Your Racing ADHD Brain

In his ADDitude Magazine article on “How to Slow Down Your Racing ADHD Brain,” Dr. Hallowell says, “Telling someone with ADHD to slow down is like telling the sun not to shine and the tide not to rise. The love of speed is built into our DNA. If our bodies are not moving a mile a minute, our minds are, ideas popping up like popcorn at the movies.”🍿

Your Racing ADHD Brain and the Need For Speed

We get off on speed, and we abhor slowing down. I hate it when I’m in the checkout line at the supermarket, and I get stuck behind a person who wants to pay with a check. Oh, the agony. Producing identification, the cashier writing it down, the customer putting it away, all of which seems to take forever. I stand and stew. People with ADHD can be impatient, and to use such time imaginatively would require something we don’t have: patience.

Read more and get practical tips from Dr. Hallowell on slowing down your ADHD brain in ADDitude.

Dr. Hallowell’s “Race Car Brain” analogy:

The current medical model for ADHD is deficit-based, as the name itself demonstrates: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  While the medical model is preferable to its predecessor, which I call the “moral model” by which a child was labeled “bad,” “wayward,” “lazy,” or even “incorrigible,” the medical model slaps a pathological diagnosis upon the child, and a pretty miserable-sounding one at that.

Who wants to have a “deficit disorder”?  How much enthusiasm can you expect someone to muster to deal with that?  It is no wonder that many children reject the diagnosis and refuse to accept the label.  They’d prefer to fail on their own then cop to a plea of “deficit disorder” to get the help they need.

Instead, I recommend embracing a strength-based model, a model that acknowledges while there is a potentially serious downside to ADHD, there also is a potentially spectacular upside to it as well.

Dr. Hallowell’s Strength-based model:

The model I use when I present the diagnosis to children is as follows. I say to whomever it is I am giving the diagnosis of ADHD, “I have great news for you.”  At that the child, and his parents, look up, as this is not what they’d been expecting to hear. 

“I’ve learned a lot about you,” I go on.  “I’ve taken your history, and I’ve read what your various teachers have had to say about you.  As you know, we’ve also done some tests.  After putting all this information together, I’m now able to tell you that you have an awesome brain.”

“Your brain is very powerful.  Your brain is like a Ferrari, a race car.  You have the power to win races and become a champion.”  “However,” I continue, “you do have one problem.  You have bicycle brakes.  Your brakes just aren’t strong enough to control the powerful brain you’ve got.  So, you can’t slow down or stop when you need to.  Your mind goes off wherever it wants to go, instead of staying on track.  But not to worry, I am a brake specialist, and if you work with me, we can strengthen your brakes.”

Strengthening Brakes

Which is true.  Treating ADHD is all about strengthening brakes.  The inhibitory systems in the brain, which is to say the brakes, do not work well enough to control it. So, it can’t inhibit incoming stimuli, hence is distractible, nor can it inhibit outgoing impulses, hence is impulsive and hyperactive.

But consider also that each of those negative symptoms has a corresponding positive one.  The flip side of distractibility is curiosity, a valuable quality indeed.  The flip side of impulsivity is creativity, a hugely valuable asset.  You can’t be creative if you aren’t somewhat disinhibited.  And the flip side of hyperactivity is a quality I’m grateful at my age to have.  It’s called energy.

As a brake specialist, I can help these children, and their adult counterparts, strengthen their brakes.

I advocate embracing the strength-based model.  I believe this is so important.  When a child is disruptive you can simply say, “Joey, your brakes are failing you now.”  This sets a limit, but it does so in a non-shaming way.  Joey has already had it explained to him that he has a race car brain with bicycle brakes, and he has already accepted you, the parent, as someone who is going to help him strengthen his brakes.

Other interventions you can make in your child’s environment:

  • setting up predictable schedules and rules;
  • breaking down large tasks into small ones;
  • balancing structure with novelty, so that when your child gets overstimulated you introduce structure, and
  • when your child gets bored you introduce novelty;
  • making sure your child gets play time and frequent “brain breaks.”

Most importantly, make sure your child knows you love him or her and are on his side (or hers).  Make sure you and your child understand ADHD in the same way: race car brain, bicycle brakes.

Just embrace the strength-based model and use it every day.  Helping your ADHD child excel takes a lot of time and energy.  But your energy is much better spent if you think of ADHD not as a disability but as a gift to unwrap.

Dr. Hallowell describes his “race car” brain analogy is this VIDEO.

Learn more about ADHD for parents, HERE

and ADHD for Adults HERE.

Reframing ADHD

I have ADHD and I’m proud of it. My daughter and one of my sons have ADHD. I think that people with ADHD represent some of the most fascinating, fun, and fulfilling of all the people I meet. However, words such as structure, supervision, reminders, and persistence don’t even begin to describe the magnitude of the task people with ADHD have to tackle every day, especially kids.

People with ADHD need their families and friends to understand their difficulties. If you know someone with ADHD, the best way to help is to start by changing your own thinking about ADHD.

When explaining ADHD to a child, I say, “you have a turbo charged mind – like a Ferrari engine, but the brakes of a bicycle, and I’m the brake expert.” When ADHD is properly treated, children and adults can achieve great heights: doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, dreamers, innovators, explorers and even Harvard grads. Founders of our country may have had ADHD. The flip-side of distractibility is curiosity.

By far, the biggest barriers for understand ADHD are denial, ignorance, and a refusal to learn. So you need to learn what ADHD is and what it isn’t. Perhaps the single most powerful treatment for ADHD is understanding ADHD in the first place. You need to understand what a positive attribute ADHD can be.

You can learn how to break down the positive aspects of ADHD by watching my TV interview with WBZ | CBS Boston below:

Dr. Hallowell
Dr. Hallowell

Reframe Challenges in terms of Mirror Traits 

Remind yourself  of the positive sides of the negative symptoms associated with ADD. By recognizing the mirror traits, you avoid the ravages of shame and fear.

ADHD chart

DIAGNOSING ADHD

As we discussed in my WBZ interview, ADHD is being diagnosed more frequently today than it was a generation ago. As clinicians nowadays, we know a lot more about how the brain works and have far better diagnostic tools to work with. Despite all these advances, however, there is still no simple, “one-size-fits-all,” definitive test that can determine if a person, whether child or adult, has ADHD. It’s the individual’s own story – what psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers refer to as “the history” – that makes or breaks the diagnosis of ADHD.
If you missed my ADHD podcast on The Downsides of Untreated ADHD, LISTEN HERE.

8 things I Wish Teachers knew about my ADHD child

When he eventually became depressed — common for kids with ADHD — I made it my mission to ensure Nick’s teachers knew what interventions were working at home and what could help at school. Here’s what I’ve learned, and what I think every teacher should understand, too.

Some classroom interventions are helpful and others only make things worse. Parents can be a valuable resource.

Read More in the Boston Globe.

Dr. Hallowell’s ADHD Tips for Teachers

If the teacher can master the following tips, teaching students with ADHD should become much easier and more effective. These students can transform over the school year. They can change from being your most frustrating students to your most rewarding.

The following tips on classroom management of ADHD were presented in Driven to Distraction. They are revised, updated, and reprinted here because we have heard from many teachers that they have found them to be very helpful.

Learn more with the 10 tips on the classroom management of ADHD.

Learn about Dr. Hallowell’s online ADHD videos, designed to help teachers effectively manage ADHD in the classroom HERE.

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

Burned out? Learn how to take back control!

Screens are sucking up so much of our time that people aren’t able to do what they really want, said Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist who lives in Arlington and runs centers focusing on ADHD in Sudbury and around the country. This can put people in “survival mode,” making them impulsive, angry, inflexible, humorless, and unproductive.

“It’s exhausting to live a disconnected life that doesn’t have meaning,” he said. “Now more than ever . . . you have to be able to say no. You have to be able to say, ‘I’ll get back to you on that.’ ” The Boston Globe

Learn more tips on how to “feel less busy” here.

Get Dr. Hallowell’s “10 Tips on Managing Your Time” here.

How to Explain ADHD to a Child

ADHD isn’t a death sentence. In fact, it’s a condition that can bring incredible gifts. Pointers for professionals and parents on how to explain ADHD to a child in a way that emphasizes strengths and builds confidence.

“In my 30-plus years, I have learned that the moment of delivering the ADHD diagnosis ranks among the most crucial. It can determine the arc of a person’s life.” | Read more from Dr. Ned Hallowell on explaining ADHD with positivity →

 

Your ADHD Brain is a Ferrari

My goal is to help people master the power of ADHD while avoiding its pitfalls. When the diagnosis of ADHD emphasizes what is wrong with a person, that person immediately starts to see himself in those negative terms. Shame, fear and self-doubt grow. However, when the treatment of ADHD begins with an effort to find what’s good in a person by using a strength-based approach to ferret out their hidden strengths and emphasizes what is positive, then the person sees himself in a positive light.  

When explaining ADHD to a child, I say, “you have a turbo charged mind – like a Ferrari engine, but the brakes of a bicycle, and I’m the break expert.”   When ADHD is properly treated, the person can achieve great heights: doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, dreamers, innovators, explorers and even Harvard grads.   Founders of our country may have had ADHD. The flip-side of distractibility is curiosity.  

Read my ADDitude article “Your Brain is a Ferrari,” to learn more and watch my “RaceCar Brain” video below:

If you just found out your child has ADHD, learn more HERE.

Dr. Hallowell Family Lessons

I have a Crazy Family… and you may too. In fact, many, many people come from “crazy”. Listen to this great podcast with me and Dr Charles Parker on Corebrain Podcast. We discuss the lessons I learned from my family, my challenging childhood and why I became a Psychiatrist.

What to learn more about my strange childhood marked by what I call the “WASP triad” of alcoholism, mental illness, and politeness?  Read my Memoir: “Because I Come From A Crazy Family: The Making of A Psychiatrist.”

Erasing Stigma of ADHD, Dyslexia, Depression, etc.

KUOW interviewed Dr. Hallowell and Lesley Todaro, Hallowell Todaro Center, about erasing the stigma around the word “crazy,” the relationship between ADHD and creativity, and talking to kids about ADHD.

“Most people who have exceptional talent have one or another of the conditions we diagnosis, whether it’s anxiety disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, major depression, substance abuse,” says Hallowell. “It’s rare to find someone who has major talent who doesn’t wrestle with one or another of those conditions.”

CLICK HERE to read more and listen to KUOW’s interview on “Why Ned Hallowell wants to celebrate craziness.

If you miss ADDitude’s online webinar “From Shame and Stigma to Pride and Truth: It’s Time to Celebrate ADHD Differences,” with  ADHD experts Dr. Hallowell and Dr. Dodson, no worries. Thanks to ADDitude, you can LISTEN HERE and learn how to celebrate your ADHD.

Mental Illness Swam In My Genes…

Giulia Rhodes, The Guardian recently interviewed Dr. Hallowell about his Memoir.  In her article, Mental Illness Swam In My Genes…, she asked him why he wanted to become a psychiatrist. Dr. Hallowell replied:  “I wanted to become a psychiatrist because I wanted to understand my people in particular and crazy people in general.”   The “selfish desire”, he says, was always to save his family: “There was a drive to repair families, repair my own – though it was too late for that, of course.”

Read more HERE!

 

8 things I wish teachers knew about my child with ADHD

Dr. Hallowell is a featured expert on this important subject.

Of all the problems your kid could have, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder seems relatively benign. But the potential long-term consequences of ADHD are scary.

One parent made it her mission to ensure her son’s teachers knew what interventions were working at home and what could help at school. Here’s what she has learned, and what she thinks every teacher should understand, too.

To read the full story, visit: www.BostonGlobe.com.

If you’d like to learn more about ADHD for Teachers, CLICK HERE!