We have just returned from an exhilarating (albeit exhausting) weekend at the international CHADD conference (Children and Adults with ADHD). You probably know that we were selected as an Innovative Program for 2011 (after all, we're so excited we've been screaming it from the roof-tops!), so we spent most of the conference talking to hundreds of people from across the globe.
We shared our vision for creating a community of ADHD parents and professionals, all with the common interest of giving parents the support they need to rediscover the joy of parenting kids with ADHD. Across the board, people loved the idea! Many of you are reading this today because you joined us to enjoy the ride. Welcome!
Despite all the time we spent in conversation, we did manage to get to the keynote speeches and a number of break-out sessions. As always, we learned a lot! So we thought we'd use this week's blog to share what we learned about ADHD at CHADD this year (note: some are not new concepts, but helpful reminders ☺):
- The first step in treating ADHD is acknowledgement. You can't treat a problem if you don't admit you have one. For many people, just recognizing that they have ADHD has been an incredible impetus to change, because they are able to stop blaming themselves and get to work at improving things.
- The next step in treating ADHD is Personal Education. The more you know, the more you can stop blaming yourself, and get to work at improving things (you detecting a theme here?).
- Coaching works. Parents need it. Families need it. It's not just about helping people with organizing their lives. Coaching can help anyone with family management. In fact, when asked how to balance “riding the wave of creativity” with the “need for structure,” Dr. Ned Hallowell responded: “Get A Coach.” (No, we're not making this stuff up!)
- It helps for people with ADHD to find their gifts, and it's important for them to understand that there is hope in managing it. Still, there's no denying that, without treatment, ADHD can be devastating, and we have to remember to take it seriously. Without intervention and treatment, it can ruin lives.
- Both scientific research and anecdotal information are necessary components in understanding how to identify and treat ADHD.
- Structure is critical to success. Hallowell said: “Team up with someone with structure and yield to it. You need structure.”
- Mindfulness is an evidenced based skill that can support in executive function maintenance (Dr. Mark Bertin) using mindfulness exercises on a regular basis can lead to Less stress & increased awareness which leads to more choice & more cognitive flexibility. Pay attention to what's important. Choose your focus with your kids: do you want to worry about a messy room, or academic success?
- There are many metabolic ways that people use to “medicate” or “manage” their ADHD – that is, ways that are grounded in the body. These include: caffeine, prescription medications, illegal drugs, alcohol, sexuality, thrill-seeking/risk-taking behaviors, anger, sleep, video/technology, exercise, procrastination, meditation, nutrition, & food management. Some of them can be very positive strategies, and some not. Awareness that we are using them can make a big difference. We thought the idea that anger is actually a tool that people use to help them focus is particularly fascinating. A little irritating, but fascinating!
- Sleep is a critically important factor in managing ADHD.
- Medication is not generally a sufficient treatment for ADHD. Accompanying treatments like coaching, therapy & organizational management are key to long term success!
- Executive function deficits are their own learning disability and many symptoms do not respond directly to medication.
- Sometimes the impairment can be the anxiety and frustration of having to work harder than everyone else.