Living Well and Flourishing with ADHD

I received my Certificate in Positive Psychology (CiPP) last weekend, having studied with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar and Dr. Maria Sirois for 11 months. At the alumni weekend, I had the opportunity to make a presentation with my friend and colleague, Mindy Schwartz Katz, about Positive Psychology and ADHD. Positive psychology is not all smiley faces and half-full glasses. Positive psychology is the scientific study of well-being – basically, the study of what makes life worth living and how people can live well and flourish. And, of course, there is great applicability to the ADHD world, which is what makes this study so exciting.

I am happy to have my Certificate in Positive Psychology in hand, and the CiPP community in my heart. I am feeling blessed to be able to serve the work forward. Thank you Tal Ben-Shahar, Maria Sirois and Megan McDonough for your inspiration!

For more information about how positive psychology strategies can help you live well and flourish with ADHD, contact us at info@FocusForEffectiveness.com.

Is It Menopause, ADHD, or Both?

Roxanne Fouché was honored to be interviewed by Ellen Dolgen, Menopause Awareness expert, for her blog post, “Is It Menopause, ADHD, or Both?”  Below is the post that can also be seen on Ellen’s website at http://ow.ly/n4uHo.  The blog post was also published by Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-sarver-dolgen/brain-fog_b_3605867.html) under the title, “What’s to Blame For Your Brain Fog: Menopause or ADHD?”

IS IT MENOPAUSE, ADHD, OR BOTH? by Ellen Dolgen

Where are my keys? If it’s the umpteenth time you’ve asked that question today, you’re undoubtedly frustrated. Chances are you want to find the cause—and fix it before you go and lose your keys again!

If you are in your 40s, 50s, and beyond, there are a few possibilities worth considering: Of course, there’s perimenopause and menopause, which are both infamous for an inability to focus and memory loss. In fact, a new study from the University of Rochester Medical Center shows that many women experience cognitive changes during menopause. (Watch Ellen on the TODAY Show discussing the study!)

But then there’s also Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and its own unique brand of spacey behavior. Not just for kids, about 4.4 percent of adults in the United States show symptoms of the neurobiological disorder, according to one study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

So which one has got the best of your brain, or is it both? It’s a question women should seriously ask themselves when seeking hormone happiness, according to ADHD coach and consultant Roxanne Fouché, co-founder of the San Diego-based Focus For Effectiveness.

While it’s commonly believed that ADHD is more common in boys than in girls, the truth of the matter is that females are often victims of missed diagnoses during childhood, according to Fouché. “Because girls and women tend to be  less hyperactive and have more inattentive symptoms, women often go undiagnosed until their 30s, 40s, or later when there is a widening gap between life’s demands and the individual’s abilities to focus, organize or complete tasks,” she says.

What’s more, perimenopause and menopause is a critical time for physicians to catch ADHD in their female patients. Why? Estrogen levels decrease during this time, contributing to an increased risk of depression, irritability, sleep problems, anxiety, panic, difficulty concentrating, as well as memory and cognitive dysfunctions, according to Fouché. “Women with ADHD frequently report a worsening of their ADHD symptoms during these low-estrogen states,” she adds.

The first step is determining if your brain fog is new—or simply worse than it was before. “If a woman has only recently begun having difficulty with memory, concentration, and mental fuzziness, it may be related to menopause,” Fouché says. “If, on the other hand, these symptoms have been present since childhood and are getting worse, it is possible that the effects of declining estrogen levels make it that much more difficult for her to cope with undiagnosed ADHD.”

Either way, the solution is simple: seek a clear diagnosis and treatment. If the symptoms are new, visit a perimenopause and menopause expert who can evaluate your mental fuzziness. If they’ve always been around (just not as bad as they are now), The National Resource Center of ADHD advises that you visit a specialist who is familiar with ADHD in adult women. That could be a behavioral neurologist, psychiatrist, or clinical or educational psychologist. While there’s no one “test” to diagnose ADHD, typical evaluations include ADHD symptom checklists, standardized behavior rating scales, a discussion of past and present symptoms of ADHD, as well as information gleaned from family and significant others, according to The National Resource Center of ADHD.

Navigating both perimenopause and menopause? Fouché suggests addressing your variety of symptoms by developing a comprehensive, multi-faceted plan that includes:

  • Use of medications, if deemed appropriate by your physician. Stimulants (including Ritalin and Adderall) balance neurotransmitters in the brain to improve the symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity. Non-stimulant medications such as Strattera and antidepressants may be good options if you can’t take stimulants because of existing heart problems, according to Mayo Clinic.
  • Consultation with a perimenopause and menopause expert. Bio-identical hormone-replacement therapy and lifestyle modifications can ease menopausal symptoms and help you achieve hormone happiness.
  • Focus on self-care. Women often take care of everyone else in their lives before they get to themselves. But by putting yourself first—getting regular exercise and eating a well-balanced diet you can alleviate many symptoms of both ADHD and menopause to get your mojo back.(Check out the best foods for fighting menopausal symptoms.)
  • Professional support and guidance. A licensed psychologist, an organizational expert, a certified ADHD coach—or any combination of the three—can help you sort through the brain clutter. Find an ADHD coach specializing in ADHD  through the ADHD Coaches Organization.

For us women, there’s little in life that’s more frustrating than Swiss cheese brain. We’ve got things to do and people to see, after all! Lucky for our minds, schedule, and keys, help is just around the corner. All you have to do is reach out!

An Open Letter from Dr. Thomas E. Brown

On July 22, 2013, Dr. Thomas Brown, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Director, Yale Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders,  published an open letter expressing his concern about recent FDA approval of a diagnostic device for ADHD that is not adequately supported by research and may become a barrier to diagnosis for some.

This open letter to Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drug Administration, begins:

Dear Commissioner Hamburg:

On July 15, 2013, your agency issued a press release reporting that the “FDA permits marketing of the first brain wave test to help assess children and teens for ADHD.” In this action your agency, apparently on the basis of a single unpublished study of 275 children, has created significant risks for those affected with ADHD.

Dr. Brown goes on to discuss the risk of giving undue weight to data from such a device at the expense of careful assessment of “how the individual functions in meeting the multiple demands of daily life.”

Bravo, Dr. Brown!

Read more at: http://www.drthomasebrown.com/an-open-letter-from-dr-brown-expressing-concern-about-a-recent-fda-action-related-to-adhd-2/

Getting The Right Kind of Help For Your Child – And You!

Parenting is simultaneously the hardest and most rewarding job a person can have. There are extra challenges when you have a child with ADHD, especially if your child is struggling in school, the main job of childhood. It’s heartbreaking to watch your child have difficulty with learning and homework, and particularly frustrating when you don’t know where to turn for help.

In order to set your children up for success, you need to match the assistance you seek with the specific difficulties your child is having. As there is a lot of help out there, parents need to know where to look and what to ask for.

Determine What Is Getting in the Way

Although it’s easy to see the poor grades, the reluctance to go to school, or your child’s acting out, it’s important to identify the possible reasons for the behavior.

Is your child doing poorly on tests? Are there gaps in his/her knowledge or skills, making school more difficult than it should be? Is s/he taking way too long to complete homework assignments – or not turning them in at all?

Trust yourself and your perception of what is getting in the way. You know your child best and have seen what has occurred over the years with different programs and teachers.

Work With School Personnel

If your child is having general learning or behavioral difficulty in school, you might work with school personnel to make sure that your child’s program and services are meeting his/her unique needs. This may entail such things as:

  • meeting with the teacher to discuss your concerns,
  • requesting a meeting with the school team to discuss interventions that have been tried and/or those that might be put into place,
  • pursuing testing to see if your child qualifies for specific programs, accommodations, modifications or services, or
  • requesting a review meeting with the IEP or Section 504 team as soon as problems are noted rather than waiting until the annual meeting.

It’s vitally important that the six hours or so that your child is in school are adequately addressing your child’s learning needs so that s/he can succeed.

Study Buddy for Homework Completion

Sometimes a child knows the material, but can’t sit down to complete the work without close supervision. If homework time is an undue struggle, perhaps a high school/college student looking for extra income might be all that is required for your child to begin – and finish! – required homework.

Tutoring for Specific Subjects

After a grueling day at school, it’s not uncommon for children to have difficulty working with their parents on homework or studying. If your child needs help with a particular academic area, a tutor can preview the material or re-teach what wasn’t understood so that your child can better understand the subject matter and improve grades.

Individualized Instruction with an Educational Therapist

Sometimes a tutor just isn’t enough, especially when there are learning difficulties due to ADHD and/or learning disabilities. An educational therapist can provide individualized instruction in keeping with your child’s unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Educational therapists work on specific academic subjects while addressing underlying weaknesses in areas such as visual or auditory processing, memory, and study or test taking skills. They help students develop appropriate learning strategies and gain more confidence in their abilities.

ADHD Coaching to Get and Stay On Track

As students with ADHD get older, it’s often difficult for them to deal with increasing life demands and higher expectations for independence. A coach specifically trained in ADHD can help your child manage his/her life and responsibilities in and out of school.

Coaches provide support, structure and accountability as students work to develop skills and strategies to plan, organize, manage time, begin tasks, sustain focus, and work toward completion. They help students get and stay on track by developing goals, designing actions and monitoring progress to support desired growth.

Support For Parents

It’s often a challenge to balance the desire to give your children help for today’s success while encouraging the development of strategies for tomorrow’s independence.  Parents can often benefit from coaching and consulting designed to provide support and information that will benefit not only your child – but you, as well!

Note: a version of this blog post appeared on www.ImpactADHD.com, where Roxanne was featured as a Guest Expert in August, 2012.