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ADHD in the News – Meds Don’t Mean Better Grades

July 12, 2013

ADHD Meds and GradesNew study shows that kids who take ADHD meds don’t get better grades over time.

Makes perfect sense to me since meds alone are not enough to overcome and compensate for the challenges that ADHD puts in our path.

Meds are not magic!

They can do amazing things like help us focus, help us pay attention, make it easier to control everything from our 100 mph brains to our tapping feet to our impulsive behavior.  They can make it possible to do amazing things no one ever thought we could.

But, they can’t do any of that without the other piece of the puzzle.

The reason that kids with ADHD who take medication, on average, don’t get better grades is because they need to learn how to do all those things that don’t come naturally to them but that are made possible by the medication.

  • Meds make it possible for me to focus on one thing for a long period of time.
  • Meds do not also prioritize my tasks so that I am focusing on the RIGHT one thing for a long period of time.
  • Meds make it possible for me to consciously choose where I am going to focus.
  • Meds do not also make me choose the RIGHT thing to focus on.

Meds are not magic, but they are effective if:

– It is the right medication.

– It is the right dose.

– You have realistic expectations of what meds will do.

– You have the skills you need to do the things that the meds make it possible to do.

Medication isn’t the answer, but it is part of the solution to effectively managing ADHD.

 

Turning Leaf Life Coaching offers coaching for ADHD and Life Transitions worldwide over the phone and in person throughout NH, ME, MA, and VT.  For more information, go to www.turningleafcoaching.com.

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ADHD in the News – The Impact of Meds on Substance Abuse

July 12, 2013

For years the ADHD community has believed, based on research, that taking ADHD medication as part of a treatment plan helped protect kids from substance abuse later in life.  New research has unfortunately shown this not to be the case.

A new study conducted at UCLA used previous results from 15 studies that involved more than 2,000 children with ADHD.  These children were monitored from childhood into young adulthood and the data shows that taking medication does not decrease the likelihood that someone with ADHD will have a substance abuse problem.

In fact, taking medication doesn’t impact the likelihood of future substance abuse at all.  Meaning, the risk is the same whether medication is taken or not.

Despite disproving a long held belief, this is still good news because it also shows that people with ADHD who DO take medication are not more likely to have substance abuse problems than those who don’t.  For parents who are concerned about giving their child stimulant medication, this may alleviate some of their concern.

Turning Leaf Life Coaching offers coaching for ADHD and Life Transitions worldwide.  For more information, go to www.turningleafcoaching.com.

This Just In…..Sneezing Causes Allergies

July 11, 2013

ADHD Doesn't Cause AllergiesI spend a lot of time reading about ADHD.  I read news articles, blogs, research studies, books, and pretty much anything I can get my hands on.  I try to keep an open mind and make room in my world view for information and even opinions that are contrary to what I believe or that put ADHD in a negative light.  For obvious reasons, this can be very challenging.

I live in a house full of ADHD and am part of a family where we have chosen to see ADHD as just another thing about us, not a disability or a disorder.  I work with lots of ADHDers and spend a lot of time and energy helping other people see that ADHD is a lot of things but it doesn’t have to be only the bad things.

So, I know I can become defensive when presented with some study, opinion, or article that contradicts my world view – I am only human afterall, even with my ADHD superpowers.

However, I read an article recently that troubled me and I can’t seem to let it go.   I will never understand why so many people are so invested in making ADHD about anything other than having a brain that works differently.  Perhaps those who have it see that in a negative way and those who don’t have it don’t want it to be something good, since they didn’t get to have it.

Whatever the reason, I find that there is a huge amount of effort expended just trying to pin down something that in my world, we already have the answer to – what causes ADHD.

The article I am referring to looked at the relationship between sleep and ADHD symptoms.  It found that many children showed ADHD-like symptoms when they are sleep deprived and therefore concluded that ADHD must be caused by sleep deprivation.  Well, perhaps the study the article was referencing didn’t go that far but the headline of the article inferred that sleep deprivation causes ADHD.

Now, I have several problems with this, the least of which being that there is no case for causality simply because two things are happening concurrently.  But more importantly, if difficulty sleeping, which happens to cause sleep deprivation, is a well known and generally accepted SYMPTOM of ADHD, how can it also be the cause of ADHD?

And, most importantly, why doesn’t the article mention this or take this into account.

I had the same problem with this study that determined that since children with ADHD were more likely to have parents that smoked than those without ADHD that second hand smoke caused ADHD.  Even a rudimentary understanding of ADHD makes it clear why causation cannot be inferred in this case.  People with ADHD are more likely to smoke than those without it for several reasons including self-medicating and impulse control issues.  Additionally, children of people with ADHD are more likely to have ADHD than children whose parents do not have it.  Therefore, children with ADHD are more likely to have parents who smoke than children who do not have it.  But this does not mean that second hand smoke causes ADHD.  This study also failed to recognize that smoking can be a symptom of ADHD or that there is strong evidence supporting the idea that ADHD is hereditary.

To me, both of these are like saying that sneezing causes allergies since  people with allergies are more likely to sneeze than people who don’t have them.

Maybe if sleep deprivation causes ADHD all I really need is a good night’s sleep.  If only this crazy brain of mine would shut off long enough for me to find out….

Why this ADHD Mom Loves Gadgets

July 3, 2013

Star Trek ADHDThere was an article this week on Mashable that asked the question “Are Kids with Gadgets More Likely to Have ADHD?” and in my world, the answer is a most emphatic yes!  But unlike the article, I do not believe my children have ADHD because of their gadgets just like I don’t believe that my husband and I, who both have ADHD as well, got it from the gadgets of our time – the walkman, the atari, and the original remote control.

While there is definitely a case to be made that our society seems to be developing an attention span problem, that the diagnosis rate of ADHD is going up, and that both of these are happening in the age of gadgetry, I don’t think you can lump them all together and say there are cause and effect relationships amongst and across them.

Our societal attention span is decreasing because we have 7,000 television channels, a library worth of books, music libraries containing 10,000 songs, and well, every piece of information available on the planet that isn’t classified by some government available at the stoke of a key or the swipe of a finger.  I imagine it was a lot easier to pay attention for longer periods of time when the whole family had a single candle and the bible to keep them busy when the sun went down.   It wasn’t so long ago that you had to go to the library to get a book, you had to use an encyclopedia to do your homework, your music collection was limited to the amount of physical space in your house allocated to it, and you always cringed when you heard the President was on TV because there were only 3 channels and he was on all of them.

If there is any root cause of our societal attention problems, access to information is more to blame than the gadgets we use to access it.

The diagnosis rate for ADHD is increasing but I will always believe that is a good thing.  For starters, ADHD is a first world problem, meaning, you have to have solved most of the big problems like having enough to eat, clean water to drink, and a safe place to sleep before you care whether or not your child can sit still for 7 hours in school.  Second, I believe the reason the diagnosis rate is going up is that we understand the condition better and kids who would have previously fallen through the cracks don’t anymore.

When you consider the statistics, especially when ADHD is undiagnosed into adulthood, I would rather have 1 in 5 kids be misdiagnosed as having it than have 1 in 5 who has it not get diagnosed at all.

So, that leaves the gadgets.  The article on Mashable does a decent job of explaining how video games and the ADHD brain work together to make it possible for a family like mine to actually have dinner in a public place.  Don’t get me wrong, my children are actually very well behaved, even when they aren’t medicated and especially when you consider they both have ADHD.  But there are things that gadgets give people like us that people who are not like us will never understand.  So, dopamine and intermittent rewards aside, here is the number 1 reason why I am thankful us ADHDers have gadgets and why you should be thankful for it too.

When you live 4 seconds at a time, it takes FOREVER for your waitress to bring dinner.

 When you have one hungry child who is incapable of patiently waiting for something that feels like it will never happen, you can likely use conversation and other tactics to keep the peace.  When you have two hungry children, well, sometimes playing word games like the Pokemon Alphabet game or giving them math problems to solve in their head works as long as the waitress is fast.  But when you have four hungry people with no patience and nothing to occupy their 100mph brains –  20 minutes is an eternity.

If it’s a good day, we may be able to keep ourselves busy joking around with each other, passionately discussing physics, or planning for the zombie apocalypse.  But even on a good day, odds are that we will be too loud and boisterous not to distract you from your dinner.

If it is not a good day, well, let’s just say there is a reason the family’s favorite place to eat is the Red Apple  Buffet where no one ever has to wait for their food to arrive.

Turning Leaf Life Coaching offers coaching for ADHD and Life Transitions worldwide over the phone and in person throughout NH, ME, MA, and VT.  For more information, go to www.turningleafcoaching.com.

I Would Never Have Known I Was Fat if it Wasn’t for My Wii

May 12, 2013

ADHD and MiiWell, that isn’t actually true.  I believe I realized it right around the time that I stopped allowing people to take pictures of me on any kind of regular basis.  This of course has had the added benefit of allowing me to remain 29ish for more than a decade, at least so far as could be proved with photographic evidence.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t always fat, and yes I have the pictures to prove it.  But I can tell you exactly when I started thinking that using words like voluptuous and curvy might help men overlook the fact that there was more of me than there should be.  Coincidentally, it was also the time that my ADHD began to have the most significant impact on various areas of my life.  And it was around the time that I went from being super-active (not to be confused with hyperactive) to barely active at all.  That might seem like a lot of change all at once but I am not kidding when I tell you it all happened almost overnight.  Well not the fat part, that took time, but the changes in me that would take me from being a normal-size person to a being a plus-sized person happened in the blink of an eye and were so subtle, it would be years before I would be aware of them at all.

It all goes back to college.  In high school I was a three sport athlete that spent hours on the field before hitting the gym to teach aerobics on the side.  In college, I was a party-loving sorority girl that sometimes remembered to go to class.  In high school, I was so active I never really had to pay attention to what I ate.  In college, I kept eating that way which included nightly trips to the snack bar for mozzarella sticks and buying steak and cheese subs from D’Angelo’s with my meal points.  With that picture in mind it won’t be hard to imagine that my Freshman 15 was handily followed by the Sophomore 20 and even the half-of-Junior year 20 more.  By the time I decided to take some time off to get my priorities straight, no only was I barely getting the grades required to remain enrolled, I had gained almost 60 pounds…and started smoking.

When I look back now, I can see the devious thread of ADHD weaving through that time in my life and leaving me rapidly unraveling.  It is only now however, with 20 years of experience and understanding that I can tell you with certainty that I am fat in large part because I have ADHD.

Now before you start thinking I am using it as an excuse, I didn’t say that ADHD made me fat.  That would be an excuse.  I said I am fat because I have ADHD which is an entirely different thing, and here is why.

I am fat because:

  • I have trouble remembering that I am fat
  • I have even more trouble remembering to do things like keep track of my food
  • If I do remember to track my food, I have trouble remembering what I ate because much of the time I eat on auto-pilot
  • Eating on auto-pilot makes it difficult to change your eating habits since that requires that you pay some kind of attention to what you are putting in your mouth
  • Eating on auto-pilot is also how you eat an entire box of cookies without realizing it
  • Sometimes I want to eat a whole box of cookies at once, on purpose, and it is really hard NOT to do that once my brain gets all interested and realizes it is possible
  • My brain is REALLY good at rationalizing away things like calories, fat grams, and cankles when there is a box of cookies on the line – I mean, it is just this once and I really haven’t eaten much today
  • Rationalization is probably bad when you have a neurotypical brain but when you have a brain like mine, forget about it – if I had a dollar for every time I overindulged “just this once” because I was convinced that it had been a really long time since the last time (regardless of the actual amount of time that had passed) I would have a lot more money to buy cookies….I mean new clothes when I finally lose this weight.
  • When you have an ADHD brain like me it is almost impossible to use future rewards, like the cute skinny clothes mentioned above, as an incentive to change current behavior…..There is NOW and NOT NOW and right now, there are cookies
  • While most people would assume that I eat too much, that is not the case all the time
  • In fact, I frequently forget to eat at all – thanks Adderall!
  • While this was super-awesome in the beginning and resulted in me swiftly dropping 20 pounds, the end result it that my body, which should really know better by this point, thinks I am starving and in an effort to be helpful it stores everything I eat as fat.
  • I know this because of a visit to a helpul nutritionist who explained to me in detail how bad it is to skip meals because she wasn’t buying that I forget to eat.
  • When I forget to eat, it will eventually catch up to me all at once and I will eat enough for a whole day in a very short time because I am STARVING instantly and may even feel faint or dizzy
  • This behavior is very similar to an eating disorder called Binge Eating…however, I think in order to have an eating disorder you have to pay a lot more attention to food than I do….I have a not-eating disorder, it is called ADD.
  • Every once and awhile I do actually remember that I am fat which means I have spent the better part of the last two decades trying not to be fat anymore which, after trying all the different diets and weight loss programs, has really only made me fatter.
  • Well, that isn’t exactly true, most of them work….for awhile
  • I am really really good at losing weight for about 6-8 weeks
  • This is because learning new things, even diet programs, is fun and interesting to my brain and when things are fun and interesting, I am unstoppable
  • Unfortunately, most diet and weight loss programs lose their fun and interesting-ness after about 6-8 weeks.

So, where does that leave me?

Over the course of the 20 years since I stopped being able to buy clothes at Express, I have binged, dieted, starved, lost, gained, and not exercised my body until my metabolism was so messed up the aforementioned nutritionist actually told me that I needed to eat more, not less if I wanted to lose weight in order to convince my body it is not in fact starving so it will stop storing and start burning.

Yay me!

If you think about it though, it makes perfect sense.  I take speed to slow my brain down, why wouldn’t I have to eat more to lose weight.  If only I could figure out what I had to do in order to make a billion dollars….

The point is this….losing weight is hard, no matter who you are.  Being fat is easy, even if you take Adderall.  But having ADHD makes the hard one even harder and the easy one much much easier.  While it was all those mozarella sticks, steak and cheese subs, and cookies that got me to the place where the video game in my living room feels the need to alert me every day that I am obese…..my ADHD is what keeps me here.

Turning Leaf Life Coaching offers coaching for ADHD and Life Transitions worldwide .  For more information, go to www.turningleafcoaching.com.

Dinnertime Dilemmas in My ADD Life

April 17, 2013

dinnertime in my ADD life

I always thought I was the only one who struggled with dinner time, but after reading these tips from ADDitude, my dinnertime dilemma makes perfect sense.

Here are the biggest struggles we have and how we have (or haven’t) solved them.

1. No One Has an Opinion

This happens every time I ask what the various males in my house want for dinner.

  • My husband never has any ideas because for him being asked this question immediately makes anything related to dinner hide in the back of his brain.  We think he has a bit of decision making paralysis – because there are so many options and possibilities, his brain just checks out and he can’t think of any.
  • My children will either respond with the one meal they each always choose – Tacos for one, ChiliMac for the other or they will claim they don’t care.

Obviously, this means that all of the meal planning falls to me, which is overwhelming and exhausting.  Without an intervention, our dinner menu would consist of Tacos, ChiliMac, Sandwiches, and Breakfast.  If you noticed that none of those contain any sort of vegetation, you would be correct.

So, we obviously needed to do something different.

We have used various systems over the course of the years but the two that have worked the best (which really means we kind of use them and mostly follow them which is absolute success in our house).  The first is the dinner jar which is a glass jar with slips of paper that list everyone’s favorite meals plus every other meal I know how to make.  Under the dinner jar system, I would pick out 7 dinners before I went grocery shopping and buy whatever we needed for those dinners.  This definitely helped with the indecision problem listed above but it never solved our other dinnertime dilemmas.

2. Until Everyone Does

Invariably, with the dinner jar menu, we would end up having things that no one really liked and everyone would go from “I don’t care” to “I don’t care as long as it is not (insert whatever we are supposed to be having for dinner here)”.  I realized that for some of my ADHDers, this was a type of transition problem.  They didn’t know it ahead of time and didn’t respond well to having some weird meal thrust upon them at the last minute.

3. Tacos….Again?

Apparently, even in a family that loves tacos more than just about anything else, there is such a thing as too many tacos.  Unfortunately, when you have a Mom like me whose memory for important things like what I planned to make for dinner this week is akin to cheese from Switzerland, these things can happen.  The dinner jar was great for picking options and buying ingredients, but when it came to remembering that in order to have chili tonight I needed to pull out the ground chicken in the morning and then remember all day that I was making chili so that I could remember to start it when I got home, it was not helpful.  So it was back to the old standbys of Tacos and sandwiches more than it wasn’t.

So, we needed another solution.

What is working for us now will probably seem extreme for most people, but often ADHD organizational systems do seem that way to NTs.  But it is working so I will keep it until it stops working, and then I will find a different way.

I plan all our meals and do most of our shopping a month at  a time.  I find grocery shopping incredibly overwhelming so this also helps decrease the number of times I have to do it.  It has also helped us cut our grocery bill way down because we aren’t impulse buying things every other day. Here is how it works:

  1. At the start of the month, I start filling in our dinner calendar (dry erase calendar board) with family favorites (including tacos).  Then I pull new recipes that I have saved in a folder in my office and add them in.  Everyone gets a chance to look it over before I finalize it.
  2. I make my list in two parts.  Anything that I can buy now which includes anything that will last the month or can be frozen goes on the first list.  Produce and other things that have a shorter shelf life for the first two weeks go on the first list and for the second two weeks go on the second list.
  3. I shop for the first list at the beginning of the month and then get whatever is still needed from the second later in the month.
  4. The calendar is on the refrigerator where I see it all the time which helps avoid transition problems and generally helps me remember to pull things out of the freezer.

On average, we follow the calendar about 60% of the time but that’s ok because over the course of the month, we actually eat what we planned about 90% of the time.  Since we have everything on hand for almost a month of meals, we can be flexible when we need it and that doesn’t cause us to bust our grocery budget.

Unfortunately, we still have one more dinnertime dilemma that no system has fixed.

4. Crap….How is it already 7:00?

Yes, time insensitivity is a big problem in my house, especially amongst the adults.  Even though I work at home and have set a goal of eating before 7:00 PM every night, it rarely works out that way.  There are just too many other interesting things to do and before I realize it is time to start dinner, we should have already eaten.  While I don’t love the fact that we often eat at 8:00 or 8:30 PM, I can at least comfort myself with the fact that I do cook dinner every night and at least the majority of the time, there is something that was once a vegetable on everyone’s plates.

Sometimes you have to take the small wins!

Do you have any suggestions for how we can solve our last dinnertime dilemma?  We would love to hear them!

Turning Leaf Life Coaching offers coaching for ADHD and Life Transitions worldwide over the phone and in person throughout NH, ME, MA, and VT.  For more information, go to www.turningleafcoaching.com.

Top Life Coach Blogs to Follow

March 22, 2013

Top 100 Life coach blogs to follow