Creating An Empowering Adhd Diagnosis
In a previous post, I shared this sentence frame Ive been using to help me explain a diagnosis to children based on what we discover during our assessment.
The goal of presenting a diagnosis in this way is to help the child:
- Understand their experience in school, at home, and in the community
- Engage in their intervention plan
- Advocate for what they need
When we break it down, there are 5 parts to the sentence frame above:
Lets see what this might look like for ADHD.
Adult Adhd Isn’t Just An Excuse To Get Meds
Some may think that adult ADHD doesn’t exist, that it’s something people grow out of once they get through their teen years. But about 3 out of 5 children with ADHD in the United States become adults with ADHD. Less than 20% of them have been diagnosed and treated, and only about 1/4 of those seek help.
Adults with ADHD can end up getting fired or quitting jobs, struggling with substance abuse, or even landing in jail. It’s estimated that up to 40% of prison inmates have ADHD.
The medicines that doctors typically suggest to tame the symptoms of ADHD are a class of drugs called stimulants. These medications can be life-changing. Studies show for people with ADHD, there’s no connection between the medications and substance abuse, as long you take them the way your doctor tells you to.
Also, one study that followed a group of teenagers into young adulthood found they were no more likely to misuse drugs than other teens.
That’s why someone with ADHD should get medical help. Most large hospitals and university medical centers have doctors who specialize in adult ADHD.
Why People With Adhd Dont Always Get Things Done
People with ADHD are both mystified and frustrated by secrets of the ADHD brain, namely the intermittent ability to be super-focused when interested, and challenged and unable to start and sustain projects that are personally boring. It is not that they dont want to accomplish things or are unable to do the task. They know they are bright and capable because theyve proved it many times. The lifelong frustration is never to be certain that they will be able to engage when needed, when they are expected to, when others depend on them to. When people with ADHD see themselves as undependable, they begin to doubt their talents and feel the shame of being unreliable.
Mood and energy level also swing with variations of interest and challenge. When bored, unengaged, or trapped by a task, the person with ADHD is lethargic, quarrelsome, and filled with dissatisfaction.
You May Like: Adhd Executive Function Adults
How I Explain My Adhd
I explain that ADHD is a neurological condition which includes symptoms of inattentiveness and hyperactivity. I then go onto listing the key traits that I struggle with such as: difficulties focusing, impulsiveness, procrastination and always feeling like Im being driven by a motor. Also, I throw out a few comparisons between ADHDers and Neurotypicals. For instance, a non-ADHDer could spend 40mins completing a task which could take an ADHDer 2hrs or more to complete.
I also mention that there are a few positive aspects of ADHD like hyperfocus, multitasking and being an idea generation machine.
You could give a textbook explanation of ADHD or you could explain your experience of ADHD. depending on who you speak to.
Factual Knowledge About Adhd
There are still lots of misconceptions about ADHD. For example, some people think only children have it and that adults dont. Others know about hyperactive ADHD and not inattentive ADHD.
Some people know a person with ADHD, and think that is how ADHD shows up for everyone.
When you know your friends knowledge base, you can fill in the blanks and explain how ADHD affects you. Even if they are really knowledgeable about ADHD, they wont know how it affects you.
Talking about ADHD like this is less stressful for both of you. They arent put on the spot, and it can open up a thoughtful conversation. Plus, it sets the tone for future conversations you two can have about ADHD.
Read Also: Is Sam From Atypical Really Autistic
How To Explain Adhd To Someone Without Adhd
I still struggle to understand what is going on in my husbands brain, who has ADHD.
But I think thats normal in a relationship lasting over 20 years
Mike himself has a great explanation: Imagine your head is a TV but someone else is holding the remote control.
But at that time, I didnt understand what he meant.
Back then, six years ago, when he found out about his ADHD for me, it only meant struggle.
With problems everywhere.
With fights for seemingly nothing.
With strange behavior.
All because we both didnt know what was going on.
People Explain What Adhd Feels Like
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is much more than an inability to pay attention. For people with ADHD, the challenges associated with it can affect every aspect of their lives.
The Mighty teamed up with Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder , a nonprofit aimed at improving the lives of people affected by ADHD to ask people who have ADHD how they would describe their condition to someone unfamiliar with it.
This is what they had to say:
1. Its like opening 100 tabs in your browser at once and trying to do something different in each one at the same time. Then someone walks up and wants to have a conversation. Jennifer Arnott
2. Its like trying to listen to your favorite show with really bad noise disrupting the signal. All the while, loud children are screaming around you and throwing things. C hristine Ashley
3. Its like being a cat with 100 people with lazer pointers. Jamie Hynds
4. Its like The Big Bang Theory theme song Theres so many random things happening at a fast speed.
5. Picture a room with 1,000 TVs with each TV showing something different. Now try and concentrate on just one TV with out getting distracted. Damian DaViking Aird
6. Jack hammers. Lots of them in my brain. And a parade. With clowns and balloons and banners, and a marching band and strobe lights. When people talk to me it feels like someone is popping bubble wrap in my ears. Sophie Moir
Recommended Reading: Are There Doctors With Autism
How To Talk About Your Childs Adhd With Their Peers
Your child may have a hard time with kids their own age. They may find it difficult to make and keep friends. Itâs important that they continue to participate in social activities, though, so they can improve their social skills. Sometimes, it may help if your child tells peers that they have ADHD themselves. There are a few ways they can do this:
Keep it simple. Your child can say that they have ADHD, which makes it harder for their mind and body to stay still and focus. If their behavior causes a problem — for example, they have trouble following rules during a game — they can apologize and explain that their ADHD sometimes makes things harder for them. They can let friends know that they are working on ways to make it better.
Let them use their own language. It can be as simple as them explaining to a friend that they have to sit in the front row at school to make it easier for them to pay attention. Script out several different scenarios for them and let them choose the one they feel most comfortable with.
Talk to siblings, too. It can be hard for a brother or sister to understand why their sibling acts a certain way. You can explain that ADHD is just part of who your child is. Itâs not contagious, and there are treatments to help them focus and behave better. You can also ask for their input on routines to help things go more smoothly at home.
You Can Have Adhd And Not Seem Hyper
Your friend with ADHD may actually be the most mellow in the group. When you have inattentive type ADHD, you mainly have trouble paying attention and focusing.
People with this type of ADHD are more prone to making careless mistakes, losing things, and not being able to follow through. Which explains, say, why a spouse keeps forgetting to do something like fix a jammed window or leaky toilet.
Also Check: What Age Does Autism Show Itself
Adult Adhd Symptom: Staying On Task
Concentrating on one task until it is finished is an issue that we all have at times because our minds are naturally disorderly places. The ADHD brain, however, hatches new plans and ideas constantly and can easily skip and jump from one idea to the next, forgetting to loop back to the original task, as average people might. Being online can be especially challenging for ADHD-ers . I set timers or limit myself to allowing only a fixed number of tabs open on my computer . There are other tricks, old-fashioned tools like paper planners and calendars, and apps, like RescueTime and Freedom, that are designed to keep us productive.
To be clear, adults dont need babysitterswe need prompters, tools, and allies, and the confidence to ask for them. With proper support, ADHD-ers are big thinkers and do extraordinary work. We just need a little help getting through tasks we may find boring.
What it feels like: On a busy day, its not unusual for me to overestimate how much I can get done. I sometimes start up to five tasks during the daywriting thank you notes at breakfast, chopping vegetables for soup at lunch, researching a new smartphone, and creating a spreadsheet of expenses in the afternoon. They are all works in progress, which is fine until a deadline pops up . I give myself two days to complete tasks, one day to start and one day to finish, so I am not constantly berating myself for not finishing them.
Defining The Adhd Diagnosis
A diagnosis is simply a way of bringing the highways and construction zones together. For me, this sounds like:
It turns out, many people have highways and construction zones just like yours. Youre not alone! When we see this pattern, we call it ADHD.
Here are a few definitions of ADHD Ive used for kids in my practice.
- ADHD means your brain is built in a way that makes memory and creativity easy, but writing and waiting your turn more difficult.
- ADHD means your brain is noticing a lot of things at once, but it may be tricky to focus in on the one thing your teacher is asking.
- ADHD means your brain enjoys things that are new and exciting, but it may be harder to learn things you have to repeat a lot, like math facts.
Also Check: How To Cure Autism At Home
Adult Adhd Symptom: The Blank Stare
In general, stress and anxiety tax my whole body. Loud noise, intense conversations, five Zoom meetings in a row, pop-up advertising, and other unexpected disruptions are exhausting. Heres how that causes me to zone out.
What it feels like: Right now, a jackhammer is outside my window busting through the street. Leaf blowers and loud motorcycles are equally unbearable. Tolerating noises like these zaps all the energy in my brain temporarily, literally causing me to stop talking mid-sentence. This deer-in-the-headlights look can also be a reaction to a swirling or distracting graphic or a series of pop-up advertisements on a page. .
What you can do: Give yourself a break by doing something you enjoy. My go-to’s are listening to music, exercise, baking, or gardening.
How To Explain Adhd: 21 Of Our Favorite Analogies
21 ADHD analogies that aren’t about sports cars and bicycle brakes.
If youâre an adult with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder , youâve probably spent some time trying to figure out how to describe your neurodiverse brain to others â especially if they donât face the same challenges as you. Analogies are useful in this respect, as they take a familiar or visual situation and compare it to something thatâs less familiar â in this case: ADHD.
On the flipside, analogies can be a great way to validate our own mental health experiences. For example, a popular ADHD analogy from Dr. Edward Hallowell goes something like, âhaving ADHD is like having a ferrari with bicycle brakesâ.
Of course we donât literally have a ferrari , nor do we have bicycle brakes however we can at least resonate with the sentiment that once our brains are moving at a fast pace, itâs hard to slow them down.
Finding a unique and relatable analogy that actually fits our own perspective of neurodiversity is more difficult than it might sound. Thatâs why we took to and asked the community to share their best ADHD analogies. We selected our favorites with the hope that you will be able to resonate with at least one of them.
You May Like: Can People With Autism Join The Military
Take Responsibility For Your Role
Once youve put yourself in your partners shoes, its time to accept responsibility for your role in the relationship. Progress starts once you become aware of your own contributions to the problems you have as a couple. This goes for the non-ADHD partner as well.
While the ADHD partners symptoms may trigger an issue, the symptoms alone arent to blame for the relationship problem. The way the non-ADHD partner responds to the bothersome symptom can either open the door for cooperation and compromise or provoke misunderstandings and hurt feelings. If youre the one with ADHD, youre also responsible for the way you react to your partners concerns. Your reaction can either make your significant other feel validated and heard or disregarded and ignored.
Work Together As A Team
Just because one partner has ADHD doesnt mean you cant have a balanced, mutually fulfilling relationship. The key is to learn to work together as a team. A healthy relationship involves give and take, with both individuals participating fully in the partnership and looking for ways to support each other.
Take some time on both sides to identify what youre good at and which tasks are most challenging for you. If your spouse is strong in an area in which youre weak, perhaps they can take over that responsibility, and vice versa. It should feel like an equal exchange. If youre both weak in a certain area, brainstorm how to get outside help. For example, if neither of you are good with money, you could hire a bookkeeper or research money management apps that make budgeting easier.
Divide tasks and stick to them. The non-ADHD partner may be more suited to handling the bills and doing the errands, while you manage the children and cooking.
Schedule weekly sit-downs. Meet once a week to address issues and assess progress youve made as a couple.
Evaluate the division of labor. Make a list of chores and responsibilities and rebalance the workload if either one of you is shouldering the bulk of the load.
Delegate, outsource, and automate. You and your partner dont have to do everything yourselves. If you have children, assign them chores. You might also consider hiring a cleaning service, signing up for grocery delivery, or setting up automatic bill payments.
Recommended Reading: Do Autistic People Go To Hell
Diagnosing Adhd In Adults
ADHD often lasts into adulthood. To diagnose ADHD in adults and adolescents age 17 years or older, only 5 symptoms are needed instead of the 6 needed for younger children. Symptoms might look different at older ages. For example, in adults, hyperactivity may appear as extreme restlessness or wearing others out with their activity.
Understanding The Role Of Adhd In Adult Relationships
Transforming your relationship starts with understanding the role that ADHD plays. Once you are able to identify how the symptoms are ADHD are influencing your interactions as a couple, you can learn better ways of responding. For the partner with ADHD, this means learning how to manage your symptoms. For the non-ADHD partner, this means learning how to react to frustrations in ways that encourage and motivate your partner.
Symptoms of ADHD that can cause relationship problems
Trouble paying attention. If you have ADHD, you may zone out during conversations, which can make your partner feel ignored and devalued. You may also miss important details or mindlessly agree to something you dont remember later, which can be frustrating to your loved one.
Forgetfulness. Even when someone with ADHD is paying attention, they may later forget what was promised or discussed. When its your spouses birthday or the formula you said youd pick up, your partner may start to feel like you dont care or that youre unreliable.
Poor organizational skills. This can lead to difficulty finishing tasks as well as general household chaos. Partners may feel like theyre always cleaning up after the person with ADHD and shouldering a disproportionate amount of the family duties.
Impulsivity. If you have ADHD, you may blurt things out without thinking, which can cause hurt feelings. This impulsivity can also lead to irresponsible and even reckless behavior .
Read Also: Does Collin Gosselin Have Autism
No Not Everyone Has Adhd But Circumstances Can Either Exacerbate Or Help Hide The Symptoms Of Adhd
With little understanding of the complexities of ADHD, the same folks who minimize its seriousness and question its existence also tend to claim things like, Everyone has a little ADHD nowadays!
Many people occasionally experience some ADHD-like symptoms. But for those who actually have it, its a chronic neurological inability with the potential to cause longterm impediments to a successful, fulfilling life.
This fallacy also feeds into the notion that ADHD is caused by or is an invention of the modern world. While the term ADHD is relatively new, symptoms of the disorder, categorized under different names, are centuries old. Yet some point to rising rates of people diagnosed with ADHD to imply it’s a manufactured fad, without understanding the reason behind that increase.
ADHD is not caused by the world today. The world today has just created a situation where people with ADHD cannot cope.
ADHD is not caused by the world today. The world today has just created a situation where people with ADHD cannot cope, said Quinn. It’s true that technology has led to a modern life with more distraction, information, demands for multi-tasking, and higher academic and professional pressures than ever before. If we didn’t have a world like this, maybe their symptoms wouldnt show as much, but the person would still have ADHD.
We see that a lot around early marriages or after children come into the picture, when now you’re responsible for other human beings, said Matlen.