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Overcoming—Rather Than Being Overcome by ADHD

Day-to-day experience as well as scientific observation attests to the fact that different children exposed to the same degree of stress or frustration are not all affected in the same manner. Some are stymied and squelched by their obstacles; others thrive as if the obstacle was more of a stimulus than a roadblock. Those of us working with children with ADHD see this frequently.

Peter Wyman, Ph.D. and associates studied this question several years ago. (The Journal of The American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, 1992:; 31 (5):904-910)

The researchers looked at demographically comparable groups of children exposed to major life-stress. They interviewed both stress-resilient and stress-affected children assessing perceptions of their care-giving environments, peer relationships, and themselves. Four variables correctly classified 74% of the children in one or the other group. Stress-resilient children, compared to the stress-affected children, reported more:

positive relationships with primary care givers (i.e., parents)

stable family environments

consistent family discipline practices

positive expectations for the future.

These findings support the view that care giver-child relationships play a key role in moderating children’s developmental outcome under conditions of high stress.

This study also points out the extreme importance of a positive parent-child relationship in helping a child overcome obstacles. Children with ADHD and leaning disabilities have many reasons to be stressed. Many will grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults in spite of their difficulties. Stable families, applying consistent, loving discipline in an affirming spirit greatly enhance the chance of success

Driving Competence of Teens with ADHD

We know from experience that adolescents and young adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are more likely to be involved in car crashes and moving traffic violations.

In an attempt to define this relationship even more, a recent study looked at 25 clinic-referred young adults ages 17-30 with ADHD and 23 controls matched for age, gender, and educational level. Each individual was interviewed to determine his or her driving history. Official state driving records were also reviewed. The subjects’ driving abilities were assessed using a computerized program; driving knowledge was tested by a Driver Performance Analysis System. The two groups did not differ on intelligence testing.

All ADHD subjects had been cited at least once for speeding—twice the rate for controls. Teens with ADHD had had their licenses suspended or revoked significantly more often than controls and were nearly four times more likely to have been involved as drivers in a crash. Problems in driving associated with ADHD were not found to be in the areas of driving knowledge but in actual performance of motor vehicle operation.

The most anxious moment in the life of parents is watching their newly licensed teen drive out of the driveway in the family car. They know that their son or daughter is moving out into a scary, complex world. This anxiety is compounded when the teen has ADHD.

No doubt, the more common characteristics of ADHD such as distractibility, impulsiveness, and increased risk taking make the teen with ADHD more vulnerable drivers. So what can be done to help our teens be safer behind the wheel?

While there are no guarantees, we can tip the scales in the direction of safety by honestly facing the challenges:

♦We openly discuss with our teen how his or her ADHD symptoms can affect driving. We can talk about their vulnerability to distractions and role play as to how to overcome common distractions.

♦At the right time we enroll our potential driver in a good driving education program to make sure he or she has the benefit of comprehensive driving knowledge and skills.

♦Realistically, many teens with ADHD will not be ready to drive at 16 or 17 and may need to wait until they are older to get that coveted license.

♦The teen that continues to have a high level of symptoms, especially of inattentiveness and impulsiveness may need to continue medication into the driving years in order to have sufficient control in order to be a safe drive.

♦Once the teen is driving, parents should monitor closely their driving habits and help them see areas in which they need to focus their attention and work on improving.

Redemptive Features of ADHD

Could there be positive aspects to having ADHD?

One would think so. As a biological condition, ADHD has been around for eons. To persist in the human family, there would likely be some benefits to the individual with these traits.

The negative effects that ADHD symptoms have on socialization and productivity are well known and very real. These disruptive features tend to capture the focus of professionals as well as parents because of the limitations they bring to the child’s life. But redeeming features do exist, even though they may be difficult to see when the child is failing in school and loosing friends.

Some potential beneficial side effects of ADHD are:

The inattention to detail that can be so frustrating to the student, the teacher, and the parent can result in an enhanced conceptual ability which helps the child see the “big picture.” This “big picture” view can result in strengths in global problem solving.

The inability to be easily satisfied can be associated with ambition and initiative. Could this be one reason why Thomas Edison kept tinkering with all sorts of projects leading to his  ownership of thousands of patents for innovative and useful products?

Distractibility is intimately linked to creativity. A student who notices things no one else sees is in a position to detect meaningful interrelationships that elude more disciplined minds.

A certain level of impulsiveness can result in a willingness to try new things, to go out on a limb for a project or cause that is important.

Individuals with ADHD often have a superb sense of humor, appealing personalities, true leadership skills, and striking individuality.

Parents and professionals working with children with ADHD are well aware how limiting the varied symptoms of ADHD can be when they are unmanaged and run amok. In fact, when a person, child or adult, is overwhelmed by inattention, disorganization, impulsiveness, they are set up for failure. But with proper management, these symptoms can be controlled. The ultimate future for children with ADHD can be bright. So we should not give up but use strategies that result in success. The chief purpose of  Strategies Unlimited is to provide practical steps in achieving this goal so that we can see the bright side and enjoy the journey.

Association of ADHD to Obesity

A large of study of over 12,000 people in the U.S. has suggested an association of ADHD and obesity in children and young adults. In an analysis that controlled for age, sex, race, ethnicity, education, depression, alcohol use, smoking, and physical activity, survey participants with ADHD had a significant 63% increased risk of being obese compared with those without these symptoms. People with only inattention (ADD) had a smaller increase risk of 23%.  In the study, the more intense and widespread the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness, the worse the obesity risk.

The study did not evaluate the reasons for this association of ADHD and obesity. However, one of the characteristics of ADHD is impulsiveness. It is possible impulsive eating, maybe related to increased stress of coping with ADHD symptoms could contribute to the increased risk. Further study is needed to get a better picture of the cause of the obesity and how to prevent it. Also it would be of interest to know if optimum treatment with medication and cognitive behavior therapy would reduce this risk. I suspicion is that it would to the degree that intervention helped in the control of impulsiveness.

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