As parents we often spend much time planning for multiple things including activities, vacations, dinner for the week, meetings, appointments, college, and the list goes on and on. Does your list include helping your teen with AD/HD achieve a good outcome? For many parents, this is not a typical item on the list, yet its importance probably surpasses all the rest. The key to a good outcome is to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for your teenager to include ways to help him/her succeed in home, school, and the community. A brief overview of key elements of an individualized comprehensive treatment plan include the following:
• Consider the use of an approved AD/HD medication to enhance the functioning of neurotransmitters (e.g., Dopamine) believed to be linked to symptoms of AD/HD. Pharmacological studies suggest that response inhibition (impulse control) and sustained attention are favorably affected by these medications. Discuss pharmacological treatment options with a medical doctor that understands AD/HD.
• Treat and address co-existing problems such as anxiety, depression, sleep issues, learning issues, etc.
• Implement specialized instruction or classroom accommodations through the development of an IEP or Section 504. The latter most is commonly implemented when AD/HD is a stand-alone diagnosis. In order to begin the school accommodation process, your teenager will likely need to get updated psycho-educational evaluation performed by a trained professional, such as a licensed psychologist, to aide in identifying the unique learning needs and strengths of your teenager.
• Outside of school, consider the use of a certified AD/HD “Coach” to facilitate the learning and development of your teenager’s identified weak executive functioning skills. These skills include, but are not limited to, planning/organization, time management, goal-setting, study-skills, correspondence training, etc. Keep in mind that students need to be taught executive functioning skills and practiced daily until able to apply those skills independently. A “coach” provides lots of support up front and gradually fades with success.
• Encourage your teenager to participate in community activities (non-academic in nature) to help promote confidence and build self-esteem.
• Participate WITH your teenager in “AD/HD Education” to keep informed and have a good understanding about the nature of his/her struggles. Furthermore, parents are encouraged to attend local parent support groups to receive support from other parents in similar situations. See www.CHADD.org.
• Consider counseling if needed.
Please keep in mind that it is very important to involve your teenager as a “respected partner” in the treatment process. Additionally, please remember to reframe AD/HD in a positive light and build on your teenager’s strengths.
More information regarding the above mentioned key elements can be found in the following book, “Teenagers with ADD and ADHD, A Guide for Parents and Professionals,” by Chris A. Zeigler Dendy, M.S.
Maria Kanakos, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist