Happy ADHD Awareness Month!

October is ADHD Awareness Month, a whole month of ADHD activities and information! According to the website, www.ADHDAwarenessMonth.org, the mission of ADHD Awareness Month is “to educate the public about ADHD by disseminating reliable information based on the evidence of science and peer-reviewed research.” For great information about ADHD, including an adult self-test for ADHD, stories about ADHD, a list of events (some of which are online), blogs, resources, and posters to share, go to www.ADHDAwarenessMonth.org.

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The information on the ADHD Awareness Month website was compiled by a coalition of organizations dedicated to assisting those with ADHD, including ADDA (Attention Deficit Disorder Association, which focuses on adult issues, www.add.org), ACO (ADHD Coaches Organization, www.adhdcoaches.org), CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, www.chadd.org), ADDitude magazine (www.additudemag.com) and the National Resource Center on AD/HD, a program of CHADD (www.help4adhd.org).

During this month of raising awareness of ADHD, we can all share information with those who don’t seem to “get” ADHD. In addition, you might spend time this month increasing awareness of how your own ADHD strengths and challenges – or those of someone you know – affect work and home life. The first step in moving forward is focusing awareness on what is, and is not, working. The next step, of course, is making a plan to address those things that you would like to change.

So what do you notice about your own ADHD? We’d love to read your comments. And if we can be of help as you pinpoint how ADHD impacts you and what strategies, tools and habits you might use to live effectively with ADHD, contact us at info@FocusForEffectiveness.com.

The “ADHD Shadow” at High Noon

I call it the “ADHD shadow.”

Our ADHD shadow represents just how visible our ADHD challenges are to ourselves and others. Although it would be nice, our ADHD challenges aren’t just going to magically disappear. They stick to us like a shadow, ever present (even at night – you just have to look harder).

When we need to do something that is complex and has many moving parts, and especially something that we are very reluctant to do (taxes, in my case), our ADHD shadow is apt to be very long and very visible. Why? Because our struggles with particular executive functions (e.g., time management, sustained focus, organization, prioritization, etc.), are that much more apparent in that circumstance. We have a long shadow like one seen in the early morning or late afternoon.

However, when we are doing what we love, what we are good at and what we value, we are “in the zone,” and nothing can stop us. It could be playing on the soccer field, painting a picture, or doing a school/work project that is particularly intriguing. We are totally present, positively hyperfocused, and the things that we typically struggle with just aren’t getting in the way. In those circumstances, we have a short shadow like one you might see at noon.

As Thom Hartmann has proposed, ADHD is more of a context disorder.  ADHD shows up in some contexts much more than others; in those circumstances when we are being asked to demonstrate the very skills that we struggle with, our challenges are more apparent to ourselves and to others.

The trick, then, is to discover (or rediscover) in what contexts or circumstances we are at our best, when our ADHD shadow is at “high noon,” barely noticeable to ourselves or to the outside world.

To help figure that out, you might think about – or write about – a time when you were at your best.  In all likelihood, whatever that circumstance was, you were doing something that you valued, something that you brought energy to and that gave you energy, something that you did well – and you hummed along, showing yourself and the world what you were capable of.

Questions to ponder:

  • What were the circumstances of your being at your best?
  • What were you doing?
  • What was present and what was absent?
  • In what way were your strengths demonstrated?
  • How might you take these lessons and apply them to current situations?

The more you know about yourself and the contexts in which you are at your best, the more easily you can engineer your life to have more of those successful “high noon” moments.

And if we can be of assistance as you work to discover how you can be at your best while working around any ADHD challenges, contact us at info@FocusForEffectiveness.com. We would be delighted to help you shorten that proverbial ADHD shadow and help you flourish with ADHD.

Cutting Down on Chronic Lateness for Adults with ADHD

I was honored to be interviewed recently by Margarita Tartakovsky, Associate Editor of Psych Central.

Cutting Down on Chronic Lateness for Adults with ADHD

By MARGARITA TARTAKOVSKY, M.S., Associate Editor

People with ADHD have a distorted sense of time. Sometimes, the passage of time is excruciatingly slow. Waiting in line feels like hours, said Roxanne Fouché, an ADHD coach and consultant.

Other times, time flies. What feels like 15 minutes of engaging in a fun activity is really 45 minutes, she said.

According to professor and ADHD researcher Russell Barkley, Ph.D, many people with ADHD are “time blind.” They forget the purpose of their task and feel uninspired to finish it.

Psychiatrist and ADHD expert Edward Hallowell, M.D., talks about how people with ADHD have two times: “now and not now.” If a work project is due next week, you figure you have plenty of time- until it’s Monday, and you realize that it’s due the next day, and you have to conduct several interviews, on top of other tasks.

Chronic lateness can affect all areas of a person’s life, Fouché said. For instance, if you’re late to work or miss deadlines, you might not get a promotion, or worse, you might get fired.

You might be seen as someone who’s less engaged or can’t be counted on, she said. This might stop a supervisor from assigning projects that truly interest you.

Friends and family might think you’re disrespectful or you don’t care about them, she said. Young kids may get scared when you’re late picking them up from school.

Chronic lateness may even affect your sense of self. You start thinking of yourself as the one who’s always late, Fouché said. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You think, “Why even try? I’m always late!”

This also can trigger embarrassment and self-blame, she said.

The good news is that you can employ strategies to cut down on your chronic lateness in all areas of your life. Below, Fouché, co-founder of Focus For Effectiveness, shared seven helpful suggestions.

Figure out how long things take you.

People with ADHD often overestimate how much they can accomplish in a given time. You might think it takes you 20 minutes to get ready in the morning, but in actuality, it takes an hour.

Fouché suggested not just setting a timer for your morning routine, but also figuring out frequently traveled routes such as the grocery store.

You also can time how long it takes you to complete professional and other personal tasks.

Have something compelling to do.

For people with ADHD, arriving early spells boredom – something they try to avoid, Fouché said. Instead, plan on arriving early and having something compelling to do while you’re waiting.

Doing so gives you a cushion or buffer zone for the unexpected, such as traffic, she said.

For instance, if you’re picking up your child from school, arrive early, and bring a book, magazine article or catalogue you never have a chance to read. This means scoring a good spot and, more important, not making your child wait.

Set multiple alarms.

Set several countdown timers on your phone, computer or anywhere else, Fouché said. For instance, if you need to leave your house at 1 p.m., set an alarm for 10 minutes before. When it rings, note where you left off in a task (e.g., jot it down on a sticky note).

The second alarm gives you a few minutes to run to the bathroom, put on your shoes and get out the door, she said. It also stops you from thinking, “I just have to do this one more thing!”

Have a launching pad.

People with ADHD also might run late because they’re busy searching for their keys or wallet or anything else they need to be able to leave. Instead, keep a table by the door. This is a specially designated spot for your wallet, keys and phone charger – and unusual items you’ll need on a specific day.

For instance, you might need certain paperwork for a doctor’s appointment, coupons for the grocery store, or your USB drive for a presentation.

Rethink requests.

Sometimes people with ADHD run late because they have too many things on their plates. “People with ADHD have a tendency to over-commit,” Fouché said. They get excited about many things and are overly optimistic about their to-do lists, she said.

The next time you get a request, instead of saying, “Sure, I’ll do it,” simply pause, and say, “Hmm, that sounds great. Let me look at my schedule and get back to you.”

Build a routine.

For people with ADHD, routines can sound boring. But “it really makes things more automatic,” Fouché said. And that makes life a whole lot easier and less stressful.

For instance, have weekly schedules for going to the gas station, doing laundry and grocery shopping, she said. This way you won’t run late to work because you desperately needed gas, or fail to get your kids to school on time because you ran out of peanut butter and jelly.

It also helps to build routines at work, Fouché said. For instance, if you need to turn in progress reports every month, instead of scrambling and stressing several days before your deadline, spend 10 minutes every day working on the report.

Explore what’s worked.

“It’s rare that someone is never on time,” Fouché said. Maybe there’s an appointment you always make or a work deadline you never miss.

Think about the strategies you used. What worked in these scenarios? Then consider how you can apply these strategies to other situations, she said. (They might need to be tweaked depending on the scenario.)

“Often we pay attention to what doesn’t work and blame ourselves instead of paying attention to what does work.”

Overall, Fouché also underscores the importance of finding strategies that work for you.

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 – it’s 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.