Q. My son/daughter is taking medication for ADHD; what can therapy do?
A. For some people, medication can serve as a foundation that allows them to make better use
of therapy. However, there are people who benefit from therapy without medication. For those
taking medication, therapy can help those with ADHD/ADD understand their challenges and
how to address them. People with ADHD/ADD tend to have a limited attention span for things
that don’t interest them and difficulty organizing and planning their time. Research shows that
studying or working for short periods of time – about 20 minutes – and taking frequent breaks
helps people with executive function difficulties remain productive. Therapy teaches people
strategies to accommodate for the way they work best.
I work with parents to help them learn to tailor school accommodations to their teen’s needs.
Standard accommodations such as extended time on tests, seating in the front of the class and
flexibility on when students turn in assignments can be helpful to some students and not
others. Through therapy, I help patients find their strengths and weaknesses and determine
which academic settings will produce optimal conditions. Do you need a supportive academic
setting? Do you need someone working with you to plan out your assignments and break them
down into smaller pieces? Do you need someone holding you accountable so that you complete
your work on time?
I work with teens and adults with ADHD/ADD and, when working with adolescents, I include
parents in the treatment plan. I try to educate parents so they develop an understanding of
their teen’s ADHD and help them get the resources they need. I encourage parents to listen to
their children carefully so that they can tailor their support. I help parents identify what their
teens need from them. It’s important for parents to learn that what appears to be lazy behavior
may not be. I help parents avoid blaming their child, refocus their energy and see the
ADHD/ADD as the challenge; the problem isn’t their teen.
Q. I don’t understand my child’s/my partner’s/my ADHD/ADD. Can you help?
A. Young adults’ brains don’t become fully developed until about age 25. The brain
development of those with ADHD/ADD is delayed by about three to four years, so their brains
aren’t fully developed until about age 28 or 29.
Having ADHD/ADD is like walking up a hill with an invisible bolder on your back. Everyone is
yelling at you to hurry up and wondering what’s the matter. They can’t see the extra burden
the person with ADHD/ADD is carrying. Those with ADHD/ADD, especially undiagnosed
ADHD/ADD, can develop secondary problems such as low self-esteem and depression because
people call them lazy and stupid. In fact, at least 52 percent of people with ADHD/ADD have
another diagnosis as well, such as learning issues, depression, conduct disorder, anxiety,
obsessive compulsive disorder or oppositional defiant disorder.
It’s crucial that those with ADHD/ADD receive a proper diagnosis so that they can get the help
they need to live up to their potential. A thorough diagnosis can help pinpoint each person’s
strengths and weaknesses.
Q. When my partner and I filled out the diagnostic questionnaire about our child, we realized
we both have many of behaviors and hallmarks of ADHD. Is it too late for us to get tested
and, if we have ADHD, to get help?
A. No. Many adults were not diagnosed as children because ADHD was not as well understood
30 years ago. Some children were missed because they don’t demonstrate the hyperactivity
that once was the calling card for ADHD. Adults who carry the burden of guilt and shame over
their disorganization, chronic tardiness, low-self esteem or inability to complete tasks
experience relief when they learn what they saw as personal weaknesses are not their fault.
They, too, can benefit from the clarity the comes from diagnosis and therapy.
Q. Can therapy alone help someone with ADHD?
A. Yes. However, it can be a helpful to address the physiological issues in order to make full use
of the tools that therapy offers.