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Dedication

I would like to dedicate this book to my mother, Billie K. Harris, who provided me with everything I needed so I could believe in myself when others doubted me, who gave me the strength to make the impossible possible, so I could create my own limitless life.

I also dedicate this book to my friend and mentor, Hans Steiner, MD, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. A master at his craft, to help others heal themselves and recognize the true gifts they already possessed inside themselves. Hans was a pioneer, a mover and a shaker, a true “John Henry” of his time. Our mission in life was the same, helping others go beyond what they thought was humanly possible, by pushing them beyond their limits, beyond their comfort zone, to what we could easily see inside of them. At his memorial, there were countless stories about the people he had helped in profound ways. His mission, my mission, our mission at Abbey Neuropsychology Clinic, is worthy of our life’s work. To help others discover their own true potential and reach deep inside themselves, to live life to its fullest, to become what they once thought was impossible. ONWARD AND UPWARD my friend, my mentor, my inspiration.

                                                                           

Introduction

Jordan was the typical class clown. All the girls in his class loved him. He could make anyone laugh. He was bright, and could talk endlessly about a variety of topics. He seemed to have useless knowledge about a thousand things. When he was interested in something, he could apply himself to it for days. At the age of 8, he taught himself to code. At the age of 10, he built his own computer and used it to mine cryptocurrency.  At the age of 13, he hacked into the school’s computer lab and got himself suspended for a week. At the age of 15, he built a program to disable his parent’s alarm system from his phone so that he could sneak out of the house. Jordan could get straight A’s, or he could get all D’s. He hardly ever turned in homework. Now in his junior year of high school, he was getting an A, two Bs, two Ds, and an F, and had 37 missing assignments. His teachers implored him to try harder. His parents nagged him to just apply himself, and endless fights erupted about his lack of ambition and inability to just sit down and do his work. It began to impact Jordan’s self-esteem. He knew he was smart, but why couldn’t he just get it together?

If this sounds like your son or daughter, then this book is for you. Over the last decade, we have encountered countless children and young adults like Jordan at our clinic. Our mission is to change the lives of these children and set them on a new path by getting the correct diagnosis and so that you, as their parent, will be fully informed about what ADHD is, what it is not, and what you can do about it. ADHD doesn’t just mean you can’t pay attention. It is a debilitating neurocognitive disorder that affects children socially, emotionally, academically, and cognitively.  Children like Jordan are at higher risk for depression, relationship issues, incarceration, workplace difficulties, and substance use by the time they are adults as a result of their ADHD. Our mission is to prevent those things from happening, by identifying these difficulties and helping children to overcome them before it is too late. Over the last 15+ years, we have worked tirelessly to develop treatment programs that work using your child’s own internal resources. We’ve set out to write this book so that parents will have a valuable resource in understanding their child’s ADHD and gain some insight about what to do about it. There is hope for your child. If you are feeling lost as a parent our aim is for this book to give you a starting point. We are here to help you change your child’s life.


What is ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults. Symptoms of ADHD include difficulty sustaining attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Additionally, children and adults with ADHD experience problems in decision making, organization, time management, and interpersonal relationships. ADHD can be a difficult diagnosis for parents to understand. Every child is different and will exhibit different symptoms of ADHD. Here’s a checklist to help you determine if you should have your child evaluated for ADHD:

✅Difficulty sustaining attention during tasks or play

✅Excessive fidgeting or squirming

✅Getting out of their seat in class or during meal times

✅Talking excessively and failing to notice that people have lost interest

✅Difficulty waiting their turn

✅Difficulty making and keeping friends

✅Falling behind academically

✅Not turning in homework

✅Their room is constantly messy

✅ Making bad decisions

✅They consistently leave the house without one or more items they need later in the day

✅Fighting with siblings

✅Doing poorly on tests despite knowing the information

✅Backpack is constantly a mess

✅Need to call their name several times before the look up

✅Can focus for several hours on videogames or areas of interest

✅Constantly forgets to do chores

✅Needs reminders to do daily routines

✅Waits til the last minute to do assignments or projects

If you checked more than 4 of these items, your child should be evaluated by a qualified professional.

Types of ADHD

Here are some of the children whose lives we have changed through our process. They all have ADHD, but their symptoms of ADHD look very different.

Caleb is an 8 year old boy that can sit still and focus on video games for hours, but when it comes to her homework, his 10 minute assignment becomes a two hour battle. I’m often asked if it is possible that children like Caleb have ADHD even though he can focus on video games for hours. Read on to learn more.

Ellie is a 10 year old girl who is shy and doesn't ask questions at school because she feels embarrassed. She reads fantasy books for hours, but when it comes to homework, she has a lot of trouble knowing where to start and getting it done on her own. Her dad helps her prepare for math tests, and even though she knows all the materials the night before the test, Ellie can’t have ADHD because she reads independently for hours, right? We have heard from so many parents this is what they thought for years.

ADHD Inattentive Type

There are three types of ADHD. The first is ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Type, which mainly describes a child who has significant difficulties controlling their attention. You may notice that I did not say, “cannot pay attention”. This is often misunderstood. That is, ADHD is a disorder of attentional control, not that your child cannot pay attention at all. We will discuss this more in sections that follow, but for now think about it this way. Just because your child can do their favorite activity for hours on end does not mean they don’t have ADHD. To the contrary, the difficulties sustaining attention are found in activities that they don’t find intrinsically interesting or rewarding, such as doing math homework, reading their history book, or writing a paper. It’s the repetitive tasks, the ones the “grunge work”, the tasks that require grit. Ten minutes of homework can turn into a 2 hour battle. Sound familiar?

It’s not that your child isn’t smart enough or can’t do it. The majority of our clients are described by their parents and teachers as being very bright, and we have confirmed this through IQ testing. It has to do with their ability to control their attention, and when they can’t do it for the things that aren’t intrinsically interesting or motivating, they feel dumb even though they’re smart, defeated, and worn down.

Children with ADHD ostensibly take a minimalist approach to homework they don’t care for, such as writing assignments, at least it seems that way. But in reality, it’s extremely difficult for them to muster the energy and stick with it, because they find these seemingly mundane tasks arduous, and getting them to write at all is similar to asking them to take a chisel to a stone tablet. It literally feels like it takes that much effort to get the words on paper for some children with ADHD. You know the words are in there, they say them all day long, but to get them to write for their homework can be grueling for them. On the other hand, you may otherwise find them writing pages and pages on their own when it comes to writing about their favorite topic, such as Pokemon, Legos, or some make-believe world they are having fun with. We will explain more later, but this can be very confusing to parents and teachers.

One caveat about ADHD Inattentive Type is that it can be easily overlooked, because although your child may be struggling to focus and pay attention, they may not be disruptive. This is especially true of children who are high to above average in intelligence, because they can compensate in other ways, like doing well on tests without studying, or writing a term paper the night before. But at some level, when the bar is raised high enough, their attentional control and executive function weaknesses become exploited. It could happen in middle school, high school, or even college. We have even seen students graduate medical school and law school before they discovered the problem because they couldn’t pass their medical board exams or the bar. There is hope; however. Even when a diagnosis is discovered this late, your child can learn how to use their own internal resources, build up their brain, and overcome their weaknesses. Of the clients who failed their medical and bar exams multiple times, 100 percent of them who completed our transformative program have passed their exams.

Children with ADHD may be accused of being lazy and not trying hard enough. This can be extremely frustrating for your child, educators, and you as parents, because it is very confusing to try to figure out how their attention can vary from, “not interested in schoolwork” to “hyper focused on video games”. “Are they not trying?” “Are they just lazy?” “If only they would try harder, put more effort into it, listen.”  If you find yourself saying these things to yourself over and over, then read on, this book is for you. Every child is different, and you may see and relate to some things while others don’t fit at all. That’s the amazing thing about ADHD. A child can have some, but not all of the 18 symptoms, and so every child may look a bit different with their own strengths and weaknesses.

ADHD Impulsive/Hyperactive Type

The second type of ADHD is Predominantly Impulsive/Hyperactive. In this type of ADHD, the primary symptoms are moving around, cannot sit still, while also having trouble standing in line and waiting for their turn. You may also see your child talking over others or blurting answers without raising their hand at school.  Perhaps the teacher has given you feedback about this very issue?

ADHD Impulsive/Hyperactive Type is much easier to spot by teachers, professionals, and parents, because your child may be disruptive and their difficulties controlling their behaviors often cause problems for others. For example, your child may often be talking to their peers nearby in class, and the low rumble turns into a conversation that interferes with the teacher’s lesson. The teacher may find herself talking louder and louder, and finally, once again, has to remind your child and others to stop talking and listen. This may be a constant problem that is brought to your attention during parent/teacher conferences.

In addition, children with this type of ADHD find it very difficult to sit still. They are often constantly in motion. Your child’s legs may be in motion under their desk, perhaps they are tapping a pencil or drumming a beat with their hands, or they have trouble sitting in their chair and are up out of their seat moving around. The myth is that this problem goes away over time. While it is true that children who are hyperactive appear less so as they grow older, inside they continue to have challenges controlling their behavior. They find it hard to watch an entire movie in one sitting, they “hate waiting in line”, and they may still feel jittery inside even though their bodies aren’t constantly moving.

ADHD Combined Type

The third type of ADHD is the combined type. In this type, the child has a significant amount of difficulties with both controlling their attention, as well as controlling their impulses and activity levels. This type of ADHD is also easily picked up by teachers and caregivers because often the child is disruptive in the classroom and is falling behind in school, and so their symptoms are easily noticed. Getting them to sit through an entire meal may feel impossible. They may start one project, then off to the next, with a trail of legos, games, and toys left behind them. Their backpack for school may be incredibly disorganized and their room would otherwise be a disaster unless you stay on top of them to clean it up. They may seem to be at their best when doing activities, such as soccer, dance, or basketball, because they are constantly in motion.

Now that you know the definition of ADHD, it is important to discuss what ADHD is and what it is not. First, ADHD is not a medical condition like diabetes that cannot be reversed or significantly improved without medication. Instead, it is a developmental disorder that reflects stagnation of attentional control. Stagnation means failure to keep pace with developing at the same rate as peers. So, even though their attention abilities are growing relative to themselves year after year, your child may seem 2 to 3 years behind their peers in their ability to focus, plan, and organize. You will discover that this is good news by reading this book, because there are ways to increase the pace at which your child is developing their attentional control and executive functions. So, if you can speed up their development, then it is possible to catch them up, and this means it is possible for you to provide the help your child needs to reverse their ADHD. How do we know this, because we have helped 1000s of parents reverse their child’s attention and executive function weaknesses, many of whom no longer qualify for the diagnosis, and most of whom have done better than the help they would have received from medication alone. More on this later, but this is very exciting news.

Parent Story

“I was worried my child would have the same fate that I had as a child. I felt stupid, I couldn’t read, and it was hard for me to focus on any one thing. Even when I learned to read I hated it. I had a lot of interests, but I just couldn’t seem to get anything done. I would get some As, but also Bs, Cs, and inevitably a D or two. Back then, there wasn’t a lot you could do about it. Later, I was diagnosed with ADHD and I took medication, but I hated the way it made me feel. I didn’t feel like myself, it dulled my personality and my friends felt like I wasn’t very fun like I usually was. Unfortunately, the medication would wear off by the time I had to do homework, and it didn’t help me to read. I had fallen behind so far in school that the medication never caught me up. I had many tutors and I always seemed to struggle to read and get my work done.

“I was worried about my children, and sure enough, I noticed my daughter having similar problems. So I brought her into the Abbey Clinic. The assessment revealed my worst fears, that she had ADHD and dyslexia. She completed all the treatments at the Abbey Clinic and was doing her work at grade level (3rd grade at the time). Even through remote learning due to the pandemic, she excelled, and is now doing her work above grade level. She loves to read and reads all the time. I no longer have to worry about her and I am confident that she will do well in middle school. I am also not worried she will think she is stupid like I thought about myself. She is at the head of the class and I know she feels smart, and the teachers and I do too.”

Quite frankly, this story chokes me up. This mother suffered through her childhood and was so concerned about her daughter. She is her daughter’s hero! She provided our life-changing Transformative Brain Program for her daughter, and changed her life forever! Life-changing stories like this are why we get out of bed each morning and help parents provide the help they need for their children. We are on a mission to change the world one child at a time. So this parent’s story is heartwarming and inspiring to us!

What Is A Growth Mindset And Why Is It Important For Children To Develop One

A growth mindset is the belief that intelligence and abilities can be developed through hard work, dedication, and learning. On the other hand, a fixed mindset is the belief that intelligence and abilities are static traits that cannot be changed. The idea of a growth mindset was first proposed by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. She argued that children who are praised for their intelligence are more likely to have a fixed mindset, whereas those who are praised for their effort are more likely to have a growth mindset. Fixed mindsets can have negative consequences in many areas of life. For example, individuals with a fixed mindset are more likely to give up in the face of adversity because they believe that they lack the ability to improve. They may also avoid challenging tasks because they are afraid of failing or being perceived as unintelligent. Finally, fixed mindsets can lead to poorer performance in both academic and work settings because individuals with this mindset are less likely to persist in the face of difficulty or take risks that could lead to growth. In contrast, individuals with a growth mindset view difficulties as opportunities for learning and growth. As a result, they tend to exhibit greater motivation and perseverance in the face of setbacks. They are also more likely to take on challenging tasks and embrace failure as a learning experience. Ultimately, growth mindsets provide a foundation for success in both academic and work contexts.

How Can You Help Your Child With Adhd Develop A Growth Mindset

A growth mindset leads to greater resilience in the face of setbacks and a greater willingness to take on challenging tasks. As parents, we can help our children develop a growth mindset by modeling it ourselves and encouraging our children to see mistakes as opportunities to learn. For example, instead of praising our children for getting an A on a test, we can praise their hard work and effort. Give it a try. The next time you see your child working hard on their homework, praise them with a labeled praise. A labeled praise is a praise followed by a description of what you are praising them for. You could say, “Sarah, I’m so proud of you for working so hard on your math homework and completing it on your own. I could see that you had to recalculate a problem because you skipped a step, you found that error on your own, and you really stuck with it.” Now if you do this, watch what happens. Finding your child doing something RIGHT does wondrous things. You will see that they will start doing more and more of that behavior. Why? Because they love you so much and getting this type of recognition and praise feels so AMAZING and good. You are giving them some WARM FUZZIES!  When you do this, stay away from criticism no matter how tempting, just stick with the praise. In addition, you can also encourage them to persist in the face of difficulty by telling them that we believe in their ability to overcome any challenge. By instilling a growth mindset in our children, we can help them reach their full potential.

What model best fits your own perspective about your child with ADHD? Do you believe that your child can grow their brain performance through hard work, determination, and learning? If so, then you are in alignment with the perspective that we take at Abbey Neuropsychology Clinic. We strongly believe in your child’s ability to strengthen the areas of their brain that are lagging behind so they can catch up to the ones that are already optimized. You should know that with modern technology, it is possible for the first time in human history to use technology in amazing and fun ways to help your child learn ways to improve their brain performance. If you espouse a growth mindset, then you already have the first key factor to help your child develop stronger grit so they can push themselves harder and harder, thereby learning how to grow and strengthen their own brain to their full potential throughout their lifespan.

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