Do you feel like you have great potential, but can’t seem to get organized? Maybe you are struggling to focus and waste time trying to get started on a task, or aren’t sure how to begin to prioritize. Perhaps you are here because you are worried about your child who is struggling with school: not turning in assignments, blurting out answers in class, never really knowing when homework assignments are due. You dread constantly hearing the teacher report: “not putting forth full effort.”
Sometimes smart, driven people have a hard time organizing their lives.
The good news is, organizational skills, time management, and sharpening your focus can ALL be learned with the help of an ADHD therapist. This is where I come in, as a neuropsychologist specializing in ADHD. I help tweens, teens, and adults reach their full potential, despite living with ADHD. First, let’s learn more…
Do I have ADHD? Do I have ADD? What’s the difference?
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder. That term is no longer used, so if a person thinks they have ADD, the correct term now would be ADHD. But basically, we are talking about the same thing.
There are actually three types of ADHD. Read on to learn more…
ADHD Inattentive Type: This person has pervasive trouble with attention, focus, and task completion
- Trouble completing tasks properly. Only part of the task might get done, or steps may get completed incorrectly
- Getting easily distracted, particularly in situations in which one is “supposed” to focus (such as the classroom, at your desk at work, or at home doing homework
- Trouble paying attention to little details, resulting in mistakes
- Difficulty focusing during conversations, even when nothing distracting is present
- Lack of follow-through with schoolwork or job tasks
- Difficulty with organizing tasks, often not knowing where to start
- Avoiding tasks requiring sustained mental effort
- For students, forgetting to turn in homework (even if it’s done), forgetting to write assignments down, forgetting to bring necessary items to school (such as paper and pencil)
- Frequently losing commonly needed items (such as keys, phone, or other essentials)
- Forgetful in daily activities (forgetting to return calls, pay bills, do chores, etc.)
ADHD Hyperactive/Impulsive Type: This person is hyper and tends to have impulsive behavior
- Blurts answers out at school, work, or in conversations
- Seems “driven by a motor”
- Has trouble sitting still without fidgeting or moving hands and feet
- Has difficulty waiting for his/her turn, or waiting in line
- Others may find him/her “annoying” in social situations due to talking so much
- Interrupts others
- When trying to sit still for long periods of time, may end up just getting up and needing to move around
ADHD Combined Type: This person has both of the above types of symptoms (inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity)
Are There Other Conditions That Cause Symptoms Similar to ADHD?
Yes, great question! The following conditions can have some symptoms that look like ADHD:
This is why proper diagnosis is so essential. You can try to self-diagnose, but a psychologist or psychiatrist is needed to carefully evaluate the symptoms and make a diagnosis.
How is ADHD Diagnosed? What does ADHD Assessment Involve?
If you or your child have never been formally diagnosed with ADHD by a psychologist or a psychiatrist, we will start there. I will take a medical, social, psychological, and educational history. This will help me pinpoint when symptoms first started. I will also try to determine the areas of life in which symptoms are most disruptive (home, school/work, social life). Because I am a neuropsychologist specializing in neurodevelopmental issues, I am able to determine if it is ADHD or other issues causing the problem. The next part involves questionnaires, which are completed by key people (e.g. for a child, the parent and teacher complete behavioral questionnaires). This helps me determine which behaviors are occurring in which environments, and how severe the behaviors are. Finally, I write a comprehensive report, which I review with you in detail. This may include recommendations for work or school accommodations. We can then proceed with ADHD therapy for targeting particular behaviors and symptoms.
Healthy Mind Sacramento ADHD Therapy
Many people with ADHD have an idea of what they would like to accomplish, or things that they want to do, but just don’t know where to begin. It may be hard to get started or get organized. This is where I can help. As a neuropsychologist, I have expertise in the brain and how it works. As an ADHD therapist, I help people set goals to reach their true potential.
Healthy Mind Sacramento ADHD therapy can help with:
- Ways to decrease distractions in your environment
- Learning what time of day you perform best
- Identifying your “optimal” environment
- Learning how to prioritize tasks
- Improving organizational skills
- Improving communication/social skills
- Learning how to be the “director” of your own life
- Figuring out a school or work system that will actually fit for you!
Healthy Mind Sacramento ADHD Therapy for Kids and Teens
For children and teens struggling with ADHD, my approach is collaborative with you as the parent, as well as with your child. Have you ever noticed that if you try to impose a new system or rule on your child without their buy-in, it doesn’t work out so well? Therapy is the same. I work on building a relationship with your child and asking him or her what strategies they want to try first. Here are some of the things I typically work on in ADHD therapy for tweens and teens:
- Getting organized! Most kids will want to use their phone for this (but old-school paper methods are an option too). I work with your child to find a type of organization/school planning system that actually seems fun and cool to them, that way they are more likely to actually use it.
- Goal-setting: we start small, with a goal such as “get A on upcoming history paper.” We then back-plan together all the steps needed to reach that goal. I hold your child accountable to each step and help troubleshoot problems along the way.
- Social skills: some kids with ADHD are perceived as “annoying” by others. Some are painfully aware of it, but don’t know how to be any different. In therapy, we work on appropriate ways to interact with other people and get attention in a positive way.
- Study time: Many parents think that study time involves sitting at a desk or table, with no distractions nearby. Did you know that kids with ADHD many actually study better on a bouncy ball or squishy seat, and with some music on? The environment that works for the ADHD brain often involves some low-level background stimulation. We will explore what works for your child in session.
- Breaking tasks down into reasonable chunks
- Learning how to reduce distractions
To learn more about my overall approach to working with tweens and teens in therapy, please visit my adolescents/teens page.
Parenting an ADHD Child
As an ADHD psychologist here in Sacramento, I hear many different approaches to parenting when dealing with challenging behaviors. In this parenting the ADHD child vlog post, I discuss three aspects of your parenting approach that I believe are key when dealing with an ADHD child.
Lack of Motivation vs Lack of Skills
Here are some common things I hear from parents of ADHD kids:
- “He’s not motivated”
- “She is not putting in full effort”
- “He does everything half-assed”
- “She is lazy”
A child with ADHD has core deficits in executive functioning. These are the brain skills that allow us to plan, organize, multi-task, and shift from one activity to another without difficulty. When children with ADHD struggle with transitions, planning, and organization, is it because they are lazy or unmotivated kids? Or, is it because they lack the fundamental brain functioning to organize themselves properly? I will argue it is the latter, and this is the lense through which we need to view children who are struggling at home and at school. In ADHD therapy sessions, I work with parents to see that their kids lack fundamental skills that allow them to perform and behave at expectations. So, let’s meet our kids where they are at, and help them through therapy to build skills!
Should My Child with ADHD be on Medication, or is ADHD Behavioral Therapy Enough?
Many of the parents I work with start out our treatment or evaluation stating that they do not want their child with ADHD to be medicated. I respect each parent’s stance on this and do not push medication. I am a psychologist, meaning that I do not prescribe medications for ADHD, rather, I use cognitive behavioral therapy methods.
I do want to discuss medication efficacy for ADHD for those who are curious or trying to determine whether medication plus therapy might be a good choice for ADHD treatment. Research has shown that over 80% of people show a response (a behavior effect that is noticeable) from stimulant medications.
Stimulant medications do sometimes have side effects, which can include trouble sleeping, weight loss, headache, increased blood pressure or pulse, abdominal pain, irritability, and moodiness. Stimulants can sometimes cause tics in children, which is a frequent reason for discontinuation. Another thing to consider about medication is that it doesn’t teach behavior change, self-esteem, or good study habits.
There has not been a lot of long-term research looking at how stimulant medications may affect the developing brain. In this vlog, I summarize the short-term and long-term effects of stimulant medications on the brain and body, based on what we know from research thus far.
As a psychologist, I think starting out with behavioral therapy for ADHD first (for parents that do not want their child on medication) is a positive step. We can target problem symptoms and create a plan that leads to lasting behavioral change. If you do wish to consider medications as an adjunct to therapy, I have good relationships with psychiatrists in the community that I can recommend.
Resources for ADHD
The following books and websites are ones that I find to be particularly helpful:
- Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents (3rd Edition), by Russell Barkley
- ADHD: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Stephen Hinshaw & Katherine Ellison
- For general information about ADHD from the National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/complete-index.shtml
- Understood- a website full of resources for Learning and Attention Issues: https://www.understood.org/en
- http://www.chadd.org is a national organization to provide support and information related to ADHD. Your local Chadd chapter often has parent workshops and information sessions.
I hope the above information has been useful. Please feel free to get in touch to see if Healthy Mind Sacramento ADHD therapy is a good fit for you!