She never gives up. This is what these kids need more than anything else. Love that never gives up.

Ultimately, like Sue did with my children, a parent’s love, combined with a healthy amount of structure, can steer a child with ADHD to success in adulthood.

Team-Work – Everyone Has a Role:

Just as we encourage our children to find their islands of competency, we parents should make an effort to do what we do best. In our family, Sue was a master of structure, organization, and making sure each child went off to school fully clothed, book bag in hand, with a good breakfast in the belly. I was more the fun-maker, the new idea generator, the soft touch. This sometimes led my wife rightly to resent that she had to be the “heavy,” and I got off easy being the fairy-god-mother. But we worked this out with discussions. I tried hard to follow her lead and not undermine her attempts to create order.

There is usually one parent, more often the mom than the dad, who takes on the role my wife does in our family. It definitely helps when one parent can take the lead. But when there are reasons that will not work – like when both parents are ADHD, themselves – then dividing responsibilities based on strengths can make all the difference in the world.

This varies from family to family. Let the best organizer tend to organization and the best cook make the meals. Let the best mathematician help with math homework, and the best ball player play catch. There are many tasks that both can do equally well. The point here is to try to make sure those tasks are divided more or less equally. And, don’t forget to give your kids chores as well!

Finally, my most important single rule for parents is this: Enjoy your children. If you are doing that, you are doing it right, almost for sure.

What Else Do Parents Need?

The most important thing for parents to do when their children have ADHD is to find the support you need, and use it! Whether you join support groups, or coaching groups, don’t hold the frustrations inside. Tell trusted others about what you’re up against. As you build a team of support, for your child and yourself, you’ll have the strength to persevere, and you’ll be teaching your child the valuable lesson of reaching out for help and support. You cannot do it alone, nor should you try.

Learn more about ADHD for parents HERE and about getting an ADHD diagnosis.

In this Distraction Podcast on “What You Tell Yourself Matters” Dr. Hallowell speaks with Steven Campbell about how your brain is always paying attention. Changing your mindset can take a lot of work, but it is possible. Steven grew up thinking he would never be good at math, and went on to write two textbooks on the subject! It’s all about what you tell yourself and what you’re willing to do.  LISTEN NOW.

 

Seven Critical Habits for ADHD Adults

In today’s increasingly harried, “crazy busy” world, the ability to organize oneself is a critical survival tool, as there are so many more potentially distracting stimuli and demands on our time. For the person who has ADHD, that challenge is an even greater one. In his best-selling book on ADHD, Delivered from Distraction, Dr. Hallowell identifies seven critical habits that can help adults struggling with the condition:

1. Do what you’re good at.

Don’t spend too much time trying to get good at what you’re bad at. (You did enough of that in school.)

2. Delegate what you’re bad at to others, as often as possible.

If you don’t have someone to help, then hire someone. Delegate to others what you’re bad at.

3. Connect your energy to a creative outlet.

I call this the “creative imperative.” People with ADHD really need a creative outlet. I found that for most of us with ADHD, this is essential.

4. Get “well enough” organized to achieve your goals.

The key here is “well enough” organized to achieve your goals. It doesn’t mean you have to be Martha Stewart.

5. Ask for, and heed, advice from people you trust.

Then ignore, as best you can, the dream-breakers and finger-waggers. An old friend of mine used to say, “Be a dream maker not a dream breaker.”

6. Make sure you keep up regular contact with a few close friends.

I believe in the other Vitamin C – Vitamin Connect. Make sure you stay in touch with a few close friends. Loneliness is the biggest medical problem in the US today. One of he antidotes to loneliness is to have friends. If you don’t have friends, try to make some by join some groups visit the library, a gym. Or “get a dog.”

7. Go with your positive side.

Even though you have a negative side, make decisions and run your life with your positive side.

This list is a guide. It’s what works for me. If these habits don’t resonate with you, add your own to the list.

In this previously released Distraction mini episode on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective ADHD Adults, Dr. Hallowell gives his spin on Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, with a similar list as above for those with ADHD. From doing what you’re good at, to asking for advice, you’re bound to find a few nuggets of applicable wisdom for your own life.

If you’re looking for ideas on managing your crazybusy life, read Dr. Hallowell’s blog post on:  Taking Back Control of Your Crazybusy Life.

Learn more about Adult ADHD & High Achievers here.

How ADHD Affects Relationships

Overview of How ADHD Affects Relationships:  In couples where one or both partners have ADHD, one of the biggest challenges  is developing mutual empathy and understanding. Without that, couples slip into the blame game.  They struggle and fight. The non-ADHD spouse comes to feel as if she is the parent, not the spouse, of her ADHD mate.  The ADHD spouse feels as if he is the naughty child, always being reprimanded or scolded, always slipping up, always causing problems.  This is what my wife and I call “The Big Struggle,”  which often becomes the standard pattern of interaction.

If “The Big Struggle” isn’t addressed, it can disrupt the relationship and leave each partner frustrated, angry and exhausted.

How to Improve Relationships when ADHD is part of the picture:

The following guidelines or “tips” might be helpful in dealing with other issues of concern to couples in which one partner has ADHD. These tips offer a starting point for discussion between the partners. The best way to use them is to read them out loud together. Pause over each suggestion and discuss whether it might hep you. As you do this, you can begin to set up your own way of dealing with ADHD in your relationship. The keys to it all, as is the case with most problems in couples, are improving communication and resolving the power struggle.

First, make sure both partners understand what ADHD is.

Likewise, make sure that it is properly treated in the ADHD partner by a doctor who really knows what he or she is doing, i.e., someone who has extensive experience with adults who have ADHD.

Set aside time every day to discuss and plan. 

Build a boundary around this time.  No interruptions!  Make a rule that during this time there is to be no blaming, fighting, or leaving the room.  The purpose of this time is to discuss–not argue–and to plan what has to be done that day, that week, that month.  As you do this, you will gradually learn how to communicate rather than struggle, and solve problems rather than create more of them.

Try to understand conflicts from the other person’s point of view. 

This is often difficult!  But doing it gradually leads to mutual understanding, better communication, and deepening of love and respect.

Remember what it is that you like about the other person.

Keep it in the back of your mind for those moments when you’re angry.

Respect, respect, and more respect.

Try always to treat your partner with respect.  Repeated put-downs can become a habit and mark the beginning of the end of a relationship.

How to Avoid the Big Struggle

Attack and defend, defend and attack.   This can become a habit, a very demoralizing and destructive one.

When you see an argument or fight getting started, try to catch yourself and say to yourself, “Let me try to do this a little differently this time.”  If you usually yell, fall silent.  Or if you usually get quiet, speak up.  If you usually cry, don’t.  Likewise, if you usually rage, try negotiating or listening instead.  Just try to vary your usual way of responding.

Have fun together.

Do it however you want to do it, but make time to have fun. Sounds obvious, but many couples don’t do this.

Try to keep up an active sex life.

Distractibility subverts romance and eroticism, but ADHD and sexuality can absolutely co-exist in a healthy relationship. Learn how to revive intimacy, intrigue, and excitement with your partner in this ADDitude article “When ADHD Disrupts (and Ruins) the Romance” by Dr. Hallowell.

Finally, remember, no relationship is constantly happy, perfect, and blissful.

When times are tough, hang in there with each other.  Get some alone time, but don’t go into hiding.  You need each other.  It is easy to be there for each other in good times, but in hard times, this is when you really need one another.  This is when you just plain do it—whatever it is—for the sake of your partner and for your own sake as well.  Don’t give up.  There is always, always hope.

CLICK HERE to learn more about ADHD and Relationships.

In this Distraction Podcast, Dr. Hallowell sat down with his wife Sue for a heartwarming conversation about his own ADHD and their marriage. Sue doesn’t hold back and gives listeners a clear picture of what it’s like to be the only one in their house without ADHD.

ADHD Effect Marriage Seminar Starts September 16th.  Turn around your struggling relationship with this wonderful seminar, given by ADHD relationship expert, Melissa Orlov.  The seminar lasts 8 weeks, is given by phone, and Hallowell readers get a special discount.  Use the code HALL16 at registration checkout for $30 off.  Get more information at this LINK!

 

Hope’s Up

After what you would have thought was an unthinkable, impossible, can’t-happen-here murder, George Floyd’s death hangs over us all posing, among many other questions, the most important one: what now?

I came of age in the late ‘60’s and early 70’s, an era of protest and reform.  We marched against the Vietnam war, and we protested for civil rights, led by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, both of whom were assassinated.  We made progress, or so we thought, but it turns out the shackles of racism and ignorance are not so easily broken.

I have a friend who emailed me shortly after Floyd’s murder, “When my husband & I immigrated here in 1977 after leaving South Africa because of our anti-apartheid stand, we were looking forward to a new life in a non-racist society.  The long-standing lack of true equality here as reflected in recent events, bring back so many scary reminders of our previous lives with unfettered police violence & police power. Let’s hope that this situation results in some long-standing change & racial justice!”

Let’s hope indeed.  But hope is not a strategy.  Still, the horror we all witnessed as we, so many millions of us, watched one white man wearing a police uniform choke the life out of a hand-cuffed black man as he lay face down on the ground by kneeling on his neck in apparent indifference to the consequences has set off righteous outrage the like of which we desperately need.  We need outrage.  Not violence, not mayhem, not an eye for an eye, but we need outrage. 

And not feckless outrage, the outrage a person might feel over something he or she cannot influence or change.  But outrage that leads us all to take whatever actions we can.  One step I can do is speak through my podcast and write to you all.  Think to yourself what you can do because this is a battle we all need to join.

Start by looking within.  I’ve wondered to myself just exactly what was I thinking when in medical school in New Orleans I would drive by a towering statue of Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle every morning on my way to class.  That it didn’t phase me today makes me feel ashamed.  How could I not have taken exception, if not umbrage, to a statue commemorating a man who led armies whose stated goal was to protect and preserve the most evil, unjust, and shameful institution in our history, slavery?  How could I not have noticed?

But now I, like millions of others, am starting to wake up. Rather than avoid conflict, make peace at any price, I want to stoke and maintain my own outrage, at myself first of all, but at the appalling Doublethink, to use George Orwell’s term, that has allowed me for so many years to look the other way at Lee’s statue, and at the many other bits of racism I commit without even noticing.  It would be hypocritical of me to condemn racism until I root out the racist in myself.

But there’s hope. For me, for you, for this country and the world. I daresay, we may right now in the U.S. be in transformation, ushering in momentous change for the better.  Of course, all the returns are far from in.  But how’s this for an amazing start?  Three bastions of American society, mainstream, universally popular, and as American as proverbial apple pie have stepped up in a major way.

The National Football League has admitted it failed to understand the plight of the black athlete and blacks in America in general. It has endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement.  We wait and hope that an apology to Colin Kaepernick will come next.

NASCAR, as down home and populist an organization as you can find, has banned the Confederate flag from its cars and tracks.

And in country music, Lady Antebellum has dropped Antebellum from its name, becoming just Lady A.

The NFL, NASCAR, and country music—a trifecta at the heart of the American grain.

Here’s, not just hoping, but insisting we keep this movement growing.  How better to give us all what we need most, peace, justice, and love across a nation that’s striving to grow.

I challenge you all to take a risk in the face of injustice. Take a look at what you read, watch on TV,  and listen to on the radio or internet. If they all reside in domains of your own personal makeup, step outside of your bubble and learn from someone or something that looks different from yourself. It’s a small, small step, but a step nonetheless. We all have a responsibility here to:

  • listen,
  • learn, and
  • take action.

So let’s go out and do it.

Warm regards,

Edward “Ned” Hallowell, M.D.

Sharing the following post from our Hallowell Todaro ADHD Centers located in Kirkland, Seattle and Palo, Alto:

Black Lives MatterRacism, Outrage and Grief: Helping Kids Make Sense of it All

By Peggy Gomula and Sally Kidder Davis

The last ten days have been difficult for all of us. Not only are we dealing with the COVID pandemic but we are also witnessing events around the country that are tough to see and talk about.
Children are witnessing scenes on TV and across social media that we have not seen on this scale before. Children are naturally curious and may be asking questions about what they have seen. If finding answers is difficult for adults, imagine what’s going on in the mind of a child.
In our effort to help parents with these difficult conversations we stumbled upon a recent article, “How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism,” in which the authors discuss ways to help children understand the issues of race and racism.

How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism via ParentToolkit.com

There’s no question: talking about race can be sensitive, and yes, even a bit messy.“And “choosing” whether or not to talk to your kids about race is an option many parents, specifically those of color, don’t have; some children may inevitably learn about it by confronting racism in their everyday lives.
This can make the “conversation about race” even trickier, as what is discussed can change depending on a variety of factors, such as a family’s make up, their socioeconomic class, or the community they live in. Therefore, the context will vary, depending on who is talking and what their personal experiences are with race and racism. (Read the full article here.)
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For additional information, check out these resources:

Anti-racism resources

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If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, anger or other issues, The Hallowell Centers are here to help.  We’re offering remote therapy to help you take care of yourself.

Read my blog post on Race and Privilege.

The Big Struggle – ADHD and Family Dynamics

What often develops in families where one child has ADHD (or one adult for that matter) is what I call the Big Struggle. The child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) chronically fails:

  • to meet obligations,
  • do chores,
  • stay up with schoolwork,
  • keep to family schedules.
  • get out of bed on time,
  • arrive home on time,
  • be ready to leave the house on time,
  • keep his or her room tidied and,
  • doesn’t cooperatively participate in family life, and, in general,
  • “get with the program” at home

What Happens When A Child Doesn’t Cooperate?

The behavior described above leads to the big struggle.  The parents set chronic limits with increasingly stringent penalties and increasingly tight limitations on the child. This, in turn, makes the child more defiant, less cooperative, and more alienated. As a result, the parents feel more exasperated with what increasingly appears to be an attitude problem, under voluntary control, rather than the neurological problem of ADHD.

As parents become more fed up with the child’s behavior, they become less sympathetic to whatever excuses or explanations the child may offer. Furthermore, they’re less willing to believe in promises to do better.  This leads to stricter consequences in a usually futile effort to control the child’s behavior. Gradually, the child’s role in the family solidified around being the “problem child.” Consequently, he or she becomes the designated scapegoat for all the family’s conflicts and problems.

The Designated Scapegoat

There’s an old saying about scapegoating that the process requires a mob and a volunteer. In the case of the Big Struggle, the family forms the mob, and the ADHD behavior volunteers the child. Virtually anything that goes wrong in the family gets blamed on the ADHD child. Over time the child is draped with a kind of blanket of derision and scorn that smothers his or her development of confidence and self-esteem.

Quashing the Big Struggle takes work – work on a daily basis. Like weeds, it will come back if allowed to.

Here are some tips on quashing the big struggle:

  1. Get an accurate diagnosis. This is the starting point of all treatment for ADHD.
  2. Educate the family. All members of the family need to learn the facts about ADHD. This is the first step in the treatment. Many problems will take care of themselves once all family members understand what is going on. The education process should take place with the entire family, if possible. Each member of the family will have questions. Make sure all these questions get answered.
  3. Try to change the family “reputation” of the person with ADHD. If you are expected to screw up, you probably will. While if you are expected to succeed, you just might. It may be hard to believe at first, but having ADHD can be more of a gift than a curse.
  4. Make it clear that ADHD is nobody’s fault. First of all, it is not Mom’s or Dad’s fault. Furthermore, it is not brother’s, sister’s or the grandparents fault. Finally, it is not the fault of the person who has ADHD. It is nobody’s fault.  This is extremely important for the whole family to understand.
  5. Give everyone in the family a chance to be heard. ADHD affects everyone in the family; some silently. Try to let those who are in silence speak.
  6. Try to break the negative process and turn it into a positive one. Applaud and encourage success when it happens. Try to get everyone pointed toward positive goals, rather than gloomily assuming the inevitability of negative outcomes.
  7. Make it clear who is responsible for what in the family. Everybody needs to know what is expected of him or her. Everybody needs to know what the rules are and what the consequences are.

Learn more about balancing ADHD and the family, finding professional support, and how separating the person from the problem can help your family dynamic in my ADDitude article on: Make It A Family Affair.

 

Race and Privilege

In this Distraction episode on Race and Privilege, I discuss the attack and murder of George Floyd and racism. I also acknowledge I am a privileged white man. Certainly a part of the problem. Even though I like to think I’m not part of the problem, but part of the solution, Yet, I have without doubt in unconscious ways, continued the problem. So I ask:

“What can we do about it?”

Listen Now

 

 

I’m resolving to do everything I can moving forward in my own life, to rectify the situation. To build as many bridges as I can. I hope you will join me in reaching out and building bridges. Let’s get to know one another. Let’s have a little dialogue so we can understand what needs to be done.  Together we can turn the terrible murder of George Floyd into something redeeming, enlightening, uplifting and transforming.  Please join me in reaching out and building bridges.

Read the article referred to in this episode: A conversation: Retired African American MLB players on race, baseball, America

Read my blog on Hope Up’s about our responsibility to listen, learn and take action.

Talking to Your Children About Racism

It is critically important that we talk to our children about racism, the death of George Floyd, race and privilege, and the protests and violence that have spread across the country. Read these articles on:

Want to help?

Support the Black Lives Matter Movement with a donation to one of the organizations below:

The Racial Inequity of ADHD Treatment

Evidence shows that people of color — Black and Latino in particular — are much less likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD,) even though they show symptoms at the same rate as white people. Furthermore, when a person isn’t diagnosed, he isn’t as likely to receive the treatment that can change the arc of his life. Treatment to help him manage everything from schoolwork to relationships to career. Certainly these are critical areas where people of color often face already-strong disadvantages. Learn why this is happening and what needs to be done to fix it in this ADDitude Magazine article on Children Left Behind.

ADHD Students and Remote Learning

Many students with ADHD or other learning challenges struggle in the classroom. With the sudden shift to remote learning, ADHD students face the additional challenge of classroom instruction in the home environment. Distractions at home and the presence of parents, siblings, or guardians pose increased difficulties.  However, by tapping into the strengths of children with ADHD, Dr. Hallowell shows how teachers can find ways to support these children and accomplish everyone’s learning goals.

In his webinar on Supporting Students with ADHD During Remote Learning, Dr. Hallowell reviews how ADHD affects academic achievement. He also offers suggestions on the best practices and strategies for schools to use to promote creativity and achievement.

Dr. Hallowell also addresses remote learning in his podcast, How One Teacher is Streamlining Digital Learning.  In this episode, he shares some of what he learned in a recent conversation with Tasha Otenti, a teacher at Milton Academy in Massachusetts. Now that distance learning is the new normal for students and teachers are making big adjustments to meet their needs, they discuss how she’s adapted her teaching style to accommodate distance learning.

ADHD and Students

Dr. Hallowell has worked with children and adults who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) since he was diagnosed with ADHD himself back in 1981.  Learning about ADHD and educating the general public has been one of his life’s major missions. Teachers have always been one of his favorite audiences because teachers saved him from what could have been a disastrous outcome when he was growing up.  So he knows firsthand the enormous power that teachers wield to change lives dramatically for the better.

He also knows that teachers devote countless hours ensuring that lesson instructions are designed to meet the needs of each child. However, the needs of students with ADHD often do not fit neatly into recognized learning styles. Yet, many teachers have not been professionally trained to recognize or address these specific needs.

How Mining Magnificent Minds (MMM) – ADHD for Teachers Can Help

Dr. Hallowell created Mining Magnificent Minds to provide teachers with all they really need to know to bring out the best in every student who has ADHD.  MMM is a series of original, online videos intended to deepen educators’ understanding of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; sharpen their skills for working with students with ADHD; and provide them with the tools to “unwrap the gifts” that lie inherent of every child.  This program is also a helpful tool for parents.  

Click here to watch the Module#1 and learn more.

Learn more aboutMMM HERE.

Then if you’d like to purchase MMM, use this LINK TO PURCHASE all 10 videos at a special $15 discount for Dr. Hallowell’s subscribers. ($49.95 less $15 = $34.95) NOTE: You’ll receive an email with a link to download all videos within 24 hours of purchasing.

Learn about managing ADHD in the classroom with Dr. Hallowell’s 10 tips HERE. 

If you’d like to have Dr. Hallowell speak at your school, learn more HERE.