Many people think of ADHD as a disorder of attention or lack thereof. This is the traditional view of ADHD. But ADHD is much more complex. It involves issues with executive functioning, a set of cognitive skills, which has far-reaching effects.
In his comprehensive and excellent book Mindful Parenting for ADHD: A Guide to Cultivating Calm, Reducing Stress & Helping Children Thrive, developmental behavioral pediatrician Mark Bertin, MD, likens ADHD to an iceberg.
Above the water, people see poor focus, impulsivity and other noticeable symptoms. However, below the surface are a slew of issues caused by impaired executive function (which Bertin calls “an inefficient, off-task brain manager”).
Understanding the role of executive function in ADHD is critical for parents, so they can find the right tools to address their child’s ADHD. Plus, what may look like deliberate misbehaving may be an issue with ADHD, a symptom that requires a different solution.
And if you’re an adult with ADHD, learning about the underlying issues can help you better understand yourself and find strategies that actually work — versus trying harder, which doesn’t.
It helps to think of executive function as involving six skills. In Mindful Parenting for ADHD, Dr. Bertin models this idea after an outline from ADHD expert Thomas E. Brown. The categories are:
ADHD isn’t an inability to pay attention. ADHD makes it harder to manage your attention. According to Bertin, “It leads to trouble focusing when demands rise, being overly focused when intensely engaged, and difficulty shifting attention.”
For instance, in noisy settings, kids with ADHD can lose the details of a conversation, feel overwhelmed and shut down (or act out). It’s also common for kids with ADHD to be so engrossed in an activity that they won’t register anything you say to them during that time.
This is the “ability to monitor your own physical activity and behavior,” Bertin writes. Delays in this type of executive function can lead to fidgeting, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
It also can take longer to learn from mistakes, which requires being aware of the details and consequences of your actions. And it can cause motor delays, poor coordination and problems with handwriting.
This includes organizing, planning, prioritizing and managing time. As kids get older, it’s task management (and not attention) that tends to become the most problematic.
Also, “Unlike some ADHD-related difficulties, task management doesn’t respond robustly to medication,” Bertin writes. This means that it’s important to teach your kids strategies for getting organized.
People with ADHD can have poor working memory. “Working memory is the capacity to manage the voluminous information we encounter in the world and integrate it with what we know,” Bertin writes. We need to be able to temporarily hold information for everything from conversations to reading to writing.
This explains why your child may not follow through when you give them a series of requests. They simply lose the details. What can help is to write a list for your child, or give them a shorter list of verbal instructions.
Kids with ADHD tend to be more emotionally reactive. They get upset and frustrated faster than others. But that’s because they may not have the ability to control their emotions and instead react right away.
Individuals with ADHD have difficulty sustaining effort. It isn’t that they don’t value work or aren’t motivated, but they may run out of steam. Some kids with ADHD also may not work as quickly or efficiently.
Trying to push them can backfire. “For many kids with ADHD, external pressure may decrease productivity …Stress decreases cognitive efficiency, making it harder to solve problems and make choices,” Bertin writes. This can include tasks such as leaving the house and taking tests.
Bertin features a list of other signs in Mindful Parenting for ADHD because many ADHD symptoms involve several parts of executive function. For instance, kids with ADHD tend to struggle with maintaining routines, and parents might need to help them manage these routines longer than other kids.
Kids with ADHD also have inconsistent performance. This leads to a common myth: If you just try harder, you’ll do better. However, as Bertin notes, “Their inconsistency is their ADHD. If they could succeed more often, they would.”
Managing time is another issue. For instance, individuals with ADHD may not initially see all the steps that are required for a project, thereby taking a whole lot more time. They may underestimate how long a task will take (“I’ll watch the movie tonight and write my paper before the bus tomorrow”). They may not track their time accurately or prioritize effectively (playing until it’s too late to do homework).
In addition, people with ADHD often have a hard time finishing what they start. Kids may rarely put things away, leaving cabinets open and leaving their toys and clothes all over the house.
ADHD is complex and disruptions in executive functioning affect all areas of a person’s life. But this doesn’t mean that you or your child is doomed. Rather, by learning more about how ADHD really works, you can find specific strategies to address each challenge.
And thankfully there are many tools to pick from. You can start by typing in “strategies for ADHD” in the search bar on Psych Central and checking out Bertin’s valuable book.
Solution focused brief therapy techniques are really designed to assist persons to find effective solutions to problems and in the shortest possible time.
Therefore Solution Focused Therapy, in family meetings can greatly assist family members to work proactively and quickly find solutions together.
Table of Contents
Describe the problem.
Identify the extent of the problem.
Family interaction meetings.
Comfortable atmosphere and space
Develop an agenda
Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
Ever had a situation in the home when you just don’t know what to do? Maybe it has to do with your children not cleaning up after themselves or playing football in the dining area instead of outside. Or perhaps they got up each morning on the weekend, and all they did from the start of the day to late evening is look at television, played video games or talk on the cell phone with their friends.
Oh, there we go all hands are raise.
Come on, you know you want to raise your hands. Ah, that’s it, there we go!
Well, there is nothing simple about getting your children to do chores or go read a story book or something like that when they want to do the total opposite. But here is something you could try to modify the behaviour of your children.
Use written rules.
- Be clear: If the rule is for the child to pick up their toys after playing with it in the play area, then it needs to say so. By saying move your toys could mean to the child, kick your toys to the corner of the room in a heap. So the written rule should speak to where you want them to put their toys and how they should arrange them as well.
- All must be following rules: Children learn by association, social learning, observing for instance. If parents also have some written rules for themselves, then when the child observes the parent adhering to these, they will be more incline to follow the ones they have.
- Involve the child in developing rules: As adults, we all want to know that we are a part of something that pertains to us. Children are no different. When you are making the rule for your home get their contributions. They may think of something that you may not have thought about if you are creating the rules for them. So get their views.
- Put rules in a place all can see: It is important that the children be able to have the visual benefit of the rules you make with them. So put it on a sheet of flip chart paper or wide enough so it can be easily seen by all.
So use rules in the home to see your family start building positive habits, or use these rules to reinforce what can be build upon.