I Am A Mom With ADHD & This Is What It’s Feel Like-term life

I wasn’t diagnosed until adulthood, but the signs were always there: my verbal interruptions, my obsession with my video games, the way I’m always late, or always early; the fact that I’m never on time. How my voice rises in volume until it’s off the social register. I was the dreamy kid who spent math class playing with unicorn erasers. They called me “space cadet,” “dumb blonde,” “wifty.” They said I had “no common sense.” But I had plenty of common sense. I just had a whopping case of ADHD.

I coasted through life with a few road bumps: lost credit cards, missed meetings, an inability to read Heidegger, because you can’t skim Being in Time while skipping whole paragraphs. But mostly I did OK. I might have had a messy car, and I might have talked too loudly sometimes, but I functioned. It worked for me.

Then I had kids. And suddenly, having ADHD as a mom mattered a whole hell of a lot more. Kids are complicated. They require nonstop attention. They need to be fed on regular schedules. You have to keep track of a whole other person’s possessions, most of which are tiny, all of which are indispensable. You have to remember, and then get to, any number of important doctor’s appointments and playdates.

But I managed. I cloth diapered mainly so that I didn’t forget to buy diapers. I breastfed so I didn’t forget to wash bottles. When my son was born, I had to remember diaper laundry, which I did by washing every single night without fail. We were always losing swaddles or pacifiers. With my second son, my diaper bag bulged, but not always with the right size diaper, or enough covers, or a decent wet bag. Suddenly baby shoes became a lot less important when I had one kid wrapped on my chest and another running around screaming.

My ADHD makes me forgetful, and I know it, and my parenting preparedness suffers. Sometimes my kids suffer, and that’s worst of all. Parenting comes naturally. The details do not.

With three boys, well, we’ve finally given up the valiant fight to keep our house clean. I forgot to clean pen, marker, and crayon marks off the wall, and they became permanent. We’ve learned to live with it. We have to. I had to make some major adjustments, mostly to my sense of cleanliness and my tolerance for noise. But I still struggle, everyday, to mesh my ADHD and my parenting. Some days it works better than others, but those old characteristics are still there.


When I stop with my boys at the drive-thru somewhere, I don’t think to set the straw wrapper aside. I just toss it on the floor. I have a McDonald’s-worth of ossified french fries stuffed in various locations, because I have three sons and those three sons need toys and books to amuse themselves, because they might throw a fit if asked to look out the window for once. So the bag is padded with a deep detritus of reading material, stuffed animals, and said french fries. When I open the door, cups roll out. I stuff them back in and pretend it never happened. I just don’t think to clean. And when I do, I plan to do it tomorrow.

Mothering three young boys with ADHD is nothing like I thought it would be. It’s not as smooth, not as easy. I’m scrambling for traction more often than not.

I can’t help but feel like other women with kids always have diaper bags stuffed with everything needed to survive a nuclear apocalypse. Those diaper bags don’t just carry the basic accoutrements of diaper changes. They’ve got snacks. They’ve got juice. They’ve got designated snot wipes. There are toys, blankets, and a maxi pad or two. I’m lucky if I remember to stuff more diapers in my already overflowing bag (because sometimes I forget we decided to use cloth). Then I have to borrow wipes from an obliging friend.


I feel inadequate when I see those mega bags, or when a women unearths a pacifier for her fussy baby in two seconds flat. My ADHD makes me forgetful, and I know it, and my parenting preparedness suffers. Sometimes my kids suffer, and that’s worst of all. Parenting comes naturally. The details do not.

I have problems getting out of the house because we’re always losing shoes, forgetting medication, or needing one last blessed cup of coffee. If I don’t plan for the day ahead of time (or my alarm doesn’t go off, which happens with startling frequency), we’re typically late, usually by about half an hour. The sense of mortification never goes away. I’m afraid my kids will think it’s normal and acceptable to saunter into every engagement 20 minutes after it’s started. I make a point to say how rude we’re being — how rude I am being — but I don’t think it sticks.

Mothering three young boys with ADHD is nothing like I thought it would be. It’s not as smooth, not as easy. I’m scrambling for traction more often than not. I don’t notice the baby pouring water in the hallway because the older two are fighting in the living room. Obviously, I expected motherhood to be chaotic. But I thought I’d keep a handle on most of the chaos.

People who don’t know me (and sometimes some who do) assume that I want to live like this. They assume my messiness is laziness, or some other character flaw, and that forgetting diaper wipes means I don’t care about my kids.

I’ve had to let go of an ideally clean house. Martha doesn’t live here, people. With a husband who also has ADHD, I’ve learned to live with clutter. Crayons don’t have a designated place, neither does paper. We can never find scissors or tweezers or fingernail clippers. ADHD means running out to Babies “R” Us, again, to buy another NoseFrida, again, because we’ve lost the one we have. Life isn’t picture-perfect, and neither is the floor of my minivan. If I don’t accept it, I go crazy.


People who don’t know me (and sometimes some who do) assume that I want to live like this. They assume my messiness is laziness, or some other character flaw, and that forgetting diaper wipes means I don’t care about my kids. But mostly, people are accepting. Friends know I’ll be half an hour late to playdates. They understand.

For the most part, I don’t mind the chaos. The art supplies dumped on the floor, the robo-dinosaur left on — sure, they’re annoying, but it isn’t the end of the world as we know it. And my kids are lucky, because a high tolerance for mess means a high tolerance for Play-Doh and paint, glue, and glitter. I hyperfocus too, so my kids have awesome hair. I like doing hair.

It’s hard to parent. It can be even harder when you’re not neurotypical, when you seriously can’t remember people’s names from one playdate to the next. A lot of the time, I still feel like the dumb blond space cadet, even though saying that, for me, has nothing to do with playing into the stereotypical trope. Yet I keep on keepin’ on. I have to set a good example for my sons. After all, at least two of my kids have ADHD — they’re just like their mama.



Dr. David Rabiner An Innovative Approach for Helping ‘Explosive & Inflexible Children’-TERM LIFE

One of the most challenging problems for parents to deal with are explosive outbursts in their child. Such outbursts occur with distressing regularity in some children – regardless of whether the child also has ADHD,Autism and ODD – and can contribute to an extremely difficult home environment.


A number of years ago I cam across a book called ‘The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, “Chronically Inflexible” Children’ that I found to provide some very useful ideas for addressing these issues. The book is authored by Dr. Ross Greene, a clinical psychologist from Harvard Medical School. Dr. Greene’s approach impressed me as a thoughtful and respectful way to deal with the behavioral volatility and emotional outbursts that often add to the challenges faced my many parents of children with ADHD.


The label “inflexible-explosive” child is not a diagnostic term recognized in DSM-IV, the official diagnostic guide for psychiatric disorders. Instead, it is used by Dr. Greene to capture the key features of children who are extremely difficult for parents to manage. According to Dr. Greene, the key features of such children are the following:

1. A very limited capacity for flexibility and adaptability and a tendency to become “incoherent” in the midst of severe frustration.

These children are much less flexible and adaptable than their peers, become easily overwhelmed by frustration, and are often unable to behave in a logical and rational manner when frustrated. During periods of incoherence, they are not responsive to efforts to reason with them, which may actually make things worse. Dr. Greene refers to these episodes as “meltdowns” and argues that the child has little or no control over his/her behavior during these episodes.

2. An extremely low frustration tolerance threshold.

These children often become overwhelmingly frustrated by what seem like relatively trivial events. Because their capacity to tolerate frustration develop more slowly than their peers, they often experiences the world as a frustrating place filled with people who do not understand what they are experiencing.

3. The tendency to think in a concrete, rigid, black- and-white manner.

These children fail to develop the flexibility in their thinking at the same rate as peers, and tend to regard many situations in an either-or, all-or-none, manner. This greatly impairs their ability to negotiate and compromise.

4. The persistence of inflexibility and poor response to frustration despite a high level of intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.

Even very salient and important consequences do not necessarily diminish the child’s frequent, intense, and lengthy “meltdowns”. As a result, typical approaches of rewarding a child for desired behavior and punishing negative behavior do not diminish the child’s tendency to “fall apart”. According to Dr. Greene, traditional behavioral therapy approaches for such children often don’t work at all and can make things worse.

In addition to these key features, Dr. Greene notes that a child’s meltdowns often have an “out-of-the-blue” quality, occurring in response to an apparently trivial frustration even when the child has been in a good mood. As a result, parents never know what to expect and things can seem to fall apart at any moment.


According to Dr. Greene, most children who become extremely inflexible and explosive do so because of biologically-based vulnerabilities and not because of “poor parenting”. The list of biological vulnerabilities that may predispose children to develop these characteristics include the following:

Difficult Temperament

By nature, some infants come in to the world being more finicky, emotionally reactive, and more difficult to soothe than others. These “innate” aspects of personality are what psychologists refer to as temperament. (Note: It is important to recognize that even very difficult temperaments can be modified over time and this in no way “dooms” a child to a life of ongoing difficulty and struggle.)

ADHD and Executive Function Deficits

Many children with difficult temperaments are eventually diagnosed with ADHD. As discussed in prior issues of Attention Research Update, current theorizing about the core deficits associated with ADHD focus on problems in a crucial set of thinking skills referred to as “executive functions”.

Although there is not universal agreement on the specific skills that constitute executive functions, most lists would include such things as: organization and planning skills, establishing goals and being able to use these goals to guide one’s behavior, working memory, being able to keep emotions from overpowering one’s ability to think rationally, and being able to shift efficiently from one cognitive activity to the next.

Deficiencies in these skills are believed to help explain not only the core symptoms of ADHD (i.e. inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity), but also the poor frustration tolerance, inflexibility, and explosive outbursts that are seen in the “inflexible-explosive” children described by Dr. Greene.

For example, if a child has difficulty shifting readily from one activity to the next because of an inherent cognitive inflexibility, this child may feel overwhelmingly frustrated when parents say it is time to stop playing and come in for dinner. The child may not intend to be disobedient, but may have trouble complying with parents’ demands because of trouble shifting flexibly and efficiently from one mind-set to another. In fact, Dr. Greene argues that most “explosive children” want to behave better and feel badly about their outbursts. He believes they are motivated to change their behavior but lack the skills to do it.

Language processing problems

Language skills set the stage for many critical forms of thinking including problem solving, goal setting, and regulating/managing emotions. Thus, it is not surprising that children with poorly developed language abilities, as is often true in children with ADHD, would have greater difficulty managing frustration.

Mood difficulties

Some children are born predisposed to perpetually sunny and cheerful moods. Others, unfortunately, tend to experience sustained periods of irritability and crankiness for reasons that are rooted largely in biology. This is not just true for children who experience full-blown mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder, but can apply to “sub-clinical” mood difficulties as well.

Imagine for a moment how you tend to handle things when feeling cranky and irritable. If you’re like most people, you probably become frustrated more easily and lose your temper more readily. For children who are prone to these negative mood states, more chronic difficulties with frustration and temper are thus likely to be evident.


How can a parent help their “explosive” child become less explosive, develop greater self-control, and thereby create a better quality of life for everyone in the family?

According to Dr. Greene, the first step is to develop a clear understanding of the reasons for the child’s explosiveness. To the extent that parents – and others – regard a child’s explosiveness as reflecting deliberate and willful attempts to “get what they want”, the overwhelming tendency will be to respond in punitive ways. Dr. Greene argues convincingly, however, that punishments will not work for a child who lacks the skills to handle frustration more adaptively. That is because when these children are frustrated they are not able to use the anticipation of punishment to alter their behavior.

When one’s mindset changes from “my child is acting like a spoiled brat” to “my child needs help in learning to deal with frustration in a more flexible and adaptive manner”, it becomes easier to move from a punishment-oriented approach to a skills-building approach. At the heart of this effort is what Dr. Greene refers to as the “Basket Approach”.


Because “meltdowns” can be so difficult for everyone in the family to endure, the primary objective in working with “explosive children” is to first reduce the frequency of such episodes. Reducing the number of meltdowns from several per day to one per day, and eventually to just a handful per week, can make an enormous difference in the quality of family life and to children developing a sense of being able to control their behavior. Initially, this is accomplished largely by reducing the demands to tolerate frustration that are made on the child by sorting the types of behaviors the create problems into 3 baskets according to how critical it is to change the behaviors or to curtail them when they occur.

Basket A

Some behaviors are so problematic that they must remain off-limits even if enforcing the rule against them will result in a meltdown. Initially, Dr. Greene suggests that the only behaviors to be placed in Basket A are those that are clear safety issues (e.g. wearing a seat belt in the car; not engaging in dangerous or harmful behaviors such as hitting others). This is where parents must continue to stand firm and insist on compliance. Dr. Greene’s specific criteria for what goes in Basket A are as follows:

1. The behavior must be so important that it is worth enduring a meltdown to enforce:

2. The child must be capable of behaving in the way that is expected.

For example, Dr. Greene would argue that there is no point insisting that completing assigned homework be placed in Basket A when the child lacks the skills and frustration tolerance to do this consistently.

By reducing the number of behaviors for which compliance is non-negotiable to those that are really and truly essential and that the child is capable of performing, the number of exchanges that are likely to set off explosive episodes can be drastically reduced.

Basket B

Basket B – the most important basket according to Dr. Greene – contains behaviors that really are high priorities but are ones that you are not willing to endure a meltdown over. These can include such items as completing schoolwork, talking to parents with respect, complying with reasonable expectations, etc.

It is around Basket B behaviors that Dr. Greene believes that critical compromise and negotiation skills can be taught to your child. For example, suppose your child is watching TV and you know it is time to stop and get started on homework. You tell your child to turn off the TV and get started, and he refuses.

The temptation here would be to insist on immediate compliance and to threaten punishment (e.g. no TV for the rest of the week) if your child does not comply. But, in Dr. Greene’s framework, this is not a safety issue, and thus should not be placed in Basket A. He would ask what is likely to happen if you make such a response? One likely consequence is that your child’s frustration will increase, he or she will lose control, and a full-fledged meltdown will ensue.

Is this worth it? If standing firm and tolerating this meltdown made it more likely that your child would comply the next time you made such a demand, the answer would be yes. If, however, standing firm and triggering the meltdown does not increase the likelihood of compliance in the future, or reduce the probability of future meltdowns, Dr. Greene would suggest it was definitely not worth it.

What to do instead? Dr. Greene argues that these Basket B behaviors provide wonderful opportunities to try and engage your child in a compromise and negotiation process. In the scenario above, the parent could say something like, “I know that it is important to you to keep watching TV. I would like for you to be able to do this, but I also know that you have homework that needs to get done. Let’s try to come up with a compromise where you’ll get some of what you want, and I’ll get some of what I want.”

The goal here is not only to get the child to give in and do what you want, but to begin teaching your child the compromise and negotiation skills that will contribute to his or her becoming more flexible over time. Dr. Greene points out how this process can be extremely difficult for inflexible-explosive children, and that it is not unusual for them to become increasingly agitated when trying to negotiate a solution.

As a parent, if you observe this starting to occur, and sense your child is getting closer to a meltdown, the goal becomes trying to diffuse the tension so that a meltdown does not take place. This can mean offering compromise solutions for the child in an effort to help things calm down. When this does not work, Dr. Greene suggests just letting things go so that the meltdown is avoided. In the example above, should the efforts to negotiate fail and lead the child to the verge of a meltdown the parent might say, “Well, I can see you are getting really upset about this. I appreciate that you tried to work out a compromise with me but we have not been able to come up with a good one yet. So, why don’t you just watch a bit more TV for now and we can try again in a little while to work out a good compromise.”

This can be very difficult to do and many parents along with mental health professionals would be concerned that such actions would result in teaching the child that he or she can get what she wants by refusing to give in and becoming upset. This is what a traditional behavioral therapist would argue. From Dr. Greene’s perspective, however, insisting that the child turn off the TV when a compromise was not reached would accomplish little more than triggering a meltdown that would also prevent homework from getting started on and be much more upsetting for everyone. Because of this, he advocates doing your best to help your child develop some much needed negotiation skills, but dropping things when it is clear that an explosion is imminent. Later, when the child has settled back down, you can resume your efforts to negotiate.

Developing skills to compromise and tolerate frustration does not happen right away. Dr. Greene points out that progress in these areas can be painstakingly slow, but that over time, the approach he recommends can lead to substantial gains for explosive children.

Basket C

Basket C contains those behaviors that are simply not worth enduring a meltdown over, even though they may have previously seemed like a high priority. By placing a number of previously important behaviors in Basket C, the opportunity for conflict producing meltdowns between parents and their child is greatly diminished.

What kinds of things belong in Basket C? This depends on the specifics of each situation but may include such things as what a child will and will not eat, what clothes they wear, how they keep their room, etc. Dr. Greene suggests that the question to ask in determining whether a particular behavior falls into Basket C is “Is this so important that it is really worth risking a meltdown over?” If not, and you’ve already identified a number of behaviors that seem more important and worth negotiating over (i.e. those in Basket B), then into Basket C it goes.

How does this compare to traditional parenting approaches?

Dr. Greene’s approach to dealing with explosive children runs counter to what many parents and professionals believe, i.e., that if a child is not punished, for behaving inappropriately they will never develop the necessary self-control nor be deterred from continuing to misbehave. Thus, Dr. Greene’s thesis here is a controversial one and is at odds with traditional behavior therapy approaches that have substantial research support. Dr. Greene suggests, however, that for children whose explosiveness stems from a basic and biologically based inability to manage frustration, Dr. Greene suggests that behavioral interventions may not be effective can actually make things worse by increasing, rather than decreasing, the frequency with which a child loses control.

Isn’t this just giving in to a misbehaving child?

Not necessarily. Dr. Greene points out that there is an important difference between giving in and deciding what behaviors are important enough to stand firm on. It remains the responsibility and prerogative of parents to be clear about what is non-negotiable, when compromise is a reasonable way to go, and what things to let slide for the time being. As the child becomes better able to tolerate frustration and learn much-needed compromise and negotiation skills, more and more behaviors can be moved from Basket C into Basket B, thus providing your child with increasing opportunities to practice learning to compromise.


Dr. Greene’s approach will resonate with some people and be sharply criticized by others. However, the hallmark of a scientist is a willingness and desire to test one’s theories through empirical research and I was thus quite pleased to recently come across a study published several years ago by Dr. Greene in which he tested the approach described above against more traditional behavioral parent training therapy with a sample of oppositional defiant children who also had symptoms of a mood disorder (Greene et al. [2004]. Effectiveness of collaborative problem solving in affectively dysregulated children with oppositional-defiant disorder: Initial findings. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2004, 72, 1157-1164).


The parents of these children were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 interventions designed to help them bring their child’s behavior under better control: the collaborative problem solving model developed by Dr. Greene or a more traditional behavioral parent training program developed by Dr. Russell Barkley, one of the world’s leading authorities on ADHD.

Dr. Barkley’s parent training program is a highly structured behavior management program that lasted for 10-weeks. The focus is on teaching parents more effective discipline and behavior management strategies and sessions were attended primarily by parents, although children participated occasionally as well.

Families assigned to the Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) treatment were educated about the biological factors contributing to their child’s aggressive outbursts, the “baskets” framework described above, and about the use of collaborative problem solving as a means for resolving disagreements and defusing potentially conflictual situations so as to reduce the likelihood of aggressive outbursts. As with Barkley’s parent training program, sessions were attended primarily by parents. The number of sessions attended by parents ranged from 7-16 and the average length of treatment was 11 weeks.


At the conclusion of treatment, parents in both groups reported a significant decline in their child’s level of oppositional behavior. At 4-months post-treatment, however, the gains reported by families who received traditional parent training were beginning to erode while those who received Greene’s Collaborative Problem Solving therapy reported that gains were fully sustained. Specifically, 80% of children in the CPS condition were reported to be either very much improved or much improved by their parents compared to only 44% in the traditional parent training program.

Parents in the CPS condition also reported that they were experiencing significantly less stress, that their children were more adaptable, and that hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were reduced. They also felt more effective at setting limits for their children and that communication with their child had improved. Significant improvements on these dimensions were not evident.


The approach developed by Dr. Greene for developing self-control in children prone to emotional outbursts and melt-downs represents an important shift from traditional behavioral treatment methods. It is based on the premise that when this behavior has a strong biological underpinning, as he feels is true for many children, the use of punishments and rewards are not likely to be effective. Instead, he advocates that parents work to remove sources of frustration from their child’s life, become clear about what behaviors they truly need to take a stand on, and focus on helping their child develop the ability to negotiate, compromise, and manage their affect. Because melt-downs can be so painful for everyone to endure, parents are taught to avoid making demands on their child that would be likely to trigger a melt-down unless it is absolutely necessary.

This will be regarded by many as a controversial approach, but results from a preliminary test suggest that these ideas may have real value for children and families. Because this is only an initial study, however, it is clear that more work needs to be done, and there is currently a larger trial underway. When these results become available, I will make sure to report them in Attention Research Update.



What is it like to have a child with Opositional Defiant Disorder A Mum’s Heartbreaking Story-TERM LIFE

My son’s out-of-control, unpredictable behavior caused my husband and me to re-examine how we dish out discipline.



“DON’T TOUCH ME, YOU STUPID HEAD!” my 4-year-old son shrieked as I reached for him. We were about halfway through the service at a church we were visiting for the first time, and Wyatt was lying in the middle of the center aisle. “I HATE YOU!” he continued as he scrambled across the floor to get away, with me in hot pursuit. “YOU’RE THE WORST MOMMY IN THE WHOLE WORLD! I WISH YOU WEREN’T MY MOMMY!” he screamed as I caught him and proceeded to carry him up the aisle to the back of the church, nearly dropping him in the process.

Suddenly, a flying arm caught me across the face. He slapped me. I have no idea whether the faces that watched us were sympathetic or judgmental, because I was too humiliated to look up. All I knew was that I had made the mistake of trying to get my son to sit down, and this was the result.

I wish I could say that was the first — or the last — time that I’ve had to deal with one of Wyatt’s very public meltdowns, but that would be an outright lie. In fact, five years later we’re still dealing with the meltdowns, although we’re getting better at anticipating and managing them.

What is ODD?

Over the last five or six years Wyatt has been diagnosed with various behavioral and neurodevelopmental disorders — everything from ADHD to ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). The diagnoses continue to change as he’s grows into new stages of development. While the names have changed, what hasn’t changed is the need for my husband and I to adjust and prepare for Wyatt’s encounters with new situations.

I have to admit that this parenting thing has been a lot harder than I anticipated. When I say a lot harder, I mean ridiculously so.

My husband and I had both been brought up in happy homes filled with love and laughter. Our parents had been strict but fair, and we had both been taught from a very young age to respect our elders. Our older siblings were raising their children using the same approach, and they didn’t seem to be running into any major problems. Unlike us.

Something as simple as not liking what I had made for supper could set Wyatt off, transforming him in seconds from my sweet little boy with the shy smile and twinkling eyes to an out-of-control terror who I barely recognized. It wasn’t uncommon for me to cry myself to sleep at night, physically and emotionally exhausted from dealing with a meltdown so violent that I needed to physically restrain him so that he couldn’t hurt himself, or me.

I would sit on the floor with Wyatt between my legs, my arms strategically wrapped around him so he couldn’t bite me or scratch me, one leg over his so he couldn’t kick me, the other leg braced against something so that he couldn’t knock me over as he struggled to get away. I’d talk quietly to him the entire time, telling him that he was safe and loved as he screamed how much he hated me and how he wished I weren’t his mother.

Eventually his rage would pass, and he’d go limp in my arms. His screams would turn to sobs that shook his tiny body, and his struggles to get away would turn to struggles to get closer. I’d sit there and rock him, smoothing his hair and kissing his forehead, reassuring him that I loved him and that everything was going to be OK, all the while holding back the tears of hopelessness and helplessness that threatened to overwhelm me.

Parenting techniques that didn’t work

Don’t get me wrong. I never figured being a parent would be easy, and I fully anticipated that there would be times when I would want to tear my hair out (can you say “teenage years”?), but nothing prepared me for a child who didn’t play by the rules. Even as a toddler, the traditional parenting strategies didn’t work.

If other people were having success with the same parenting strategies we were using then, I concluded, the problem had to reside with us. We had to be doing something wrong. So I read article after article after article on parenting and discipline in an attempt to figure out what we were doing wrong. But everything I read said the same thing: if we used the techniques properly and were consistent and loving in their application, our son would learn what was expected of him.

What I have come to realize is that parenting articles are all written from the standpoint that the prescribed techniques will eventually work. Because of this, they don’t tell you when to give up and move on to something else, so certainly not what that something else would look like. So how long do you keep distracting and redirecting a toddler from the same thing before you give up? Hours? Days? Weeks? Months?

When Wyatt was just learning to walk, he became fascinated by an antique cabinet with glass doors that we had in our living room, where he spent the most time. He paid no attention to the books and CDs that filled the cabinet, only to the pretty doors that made a fun sound when he banged on them. At first we patiently told him “no” and redirected his attention to a favorite toy or book, but he would head straight back to the cabinet the first chance he got. As the days passed we became sterner with our “no,” moving from patient to scolding. Still nothing changed.

“Slap his hand!” our parents told us when we asked for their advice. Scared that he would break the glass and get seriously hurt, we started accompanying our “no” with a light slap on the hand, just hard enough to startle him, but that didn’t deter him either. We placed a cedar chest in front of the cabinet so that he couldn’t get to the doors, but it didn’t stop him from trying. After a few weeks we gave up and moved the cabinet into one of the bedrooms, but we had to remember to keep the door to the room closed or he would be right back at it. Once the cabinet was gone, Wyatt moved on to pulling all the books out of a little bookcase in the hall, and the bookcase soon joined the cabinet in the bedroom.

When Wyatt got a little older we started removing privileges, but he didn’t care. I remember one particular incident, when he was about 3 years old. I was vacuuming not too far from where he was watching TV when he came over and dumped a bunch of toys on the floor in front of me. I scolded him and told him to pick the toys up. He stood there silent, not moving. I told him that he needed to pick them up or he would lose the TV until he did. Without saying a word he walked over to the TV, turned it off, and then went to his room, closing his door behind him.

I stood there for a few minutes, trying to figure out how to respond to the fact that my 3-year-old had just removed all control of the situation from my hands. I left the toys where they were, figuring Wyatt would come back out in a few minutes and ask to watch TV. I anticipated an angry response and mentally braced myself. Except, the anger never came. Instead, when Wyatt reappeared about an hour later, he casually wandered over to the toys, picked them all up, and then proceeded to turn on the TV. As much as I wanted to get mad at him, I couldn’t. I had established the consequence — you lose the TV until you pick up your toys — and that’s what he had done. Being bested by a 3-year-old didn’t exactly build my confidence in my parenting abilities.

We certainly didn’t have any more luck with timeout, which is a little more involved than removing privileges — but still not rocket science. According to the experts, follow the formula and you’re good to go. Have a designated timeout spot? Check. Limit time to one minute for each year of the child’s age? Check. Ensure child understands what is expected of him and the consequences for not cooperating? Check. Return child to designated spot if he moves, and reset timer? Check. I would reset the timer until the sweat was pouring off my face. I returned my 4-year-old to his timeout spot for the 10th, 20th, and 30th time.

We tried just as many positive reinforcement strategies to encourage good behavior. I spent hours creating charts and a small fortune on stickers and rewards. We looked for any opportunity to praise him for doing something well, and we rewarded his behavior with stickers. But nothing worked for more than a day or two, not even a sleepover at Grandma’s, a movie with Mommy, or a bike ride with Daddy.

When desperation leads to re-examination

When Wyatt started kindergarten, we were desperate. Nothing we tried worked, and the school’s experience mirrored our own. Smart, sweet, and wickedly funny, everyone wanted to be Wyatt’s friend. Kids ran to greet him as soon as he walked into school in the morning. Teachers and staff members ruffled his hair as they passed him in the hall and went out of their way to share stories with me about something funny he had done or said to them.

At the same time, his behavior was so problematic that he spent more time out of class than in it. One minute he’d be playing nicely with a friend, the next minute his friend was crying because Wyatt had hit him. He adored his teacher but often flat-out refused to do anything he said. His lack of respect for authority knew no limits, to the point that one day he stood on the principal’s desk and refused to get down. He was so wildly hyper and unpredictable that the school had to send an extra staff member on class trips just to keep an eye on him. If no one was available, he couldn’t go.

I switched from reading parenting articles to parenting books. I consumed Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent and Energetic and then quickly moved on to Ross Greene’s The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children. Both books were instrumental in prompting us to re-examine our views on parenting and discipline. But Greene said something that really struck home.

Ross Greene who is a well-respected child psychologist has a theory that “kids do well if they can.” This theory made us totally rethink Wyatt’s misbehavior. According to Green, most children want to be good and to please the adults in their lives. After all, being in trouble all the time is no fun.

We knew that Wyatt understood the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. He could tell you what was expected of him in any given situation and seemed to have every intention of doing exactly that, but for whatever reason he often ended up doing the opposite. In the throes of a meltdown, his defiance and aggression overshadowed his true nature, which was all sweetness and light. Once his anger was gone, however, he was genuinely heartbroken at the things he’d done and said in the heat of the moment. We realized that for him, it wasn’t a matter of “won’t” but of “can’t.”

Some of our reactions were essentially punishing him for not being able to do something that he lacked the skills to do. This caused him to respond to situations in the same way a child much younger than him would because that was the level where his skills stopped developing. It’s like handing a book to a child who has never been taught to read and then punishing her for not being able to read the book. Just like some kids need help with reading or math, Wyatt needed help. We’ve learned that Wyatt needs to be taught how to deal with situations that upset him and cause him to act out.

New discipline strategy from the experts

So we tried a new way of disciplining our son. It meant changing how we as parents react to Wyatt’s behavior. This nontraditional style of parenting doesn’t come naturally to most people, and it didn’t come naturally to us. It required us to abandon the age-old notion that children who misbehave need to be “punished” — with timeout and consequences — in order for them to learn. My husband and I made a conscious decision to shift our focus from disciplining Wyatt for his behavior to figuring out what was causing it.

Because he was still so young and was rarely able to explain what was upsetting him, we worked closely with his school to identify what kinds of situations seemed to trigger his behavior and what skills he was missing to be able to manage those situations and the intense feelings they created in him.

We discovered, for example, that Wyatt became frustrated extremely easily. If the situation wasn’t resolved immediately, his frustration would fester until it erupted in anger, sometimes hours later. Wyatt didn’t hit a friend seemingly out of the blue because he was mean; he hit because he didn’t know how to deal with his escalated frustration in a productive way.

With this new knowledge in hand, our goal became to help Wyatt develop the skills he needed to respond appropriately in any given situation. In the interim we moved from trying to control his behavior with rewards and consequences to trying to reduce the likelihood of unwanted behavior by evaluating every situation for its potential to cause problems for him.

That’s not to say that Wyatt is free to do whatever he likes without fear of repercussions until then. Believe me, this approach is no get-out-of-jail-free card. If, for example, he at his little brother and calls him names, he needs to apologize to him. If he throws things all around the living room, the mess stays there until he’s calm enough to clean it up. While Wyatt doesn’t get in trouble for these things, he still has to take responsibility for his actions and make amends for anything he has said or done.

We had a veritable laundry list of things we needed to consider, everything from Christmas dinner at my parents’ house to school trips. We asked ourselves: had he been there before? Would the activity be structured or unstructured? How many people would there be?

We could be counted on to arrive late, leave early, or call with our regrets at the last minute because Wyatt was having a bad day, and we often turned down invitations that we felt would be too much for him to handle. The word spontaneity ceased to exist in our vocabulary.

Nontraditional, not lazy

The nontraditional style of parenting made us look to others like lazy or negligent parents who couldn’t be bothered to discipline our child. That wasn’t much of a change, though, since many people already assumed we were ineffectual parents. We dealt with the inevitable comments from friends and family members who didn’t understand our response to Wyatt’s behavior, especially in the beginning.

Grandparents informed us that they had no problems with him when he was with them, so he must be able to control himself. His aunts and uncles said things like “So, tell me again why you’re not punishing him right now?” And elderly relatives watched disapprovingly as we comforted Wyatt after an incident instead of punishing him.

A few weeks ago, on the way to a doctor’s appointment, Wyatt started yelling, screaming, calling me names, and throwing things around the van. Because we were on the highway, it was difficult for me to pull over. I tried to calm him, but the closer we got to our destination, the more upset he got. When he threw a shoe and hit the back of my headrest, I yelled at him to stop before he caused an accident. My calming words hadn’t been able to reach him, but my yell managed to jolt him out of his meltdown. “Mommy,” he began to sob from the back of the van, “I need you. I need you, Mommy!”

As luck would have it, there was a rest stop ahead where I could pull off the highway. I climbed in beside him and held him until he stopped crying. Once he was calm enough, I started to ask him questions to see if I could figure out what had set him off. What initially appeared to be frustration at not being able to play with a friend turned out to be anxiety about the doctor’s appointment. Together we came up with a plan that addressed his worries, and suddenly the crisis was over. By the time I pulled back out onto the highway, he was laughing and telling me a joke.

While Wyatt’s behavior has improved over the years, he still has a long way to go. Truth be told, the biggest change has been in our relationship with him.

Under the old approach, we constantly raged at Wyatt and punished him for his behavior. As a result, he turned into a sad little boy who felt he could never do anything right and who had no one on his side. His laughter and his smiles became increasingly rare. That’s no longer the case. Gradually he stopped worrying about us getting mad at him and instead began to see us as a safe place to go for help when he starts to spiral out of control.

If I’ve learned anything from our struggles over the years it’s that being a parent is just as much about learning lessons as it is about teaching them. Looking back at how far we’ve come as a family, I’m pretty sure we’re not failing; I think we’re going to pass this test.



Surprising 5 Unrealistic Expectations People Place on Kids with ADHD

If you are raising or working with kids with ADHD you probably have realized that your typical approaches aren’t working with these kids.

I greet exhausted and frustrated parents every week in my therapy office. I hear things like, “He just won’t listen!” And “If it is a video game – he can focus just fine!”


Working or parenting kids with ADHD can be exhausting, especially if you have the wrong expectations. Here are some expectations that people should throw out the window - and here is what they should do instead.

What I have learned, is that caring and loving parents, educators, caregivers and relatives often misunderstand ADHD and therefore they don’t get kids with ADHD.

It is important to highlight that I meet tons of parents and educators who can  teach me tons on how to work with kids with ADHD – but this article is for those parents, teachers and relatives that may struggle because their expectations are off base.

Parenting or working with kids with ADHD can be completely exhausting. Even after an hour therapy session with them – my energy is spent (although it doesn’t take much these days)!

The biggest lesson I try to teach people is to stop paddling upstream. When you try to work against a child’s high energy and lack of focus you will both walk away feeling frustrated and unproductive.

Here are 5 unrealistic expectations some (not all) people place on kids with ADHD:


Kids with ADHD fidget, squirm, hop, bounce, chew, pick, tear and tap. They have an internal engine that isn’t going to slow down. Getting angry or telling them to stop isn’t going to help. They aren’t doing it to upset you or their peers. They aren’t trying to be distracting. They physiologically have a hard time stopping.

* Get them fidget toys they can keep in their pocket.

* Get them cool textured chew necklaces that are specifically made to chew on.

* Get a Small indoor trampoline that they can jump on.


Kids with ADHD have a hard time following multiple step directions. When you say, “Go brush your teeth, get your pajamas on, clean up your toys and come back downstairs” kids with ADHD may only hear “Go brush your teeth.”

If you want kids to succeed, give them one direction at a time. “Go brush your teeth and let me know when you are done.” This will make them feel more successful and it will reduce your level of frustration.


People will often dispel the notion that kids with ADHD have a focusing issue because of the ability for these kids to focus so effectively on what they enjoy. Kids with ADHD can’t focus on a ten-minute homework assignment, but they can build Legos and play video games for hours.

This doesn’t mean you are being manipulated. This doesn’t mean that these kids are lazy.

We all have varying degrees of focus depending on our interest level. Kids with ADHD have a harder time tuning out all the distractions around them. When a task isn’t engaging this struggle magnifies.


How many times do you find yourself saying “Lower your voice.” Or “Calm down.” Kids with ADHD often have no internal gauge on how loud they are being or how hyper they are acting. This is often a social struggle as well. Getting angry because they are bouncing around right after you told them to stop – won’t help.

Help these kids by giving them a 1-10 gauge. Let them know they should be at a 5 for volume. When they are being too loud or too rambunctious let them know what number they are at. “You are at an 8, please bring it to a 5.” You can also turn down an imaginary radio dial as a visual cue when trying to prompt them non-verbally if that doesn’t embarrass them.


How often do you feel like kids with ADHD might be deaf? You are talking directly to them and they act as if they haven’t heard a word you said. Unless their eyes are directly on you and they are not trying to do another activity – they may not be hearing you.

Don’t shout directions from another room. Make sure you tell them to stop doing what they are doing before you start talking to them. Turn off the TV, tablet or phone and ask them to listen to you. If you aren’t sure they are listening, make them repeat what you said.

These tips are not rocket science, however there are many well-intentioned people out there who have some basic misconceptions and expectations that don’t work with kids with ADHD.

How do you manage kids with ADHD? Do you have some tips that work well in your home, school or work? Share with other readers and help them out!

Do you know someone who could benefit from these ADHD tips? Share this article with them.



To Myself When Accepting My ADD Diagnosis Felt Like Defeat

stressed student in the library

You’re stubborn. You’ve been hurt in the past. You’ve tried traditional treatment for ADD before, and you were treated like anything but a human being. You feel like you’re at your limit. Like nobody gets you. You didn’t feel respected or heard by the people who gave the doctors the go-ahead to start treating you. You were young. You didn’t know any better. You were bullied. I can’t say for sure, but you might have seen your therapists more than you saw your parents.

I can understand why you flat-out refused to accept help from Student Support Services when you went away to college. After all, you thought you had dealt with everything before college was even on your radar. You didn’t need help. You would be fine.

I’m sorry to kick you off your high horse, but you did need help.

You needed help because you were struggling. You didn’t want to admit it, though. You didn’t want to admit it because you equated it with getting the biggest bullhorn in the world, climbing to the top of the academic buildings, and yelling, “I’m disabled!” at the top of your lungs. Dramatic? Maybe, but back then, that’s what you thought it was. Accepting your ADD diagnosis felt like defeat. Weakness. And you weren’t supposed to be weak.

I’m not going to say that the heavens opened up when you finally went to Student Support Services (after a very long summer where you saw more doctor’s offices than sunlight) and handed them your diagnosis (which was seven years old by that point). The truth is that they didn’t. Things didn’t magically fall into place. You didn’t just breeze through the rest of your time there. You still had to work hard. But what I’m trying to tell you is that help doesn’t always hurt you. Yes, your experience taught you otherwise. But you also had another experience, one that was the complete opposite.

Your friends supported you when your mentor died; a member of staff even left a note of condolence in your campus mailbox. You were able to look at a classmate’s notes and realize, “That’s what the professor was saying!” instead of stressing yourself out over details. And eventually, you found techniques that worked for you. Techniques that helped you show that yes, you really did belong in that environment.

You discovered that you had incredible professors who (for the most part) went out of their way to help you succeed. They helped you understand concepts you couldn’t quite wrap your head around while you poured over your textbooks. They agreed to let you set your own deadlines for assignments so you could be sure to turn in a quality assignment on time that you could be proud of.

My point isn’t that everything gets to a point where everything is hunky dory and you just breeze through. My point is that help doesn’t always have to hurt. And sometimes all you need to do is look at the parts of your experience that you might consider insignificant to figure out why.



What’s It Like To Have ADD and ADHD?

Attention Deficit Disorder. First of all I resent the term. As far as I’m concerned most people have Attention Surplus Disorder. I mean, life being what it is, who can pay attention to anything for very long? Is it really a sign of mental health to be able to balance your checkbook, sit still in your chair, and never speak out of turn? As far as I can see, many people who don’t have ADD are charter members of the Congenitally Boring.

Image result for What is it like to have ADD or ADHD?

But anyway, be that as it may, there is this syndrome called ADD or ADHD, depending on what book you read. So what’s it like to have ADD? Some people say the so-called syndrome doesn’t even exist, but believe me, it does. Many metaphors come to mind to describe it. It’s like driving in the rain with bad windshield wipers. Everything is smudged and blurred and you’re speeding along, and it’s reeeeally frustrating not being able to see very well. Or it’s like listening to a radio station with a lot of static and you have to strain to hear what’s going on. Or, it’s like trying to build a house of cards in a dust storm. You have to build a structure to protect yourself from the wind before you can even start on the cards.

In other ways it’s like being super-charged all the time. You get one idea and you have to act on it, and then, what do you know, but you’ve got another idea before you’ve finished up with the first one, and so you go for that one, but of course a third idea intercepts the second, and you just have to follow that one, and pretty soon people are calling you disorganized and impulsive and all sorts of impolite words that miss the point completely. Because you’re trying really hard. It’s just that you have all these invisible vectors pulling you this way and that which makes it really hard to stay on task.

Plus which, you’re spilling over all the time. You’re drumming your fingers, tapping your feet, humming a song, whistling, looking here, looking there, scratching, stretching, doodling, and people think you’re not paying attention or that you’re not interested, but all you’re doing is spilling over so that you can pay attention. I can pay a lot better attention when I’m taking a walk or listening to music or even when I’m in a crowded, noisy room than when I’m still and surrounded by silence. God save me from the reading rooms. Have you ever been into the one in Widener Library? The only thing that saves it is that so many of the people who use it have ADD that there’s a constant soothing bustle.

What is it like to have ADD? Buzzing. Being here and there and everywhere. Someone once said, “Time is the thing that keeps everything from happening all at once.” Time parcels moments out into separate bits so that we can do one thing at a time. In ADD, this does not happen. In ADD, time collapses. Time becomes a black hole. To the person with ADD it feels as if everything is happening all at once. This creates a sense of inner turmoil or even panic. The individual loses perspective and the ability to prioritize. He or she is always on the go, trying to keep the world from caving in on top.

Museums. (Have you noticed how I skip around? That’s part of the deal. I change channels a lot. And radio stations. Drives my wife nuts. “Can’t we listen to just one song all the way through?”) Anyway, museums. The way I go through a museum is the way some people go through Filene’s basement. Some of this, some of that, oh, this one looks nice, but what about that rack over there? Gotta hurry, gotta run. It’s not that I don’t like art. I love art. But my way of loving it makes most people think I’m a real Philistine. On the other hand, sometimes I can sit and look at one painting for a long while. I’ll get into the world of the painting and buzz around in there until I forget about everything else. In these moments I, like most people with ADD, can hyperfocus, which gives the lie to the notion that we can never pay attention. Sometimes we have turbocharged focusing abilities. It just depends upon the situation.

Lines. I’m almost incapable of waiting in lines. I just can’t wait, you see. That’s the hell of it. Impulse leads to action. I’m very short on what you might call the intermediate reflective step between impulse and action. That’s why I, like so many people with ADD, lack tact. Tact is entirely dependent on the ability to consider one’s words before uttering them. We ADD types don’t do this so well. I remember in the fifth grade I noticed my math teacher’s hair in a new style and blurted out, “Mr. Cook, is that a toupe you’re wearing?” I got kicked out of class. I’ve since learned how to say these inappropriate things in such a way or at such a time that they can in fact be helpful. But it has taken time. That’s the thing about ADD. It takes a lot of adapting to get on in life. But it certainly can be done, and be done very well.

As you might imagine, intimacy can be a problem if you’ve got to be constantly changing the subject, pacing, scratching and blurting out tactless remarks. My wife has learned not to take my tuning out personally, and she says that when I’m there, I’m really there. At first, when we met, she thought I was some kind of nut, as I would bolt out of restaurants at the end of meals or disappear to another planet during a conversation. Now she has grown accustomed to my sudden coming and goings.

Many of us with ADD crave high-stimulus situations. In my case, I love the racetrack. And I love the high-intensity crucible of doing psychotherapy. And I love having lots of people around. Obviously this tendency can get you into trouble, which is why ADD is high among criminals and self-destructive risk-takers. It is also high among so-called Type A personalities, as well as among manic-depressives, sociopaths and criminals, violent people, drug abusers, and alcoholics. But is is also high among creative and intuitive people in all fields, and among highly energetic, highly productive people.

Which is to say there is a positive side to all this. Usually the positive doesn’t get mentioned when people speak about ADD because there is a natural tendency to focus on what goes wrong, or at least on what has to be somehow controlled. But often once the ADD has been diagnosed, and the child or the adult, with the help of teachers and parents or spouses, friends, and colleagues, has learned how to cope with it, an untapped realm of the brain swims into view. Suddenly the radio station is tuned in, the windshield is clear, the sand storm has died down. And the child or adult, who had been such a problem, such a nudge, such a general pain in the neck to himself and everybody else, that person starts doing things he’d never been able to do before. He surprises everyone around him, and he surprises himself. I use the male pronoun, but it could just as easily be she, as we are seeing more and more ADD among females as we are looking for it.

Often these people are highly imaginative and intuitive. They have a “feel” for things, a way of seeing right into the heart of matters while others have to reason their way along methodically. This is the person who can’t explain how he thought of the solution, or where the idea for the story came from, or why suddenly he produced such a painting, or how he knew the short cut to the answer, but all he can say is he just knew it, he could feel it. This is the man or woman who makes million dollar deals in a catnap and pulls them off the next day. This is the child who, having been reprimanded for blurting something out, is then praised for having blurted out something brilliant. These are the people who learn and know and do and go by touch and feel.

These people can feel a lot. In places where most of us are blind, they can, if not see the light, at least feel the light, and they can produce answers apparently out of the dark. It is important for others to be sensitive to this “sixth sense” many ADD people have, and to nurture it. If the environment insists on rational, linear thinking and “good” behavior from these people all the time, then they may never develop their intuitive style to the point where they can use it profitably. It can be exasperating to listen to people talk. They can sound so vague or rambling. But if you take them seriously and grope along with them, often you will find they are on the brink of startling conclusions or surprising solutions.

What I am saying is that their cognitive style is qualitatively different from most people’s, and what may seem impaired, with patience and encouragement may become gifted.

The thing to remember is that if the diagnosis can be made, then most of the bad stuff associated with ADD can be avoided or contained. The diagnosis can be liberating, particularly for people who have been stuck with labels like, “lazy”, “stubborn”, “willful”, “disruptive”, “impossible”, “tyrannical”, “a spaceshot”, “brain damaged”, “stupid”, or just plain “bad”. Making the diagnosis of ADD can take the case from the court of moral judgment to the clinic of neuropsychiatric treatment.

What is the treatment all about? Anything that turns down the noise. Just making the diagnosis helps turn down the noise of guilt and self-recrimination. Building certain kinds of structure into one’s life can help a lot. Working in small spurts rather than long hauls. Breaking tasks down into smaller tasks. Making lists. Getting help where you need it, whether it’s having a secretary, or an accountant, or an automatic bank teller, or a good filing system, or a home computer, getting help where you need it. Maybe applying external limits on your impulses. Or getting enough exercise to work off some of the noise inside. Finding support. Getting someone in your corner to coach you, to keep you on track. Medication can help a great deal too, but it is far from the whole solution. The good news is that treatment can really help.

Let me leave you by telling you that we need your help and understanding. We may make mess-piles wherever we go, but with your help, those mess-piles can be turned into realms of reason and art. So, if you know someone like me who’s acting up and daydreaming and forgetting this or that and just not getting with the program, consider ADD before he starts believing all the bad things people are saying about him and it’s too late.

The main point of the talk is that there is a more complex subjective experience to ADD than a list of symptoms can possibly impart. ADD is a way of life, and until recently it has been hidden, even from the view of those who have it. The human experience of ADD is more than just a collection of symptoms. It is a way of living. Before the syndrome is diagnosed that way of living may be filled with pain and misunderstanding. After the diagnosis is made, one often finds new possibilities and the chance for real change.

The adult syndrome of ADD, so long unrecognized, is now at last bursting upon the scene. Thankfully, millions of adults who have had to think of themselves as defective or unable to get their acts together, will instead be able to make the most of their considerable abilities. It is a hopeful time indeed



Secrets for Conquering Attention Deficit Disorder, Naturally

Secrets for Conquering Attention Deficit Disorder, Naturally

At this time of the year, children are back in school. This means the fun of getting new school supplies, reuniting with classmates, and the almost inevitable uptick of newly diagnosed cases of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). If you have a child, or grandchild, with an attention deficit disorder you know just how significantly it can hinder learning.

While the exact cause of attention deficit disorders are unknown, most agree that there’s a genetic component because attention deficit tends to run in families. There’s also research on environmental issues—such as lead, mercury, thimerosol, DDT, and PCBs—and their effects on the developing brain that can result in attention deficit disorders. Environmental EMFs from cordless phones, cellular phones, and Wi-Fi have also been incriminated as an environmental toxin affecting these children.

There’s also ongoing debate as to whether or not ADD and ADHD are over diagnosed, and consequently, stimulant drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine are over prescribed. While I’m sure that medications may help in some cases, I also know that there are more natural, less potentially harmful ways to treat this condition. If a child or grandchild in your life has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, here are some natural solutions that can help.

To Treat Attention Deficit Disorders Naturally

  • Supplement with an omega-3 rich oil: up to 2 g daily.
  • Eliminate all sugar and gluten from the diet.
  • Read labels: eliminate/avoid boxed and canned foods with long lists of chemical names for product preservation as well as “farm-raised” products that contain dyes, etc.
  • Select “organic” and “all-natural” food products.
  • Eat a diet rich in raw foods. Also include yogurt, whole fruit (organic juice or juice made from fresh, organic fruit in juicer), and eggs with DHA.
  • Harness the power of music therapy. Listen to Mozart and have the child use headphones to drown out distractions and provide an object to “fiddle with” to help with focusing and concentration.
  • Give the child a good multivitamin and mineral formula containing: folic acid (200 mcg), B2 (2 mg), B5 (pantothenic acid, 10 mg), B6 (pyridoxine, 4 mg), B12 (200 mcg), vitamin C (200 mg), vitamin E (100 IU) and the minerals calcium (500 mg), chromium (100 mg), copper (1 mg), magnesium (200 mg), and zinc (15 mg).




These days, it’s not uncommon to hear about kids who have difficulty with paying attention.  They can’t sit still, they can’t keep their eyes on what they’re doing, or they miss important instructions and details.

paying attention title

Our sensory systems help keep our bodies and minds at an optimal state of alertness and arousal for any given situation.  Calm enough to listen, attend, work, and engage but not so calm that we’re falling asleep.  Alert enough that we can take in the information in our surroundings and be ready to respond, but not so alert that we’re hyperactive and bouncing off the walls.

Some children who experience difficulty with paying attention may need less sensory input because they become distracted or overwhelmed by certain sensory experiences.  However, many children are better able to attend to and participate when tasks appeal to the senses.  They need more sensory input to regulate themselves and stay focused.

For these kids, adding a sensory component or enhancing the existing sensory features of an activity can be helpful to promote attention and engagement.  The following sensory strategies can help children who require more sensory input to remain focused and attentive.

Auditory Strategies for Attention
Some children need more auditory input to attend.  These children may miss important details or instructions that are presented verbally.  They may not respond when the teacher calls on them, or they may find ways to generate their own noise to stay focused (humming, singing, tapping, and making strange noises).  For these children, try:

1 || Making up songs or rhymes to bring attention to a task (e.g. instead of telling a child to get dressed and then brush his teeth, make up a song to grab his attention and help him remember what he’s supposed to do; make up songs and rhymes to help the child learn and remember academic concepts)

2 || Having the child repeat instructions or important information back to you

3 || Including breaks throughout the day with active movement songs and music

4 || Sensory breaks using musical toys

5 || Exposure to games and apps that teach concepts using music and sound

6 || Use your body to build sound into learning (e.g. clapping out syllables of words, stomping feet to count out the days on the calendar, snapping fingers while counting by 10s)

Visual Strategies for Attention
Some children need more visual input to help them attend.  They may miss instructions that are written on the page or barely notice the visual details in their surroundings.  They may lose interest and focus on visual activities like reading.  For these children, try:

7 || Using learning materials that are bold, bright, and colorful

8 || Working or playing on a brightly colored surface

9 || Highlighting or using color to draw attention to important details on worksheets and in books

10 || Work and play on the computer or tablet using programs and apps that incorporate movement and color

11 || Visual cues like sticker charts, picture schedules, and checklists

12 || Visual learning activities like: word searches, hidden picture pages, color by number pages, word scrambles

13 || Learning activities that incorporate visual discrimination (sorting, finding which one is different)

14 || Learning activities on a light table

15 || Sensory breaks with visual activities like sensory bottles or seek and find bottles filled with dry rice and small objects to find

Tactile Strategies for Attention
Many children are best able to pay attention when their tactile systems are engaged.  These kids are hands-on learners who love to touch and be touched.  For these kids try:

16 || Learning and play with manipulatives and hands-on materials rather than pencil and paper (e.g. building with Legos for math, stringing beads to learn about patterns, adapting worksheets to make them into a cut-and-paste format rather than written)

17 || Combining learning materials with tactile bins (e.g. digging for math flash cards or letter magnets in a bin filled with sand or dry rice)

18 || Incorporating vibration with tools like ARK’s Tran-Quill Writing Kit.  This is a textured, vibrating writing utensil that draws kids’ attention to writing, drawing, and coloring by providing tactile feedback.  It comes with pen, pencil, and crayon attachments as well as Bite-n-Chew tips for kids who also need some extra oral sensory input during learning activities.

19 || Adapting learning materials to incorporate texture.  Try tracing over text using puffy paint or a hot glue gun.  Cut letters and numbers out of textured paper or sandpaper for little hands to touch.

20 || Tactile sensory breaks that provide deep pressure (bear hugs, smushes with pillows or beanbag chairs) and play with tactile materials like play dough and shaving cream

21 || Fidget toys for kids to hold and play with in their hands when they have to listen or pay attention for extended periods of time

Movement Strategies for Attention
Many, if not most, children need to MOVE to attend and to learn!  It’s one of the main messages we preach here at The Inspired Treehouse.  Children were simply not built to sit for extended periods of time, so the best way to engage little minds is by moving little bodies!  For children who benefit from extra movement throughout the day, try:

22 || Offering frequent changes in positions.  One method is to move children through work stations in the classroom to complete a task at teach station.  Allow children to complete classwork or homework while sitting or lying on the floor with a clipboard, sitting on a beanbag chair, or even lying under the table with their work taped to the underside of the table!

23 || Offering different seating options that provide movement such as inflatable seat cushions, rocking chairs, ball chairs, etc.

24 || Building movement into learning whenever possible.  Set math fact flashcards out on the floor and make it a relay race to run, skip, jump, or gallop to pick one up and give an answer!  Use body movements to help kids remember letter sounds.  Tape sight word cards at various heights on the wall and have the child jump to touch them as you read them one by one.

25 || Including movement breaks regularly throughout the day and during transitions.  Try movement breaks with vestibular activities like swinging, rolling, balancing,and rocking orproprioceptive activities that require movement against resistance (heavy work).

Oral Sensory and Olfactory Strategies for Attention
Some kids are able to attend better when they receive sensory input that appeals to the oral sensory and olfactory systems.  Certain smells, tastes, and textures have been associated with more attentive behavior in children.  For kids who benefit from oral and olfactory input, try:

26 || Chewing tools like ARK’s Y-Chews, and Tri-Chews.  Or try ARK’s Grabbers, which also come in scented versions to target the oral sensory and olfactory systems at the same time!

27 || Adding chewing accessories to pencils, like ARK’s colorful and durable Krypto-Bite Chewable Pencil Toppers.

28 || Wearable chewing tools to make it easy for kids to get the oral sensory input they need whenever they need it.  Try ARK’s Krypto-Bite Chewable Gem Necklace or the cool Brick Stick Textured Chew Necklace.

29 || Snacks!  Chewy snacks and treats like bagels, gum, and fruit leathers are typically associated with calmer, more attentive behavior in children.  Sucking against resistance can also help children focus and organize themselves.  Try sucking a thicker liquid like a smoothie through a straw or drink out of a sports bottle.  Crunchy, cold, and sour snacks and drinks like orange wedges, grapefruit, or lemonade can help to promote more alert, active behavior for kids who appear sluggish or tired.

30 || Incorporating smells using oils, scented doughs, scented sensory bins, and other activities to explore the olfactory system. Stronger smells (e.g. peppermint) often correspond with more alert and active behavior while softer smells (e.g. lavender) are usually associated with calmer, more relaxed behavior.