The Edge Foundation’s primary mission is to provide access to qualified, professional coaches for students with ADHD as part of their multi-modal treatment program. Edge Foundation coaching helps students with learning challenges, like ADHD, reach their full potential.
When I meet parents one of the first subjects that they are mindful of is the stress and pressure they feel.
It’s not easy managing kids with ADHD, jobs, after school activities and community obligations.
Parents feel overwhelmed and stressed by modern day parenting. Often, they laugh saying they don’t even have time to think about slowing down the pace of their lives.
Most parents tell me they feel stressed, anxious, and frustrated.
When parents get real in coaching, they share with me the feeling that they are failing as parents. Their ADHD kids have drained every ounce of patience from them due to fighting about homework, constant reminding and nagging about taking a shower, organizing their clothes for the morning, and screen time.
Any of this sound familiar?
When I ask parents how they de-stress…they give yet another hearty laugh!
“Are you kidding?
De-stress, relax… we have 3 kids, 2 with ADHD and one with LD…. we both work full time…When do you really think we could relax? “
Then I mention the M-word…. Meditation…. you can almost see them tense in their chairs.
They tell me they don’t have time to meditate.
They don’t live near a retreat center.
They can’t sit in funny positions, and they don’t want to join a Buddhist Temple. Therefore, Meditation is off the books…don’t bring it up again!
Inevitably the first question parents ask me is how in the world can kids or adults with ADHD sit silently?
Many believe it’s an oxymoron…. people with ADHD can’t sit still and can’t think about one thing.
I share with parents that Mindfulness is not about sitting still or about keeping one thought in their head. Mindfulness is about waking up to the present moment, being aware in a non-judgmental way of the thoughts and emotions that arise at any point in the day and just being with them. Not reacting or clinging to them.
Just being with them as they are in the present moment.
We are often in “doing” mode. We do the dishes, laundry, homework, and dinner. And that ADHD brain?
When is it not doing something?!
We rarely stop, take a step back, breathe and just be with ourselves in the present moment with whatever thoughts and emotions that arise- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
And our thoughts and emotions do arise. On average over we have about 2,000 thoughts an hour and over 50,000 thoughts a day.
Our heads are a very busy place.
Our brains have non-stop thoughts, judgments, views, and just plain old chatter. It is so noisy that most people don’t even know how noisy it is until they begin to hear some “silence” and then they notice the habitual noise in their heads.
With so much noise in our heads no wonder people with ADHD have a hard time focusing or bringing their mind into focus.
So how can Mindful Meditation be helpful for people with ADHD?
And how can parents who have such busy lives have time to slow down and well…literally smell the morning coffee?
Here are a few tips to help get you going: Start with yourself…If you feel a bit less stress and a bit more mindful, your children will be more likely to join with you in the journey to calm.
Stop 3-4 times a day (yes…put a reminder on your phone…it is a new habit!), and just take a few slow breaths in and out…close your eyes if you are comfortable…and just be their feeling the air going in and out of your body.
When you eat, take a moment to just notice the food, the smells, colors, textures. Then stop and tune into tasting your food. Just for a few bites.
When was the last time you just ate…and did not check your email or go on Social Media and savor what you were eating?
Stop and smell the coffee…literally…take a moment enjoy the smell of fresh coffee before you drink it. Don’t just drink the coffee…” drink that moment” too!
Don’t automatically answer your phone when it rings…. take a few breaths during each ring…you know nothing bad will happen if your phone rings 3-4 times before you answer…and you will have gained a few mindful moments in your day.
So, what have you got to lose…take a few moments, breathe… feel and be in the moment.
Do it to help your kids.
But really do it to help yourself.
Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.
~ Sharon Salzberg
Katherine Ellison has achieved many things in her life. She has been a foreign correspondent in Latin America, the author of 5 books on practical neuroscience, and a Pulitzer Prize winner at age 27. She also has ADHD.
She has reported on ADHD and other learning and behavioral issues for various media including The New York Times and the Washington Post. In addition, she has consulted for Fortune 500 clients including Google, written speeches for nationally-respected thought leaders like Alice Waters, and speaks to audiences throughout America, including those at top universities and medical groups.She teaches audiences how manage distractibility and realize their dreams.
Ellison recalled in an interview that she had always been a restless and easily bored person. She gravitated towards journalism in part because it offered her an opportunity to work in a very stimulating, rapidly changing environment which fit her need for constant novelty.Though in her younger years she was skeptical about the validity of ADHD and critical of parents who medicated their children for ADHD, she later changed her view about that. Her change came when, as a parent of a child with ADHD symptoms she had to grapple with parenting issues made more difficult by her own tendency towards distraction. Her son was medicated for a period of one year and showed dramatic improvement in terms of his ability to concentrate and to make friends and a decrease in oppositional behaviors. After being diagnosed herself she came to understand and appreciate the role this condition had played in the lives of multiple generations of her family.
A new research study shows positive, long lasting results for children with ADHD, from a two-session sleep program. The program improves the children’s sleep, ADHD symptoms, quality of life, daily functioning and behavior, with benefits lasting at least 12 months. Because the intervention is brief, it is suitable for use by most families as well as a wide variety of clinicians. The sleep program was developed by research teams at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Deakin University.
For children with ADHD, poor sleep may significantly impact their ADHD symptoms. In fact, research has found that treating sleep problems may be enough to eliminate attention and hyperactivity issues for some children.
The study included 244 children aged 5 to 13 years who had been diagnosed with ADHD and moderate to severe sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep. They were divided into two groups. A control group of children with ADHD was set up that did not receive the sleep intervention. For the other group, the researchers used the following sleep intervention approach:
Children in the treatment group and a parent attended two sessions with a pediatrician or psychologist two weeks apart.
During that time, the clinician assessed the child’s sleep, established sleep goals, advised on normal sleep patterns and healthy sleep habits and developed a customized behavioral sleep management plan.
The program ran in conjunction with the child’s usual care plan.
The program covered bedtime issues including insomnia, night time anxiety, bedtime refusal, or needing a person or object (e.g., parent or television) in order to fall asleep.
Families received information sheets matching the child’s sleep problems, with parents also asked to keep a sleep diary for their child between the two consultations.
Children in the control group continued with their usual care from their pediatrician.
A follow-up phone call two weeks later monitored progress, addressed any problems and advised on additional strategies if required.
Participants were followed up at three, six and 12 months to evaluate how well benefits were maintained, with the child’s parents and teacher also asked to complete a survey at the beginning and end of the study period.
The researchers found that after 12 months, the children in the treatment group were getting better sleep and experiencing a wider range of bf benefits (e.g., ADHD symptom reduction) than those in the control group. They also discovered that children in the treatment group who took ADHD medication showed greater improvement than those who didn’t.
The study holds out the prospect of a simpler and more effective approach for implementing healthy sleep habits in children with ADHD and improving their quality of life.
Previous studies have shown that exercise has a positive effect on attention for individuals with ADHD. Most of thees studies have focused on measuring improvement in attention following exercise. A new study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, shows that attention is substantially improved during exercise.
Exercise is thought to increase the levels of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex and thus lead to improved attention and cognitive functioning following the physical activity. These effects have been noted in both adults and children. In the new research, led by Yuri Rassovsky and Tali Alfassi at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, it was found that these improvements occurred during exercise as well.
The researchers had study participants respond to high pitched tones while walking on a treadmill. Sometimes the high pitched tone was preceded by a low pitch tone (“warned”), and about 20% of the time it was not (“unwarned”. Participants had to signal when they heard a warned tone, but ignore unwarned tones. The study team evaluated several measures of attention, including:
Discrimination – being able to distinguish the two types of tones
Reaction time – how fast they responded to a waarned tone
Omission – how often they failed to respond to a warned tone
Commission – how often they responded inappropriately
The study employed a control group of individuals without ADHD.
The researchers found that the group with ADHD had faster reaction times and greater accuracy (i.e. fewer errors of omission or commission) than the control (non-ADHD) group. The results were consistent across adults and children, male and female, as well as age level.
These results, if validated by additional studies, offer the prospect that incorporating exercise into tasks at school and work, can help improve an ADHD individual’s overall attention and cognitive performance. Also, other activities that boost dopamine (and arousal) may be shown to have the same effect – e.g., listening to music while working.
Dyscalculia is a learning disorder you’ve probably never of before. It is defined as a condition that involves long-term, severe difficulties with mathematics – which cause significant problems with academic or occupational performance, or with daily activities. Dyscalculia is often co-occurring with other conditions such as dyslexia and ADHD.
While much is still not known about the causes of dyscalculia, research has shown that it is about equally prevalent among boys and girls. Recent research has also shown that 80% of children with the condition have another learning disorder. Many experts now believe that dyscalculia is as common as dyslexia.Similar to dysexia, dyscalculia is a lifelong condition that affects individuals well beyond their school years.
Children with dyscalculia frequently go undiagnosed. In part this can be due to:
Practitioners have less experience diagnosing dyscalculia than other learning disorders such as dyslexia and ADHD
The condition can be obscured by the presence of a co-occurring condition
There is also no official guidance on how dyscalculic learners can be best supported
Teachers and parents have a tendency to believe that “math isn’t for ever one,” not realizing that a child’s struggle with numbers is a sign of a deeper learning disorder
While there is no standard treatment protocol yet, there are a number of things parents can do to help a child with dyscalculia, including
Practicing some basic concepts and procedures with them by manipulating everyday objects, such as beads or tokens, or
Playing simple number games.
Playing board games with dice – which can help to demonstrate basic number concepts
For older children, computer based math programs can also be used for repeated practice of arithmetic
The most important thing to do if you observe your child struggling with simple number sense is to seek help from your child’s doctor, educational specialists or psychologists trained to work with children having dyscalculia. The impacts of the disorder can affect your child’s future, both in school and in life. You can find more information and resources at dyscalculia.org.
This video shows what having dyscalculia can feel like:
Lost in numbers/ a dyscalculia documentary - YouTube
Children with ODD may be stigmatized. Their conduct may cause parents or teachers to label them as hopelessly disruptive and give up on helping them improve their behavior. There may also be an underlying fear of the child’s aggression, tantrums or provocative behavior. The resulting social isolation can quickly become problematic for the child and, in some cases, lead to depression, thoughts of suicide and substance abuse.
ODD only occurs in children – ODD is most commonly diagnosed in children, but teenagers and adults can also have ODD. Usually symptoms of ODD first appear in childhood. If they aren’t diagnosed or treated at that stage, they can persist into adulthood.
ODD and conduct disorder are the same – Conduct disorder is the condition that occurs most often with ODD. However, ODD involves irritable, argumentative, and defiant behavior, and behavior that is violent or illegal is more rare in individuals with ODD.
ODD is always a result of trauma – The precise cause of ODD is not yet known. While trauma can be associated with ODD, researchers now believe it can be triggered by a combination of risk factors, including family, environmental, biological and social.
ODD is due to bad parenting – ODD can be associated and heightened by neglectful or abusive parenting, but many children with loving and attentive parents can also develop the condition. Researchers do believe that how parents respond when the diagnosis is first made can make a big difference in whether and how long ODD persists.
Punishment is the best way to correct behavior associated with ODD – Research has shown that punishing behaviors associated with ODD does not help. Also, inconsistent, severe punishment can worsen behavior. Experts also agree sending children to camps or retreats for “problem children” is typically not helpful. One of the better strategies for parents of children with ODD involves parent-management training to learn ways to positively respond to and discipline inappropriate and disruptive behavior.
ODD is not treatable – ODD can definitely be treated. In fact, more than 65% of children with ODD see their symptoms go away in 3 years or less. Parents and teachers who note disruptive behavior should consider the underlying conditions instead of simply punishing or ignoring the child. Treating children as if they’ll never improve may cause them to doubt themselves or believe no one cares. As a result, they may be unmotivated to work on behavior, which may become worse. Patience and compassion are key factors to show these children they’re loved and accepted, regardless of their behavior.
At this point in time, there’s no guaranteed way to prevent ODD. However, research has shown that positive parenting and early treatment can help improve behavior and prevent the situation from getting worse. The earlier that ODD can be diagnosed and managed, the better the chances are for a positive outcome.
In addition to the typical cognitive burden that ADHD can bring, women with ADHD also have to deal with an ever fluctuating hormone environment. Changes in estrogen can intensify the symptoms of ADHD, particularly during the menstrual cycle, puberty and menopause. It is important for women diagnosed with ADHD to be aware of how estrogen affects their condition, and to take steps to lessen the impact.
The brain is one of the organs of the body targeted by estrogen. In addition to being one of the main hormones that is responsible for regulating the female reproductive system, estrogen also plays a role in cognitive function. It modulates the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters help with focus, concentration, mood, and memory.
When estrogen levels are low, you may experience increased feelings of irritability, moodiness, and depression, problems with sleep, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, fuzzy thinking, forgetfulness and memory problems, fatigue and loss of energy, as well as hot flashes. Women with ADHD can be particularly sensitive to lower estrogen levels since ADHD is also associated with a dysfunction in the neurotransmitter systems in the brain.
Estrogen levels may impact the effectiveness of ADHD stimulant medications. Progesterone can also have an impact. Higher estrogen levels seem to aid the effectiveness of ADHD medications, while progesterone seems to decrease their effectiveness. Thus during times when hormone levels change significantly, ADHD medications may be more or less effective at managing symptoms.
Puberty – With the onset of puberty, estrogen and progesterone levels can both increase dramatically. Teenage girls with ADHD may experience intense mood swings and irritability, and notice that their ADHD medications are not working as effectively..
PMS – During the menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels change, and this may play havoc with ADHD medications.
Pregnancy – During pregnancy, estrogen levels are much higher. This may help ease ADHD symptoms for some women. However, many physicians have their patients stop taking ADHD medications during pregnancy which can counteract any potential positive effect of more estrogen.
Postpartum – Following birth, estrogen levels drop which can exacerbate ADHD symptoms and feelings of depression. The extra stress of the new baby, plus lack of sleep, can further intensify ADHD symptoms.
Perimenopause – Perimenopause typically begins in the late 30s or early 40s. The fluctuating estrogen levels may cause many women diagnosed with ADHD to notice a worsening of symptoms. An increase in stimulant medication may be prescribed to offset the effect of changing hormone levels.
Menopause – Menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age and brings with it a significant drop in estrogen levels. However, during menopause, these levels tend to stabilize. If ADHD symptoms worsen during this time, doctors may prescribe additional stimulant medication, or hormone replacement therapy, which may make additional stimulants unnecessary.
For many years, ADHD was believed to be a childhood issue that mostly affected boys. But as our knowledge of ADHD has grown, we now know that girls are just as likely to have it as boys. The fact that boys are more frequently diagnosed may be due to the differences between how girls and boys experience ADHD.
Parents, teachers and many healthcare providers tend to focus on the hyperactivity and impulse control aspects of ADHD. These are more typical of boys and get attention because of the disruption they can cause. Girls with ADHD typically display symptoms of the inattentive form of ADHD. They may be labeled “daydreamers” and may exhibit shyness and low self-esteem. As they grow older, girls with ADHD may experience anxiety and depression. There are many signs that a girl may have ADHD, but they may be more subtle than those for boys with ADHD.
Below is a short video that characterizes the symptoms girls with ADHD typically exhibit. It is important for parents to act quickly if they believe their daughter has ADHD. Untreated ADHD in girls can have serious repercussions in their schooling and home life, and later on when they move into the workplace and have children.
Patricia Quinn, M.D. and director of the National Center for Gender Studies and ADHD in Washington D.C. recommends that parents work with an ADHD specialist. They should ensure the evaluating clinician takes a thorough medical history (including family history, due to the high probablility of inheriting ADHD). The doctor should also work with your daughter’s school to obtain more information about her behaviors. And since adolescents are a great source of information about their own experience, encourage a teen to talk directly with her doctor.
ADHD in Girls: How to Recognize the Symptoms - YouTube
Weight loss is difficult for most adults, but even more so for those who have ADHD. Part of the reason is the tendency for impulsiveness that comes with ADHD. This can lead to cravings for foods that are high in fat and sugar. The other difficulty is dopamine. The ADHD brain typically has low dopamine and the dopamine boost from carbohydrates and sweets can become almost addictive. So, if you have ADHD, any strategy to lose weight has to take these factors into consideration. Here are some tips for building a weight loss plan you can stick with.
Think long term – Understand that you are not embarking on a short term fix to get your body to a weight level that is considered normal. Your ADHD brain makes it all too easy to immediately fall into bad eating habits. You want to set up nutritional and exercise habits that will keep you weight under control for the long run.
Set realistic goals – The first step in that process is to set goals that are realistic and then work to exceed them over time. For example, set your goals for exercise to something you know is achievable and sustainable. Then move the bar a little higher once you’ve accomplished those early goals. This will prevent the frustration of not meeting your goals and giving up.
Be informed – Take the time to learn about what nutrition works best for you. Consult your doctor or nutritionist and be aware of what foods will satisfy you without adding weight. Research on weight loss shows that dieters who understand the importance of good nutrition are more likely to lose weight, and less likely to regain it.
Establish a plan – Set up a schedule for meals and exercise, including what the meals with consist of, and how long each exercise session will be. Build flexibility into your plan, but stick with it. If you set realistic goals for yourself, this won’t be so difficult.
Track your progress – Keep a record of what you are doing and how you stand in relation to your goals. This should be simple, not a burden. The main idea is to keep yourself motivated as you move toward your goals.
Build in motivation – Give yourself rewards when you reach a milestone. Also, if you need help, enlist friends or a family member to help you stay focused on achieving your goals.
ADHD can lead to overeating and excessive weight gain. Over time, this can result in other health problems. However, the food and exercise routines you build as part of an informed dieting plan can keep you in good health throughout your life.
Males are 3x more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD
Over their lifetimes, 13% of men will diagnosed; 4.2% of women will be diagnosed
Other Demographic Patterns
Children living in households where English is the main language are more than 4x as likely to be diagnosed as children living in households where English is the second language
Children living in households that make less than 2x the federal poverty level have a higher risk than children from higher-income households
ADHD rates vary among children with different ethnicity::
States with the highest and lowest rates of ADHD:
Delaware and South Carolina: 11.7%
New Jersey: 5.5%
Among children 2-17 years of age with current ADHD, about 77% were receiving treatment. Of these children:
About 30% were treated with medication alone
About 15% received behavioral treatment alone
About 32% children with ADHD received both medication treatment and behavioral treatment
About 23% children with ADHD were receiving neither medication treatment nor behavioral treatment
An earlier study suggested that the “cost of illness” for a person with ADHD is $14,576 each year. That means ADHD costs Americans $42.5 billion dollars each year—and that is considered to be on the conservative side of estimates. This is because of healthcare cost inflation and also the fact that medicines and other treatments aren’t the only costs to consider when dealing with an ADHD diagnosis. Other factors may include:
loss of work
juvenile justice expenses
other healthcare costs related to having ADHD
The landscape of ADHD diagnosis and treatment continues to shift as our understanding of the condition improves. For example, our knowledge now that ADHD can present differently in girls vs. boys may portend a rise in diagnoses among girls. However, as these facts show, ADHD is a serious medical condition that merits more investment in research and treatment.