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Appreciating the ADHD Mind

ADHD symbol design isolated on white backgroundThere are some scary statistics being reported out there, like these from a 2014 study on ADHD. Don’t panic. These studies don’t mean you or someone you love with ADHD is destined for education or economic ruin. Instead, they highlight the importance of appreciating the ADHD mind and the importance of best fit. They guide us on what not to force onto these youngsters and young adults, many of whom are active boys and men. For example, sitting long hours tethered to desks, being lectured without opportunities to learn by doing – and worst of all – not encouraging motion in one’s work life – is pure misery for the ADHD mind. Fit is essential. Squeezing the more fluid, novelty-seeking ADHD mind into our ever-narrowing one-size-fits-all schools and offices won’t cut it.

ADHD minds were designed to work best when incorporating movement, being outdoors, shifting tasks frequently, being creative, and to literally build, make, and do real things. The ADHD mind wants to experience life directly, in the here and now, and needs the freedom to roam onto unanticipated paths.

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Liar Liar Pants on Fire?

Girl crossing her fingers

Girl crossing her fingers

A mom asked about her child’s fibbing and tendency to exaggerate. She wanted to know what she should do.

When this happens in my office, I tend to stop the conversation and say something like:

“I’m struggling with something right now… and I need your help. I know that sometimes people don’t tell the truth or they say things in an exaggerated way to try to impress others or to avoid getting in trouble.”

Then I wait and see if they respond. Even if they don’t, pausing helps impress upon them that this is a problem that others shouldn’t excuse.

Then I might say, “and I’m uncomfortable right now. I don’t feel that what I’m hearing from you is truthful or it’s an exaggeration. Is what your saying one of those? Could you be exaggerating?”

At this point, kids/teens will be more honest, especially if you are not angry or threatening them with a punishment. If they continue to fib, cut the conversation short and say “Well, I want to keep talking and listening, but it makes me feel foolish if the other person is just making stuff up. Why don’t we take a break and we can talk more later on when we can have a more honest conversation.”


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Check this list before rushing to diagnosis

ADHD symbol design isolated on white backgroundA dad recently contacted me with concerns about his son getting fast-tracked into an ADHD diagnosis and starting medication. I told him to make certain that he’s reviewed my checklist below of the common things that can mask as ADHD symptoms and easily lead a child into a wrong diagnosis.

(At School)

– Teachers who aren’t sensitive to or don’t have experience working with active boys

– Heavy language-based education and not enough hands-on tasks

– Few motor breaks throughout the class day and short to no-recess time to release the normal high activity needs of many boys

– Boys who are younger than their peers, even by a few weeks or months, often get accidentally diagnosed as having ADHD – they’re just less mature and will catch up

(At Home)

– Food additives and preservatives have been indicated in hyperactivity

– Allergies can exacerbate behavior issues

– Exposure to lead paint and other neurotoxins

– Hearing or vision problems

– An undiagnosed learning disability

– High screen/tv exposure

– Lack of sleep

– Anxiety

– Marital discord and any other family based stresses that make kids feel insecure or anxious are notorious for masking as ADHD

There are so many things that can influence a child’s attentional skills and his ability to block out extraneous information to focus. There are also many things that ramp up motor activity, especially when a child is being asked to sit still and engage in less novel or enjoyable tasks.  So don’t think ADHD first, but instead, review possible other causes first.

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Kids and Social Media: Monitor – and Get Tough

Do you have advice on helping teenage boys with their impulse control when it comes to social media and discussions about girls?

The problem isn’t about impulse control. Nor is it concern only with boys. The inappropriate use of social media is happening with girls too. The problem is the technology and 24/7 access to social media that’s driving inappropriate discussion and behavior around sex. Interest in sex is completely healthy and normal, but technology speeds everything up – it drives the discussions too fast via texting, overstimulates the brain with sexually explicit ideas or graphic images, and provides lots of misinformation. This problem is growing as the must-have new technologies get released. We’re in uncharted territory. I’ve spoken to grade school and high school teachers at conferences about social media concerns (sexting), and we can’t come up with a single, simple solution or approach. As long as parents purchase and provide their kids with these technologies, the problems of inappropriate use will continue.

There is one thing a parent can do: monitor and get tough. Especially for younger teens (15 and younger) you’ll need to be on whatever social media they use – Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook – and be watching their activity.  Be clear about which ones they can and can’t use. These are powerful technologies that are easily abused in the hands of minors and teenagers. Frankly, many adults have problems staying appropriate online and many get addicted to social media. Make a simple rule: If your teen is inappropriate, their phones/computer access must be immediately removed for at least one week to make a clear statement that technology isn’t a toy and has dire consequences when used inappropriately – especially around anything sexual.

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Tips for Helping a Shy Preschooler

frightened little girlOne mom of a 2.5 year old recently asked how best to encourage her son to be less shy. In my talks to parents and teachers, I cover four basic boy types. One of them is called “Shy-Vigilant”. These little guys tend to pull back when around other kids and don’t jump into play. They love to run behind their parents and watch what’s going on. This boy holds his preschool teacher’s hand a lot of the time, but otherwise he is doing well and listens and behaves in that setting.

At 2.5, there’s no telling how much of this boy’s shyness is set in stone. So much development is on the way in the many years to come and kids change all the time. I did recommend a buddy system approach to help him feel more at ease at preschool. Maybe there’s a boy (or better yet maybe a girl, as these type boys like less stimulation) who could be paired with him some of the day around an activity or two. This boy could get a simple reward (a checkmark or colorful bead to add to a cup) for spending more and more time not holding his teacher’s hand and more time with his new buddy. This could be encouraged slowly, with longer times being expected.

Another good strategy is to have a classmate over to his house. I’d make it a time-limited and low-stress visit that’s impromptu – the other mom and classmate can just show up for a “visit” and then see how it goes. He’ll be on his territory, so that should help him feel less shy. And not announcing it or planning it will help him be less worried.

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