Guest Post by UW Nursing student Lauren Cohen Schorr

If you have an adolescent who has ADHD, you know that he/she reports having difficulty focusing, meeting deadlines, remembering things, consistently performing in school, and staying organized. As a result, at some point most adolescents who have ADHD have lived with feelings of discouragement and intense frustration.

Management of ADHD is not an easy task. I would know…

I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 12 years old. As I started at a new school in an awkward phase of adolescent life, I thought “great, another thing that sets me apart from my fellow classmates”. I struggled in and out of the classroom to keep up and fit in with my peers. It took me several years to accept my diagnosis, but once I did, I decided to approach my ADHD as a challenge and opportunity rather than a roadblock.

The key to success begins with acceptance. This can be a very difficult task for many adolescents because they have a desire to fit in with their friends. But, once acceptance occurs, an adolescent will be more willing to embrace treatment and modifications in their life.

Stimulant mediation may be a cornerstone for treatment, but there are also many adjunctive behavioral self-management skills. These skills and cognitive behavioral therapy are valuable strategies for helping your child better cope and thrive with ADHD.

Here are a few suggestions that were helpful for me:
1. Proactive planning: This includes taking a few minutes in the evening to plan for the next day. These activities include: getting backpack ready, making lunch, and packing the car. These preparations help prevent rushing around in the morning and subsequently forgetting things.
2. Organization skills: Create a to do list (smart phone apps can be good for this), use a binder to organize the class work and/or notes
3. Practice time management skills: Set aside time for each task you need to complete and hold yourself to it since your task’s duration tends to expand to the time you allot them.

By incorporating structure and routine in your child’s life, it will help reduce anxiety, improve productivity, and instill confidence. Each adolescent is an unique so it will vary which self-management skills are necessary to help.

Schools can also provide a variety of modifications to ensure successful learning, including allowing extended time for completion of tests/projects, preferential seating to minimize distraction, quiet testing environment, and provision of notes from the teacher. Talk to your primary care provider about getting a 504 plan.

The skills provided in this blog are important building blocks, however, it is the support from you that is invaluable. Convey to your child that you are there to help work through any difficulties and that you have confidence in them. My parents have been my “rock” when it comes to facing challenges like my ADHD and I wouldn’t have been as successful if it wasn’t for the support I received from them. You too can be that rock for your child!