Saturday, January 09, 2010

Stump the Organizer Saturday! Newly Diagnosed With ADHD

“Denise, my 15 year old grandson lives with me. After nearly flunking his first semester in high school his pediatrician diagnosed him with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin. My grandson has been taking the medicine for almost a month and let’s just say it’s not going well. His room is horrible. During his first week back from winter vacation he forgot his homework everyday so his starting the new semester with Fs. He has become surly. I see that you work with people with ADD. How can you help him? “ Name Withheld Upon Request

Watching someone you love suffer is not easy. No one wants to flunk. No one enjoys a surly mood – even the person afflicted with it.

I am not a mental health expert nor am I a doctor. But what I hear between the lines is a real concern for your grandson’s behavior – especially his change in temperament since beginning Ritalin. If you have not done so, please express your concern for your grandson’s well being with him in a way that he knows you are on his side. Please, please, please express these concerns with the pediatrician. There are many drugs used to treat ADD/ADHD. Some drugs work better for some than others. Doctors use patient feedback took ensure that patients receive the most effective treatment. It is important to know that drugs do not cure ADD/ADHD.

Dealing with the emotional impact of his diagnosis and learning behavioral strategies for coping with ADD/ADHD are the realm of a psychologist or licensed counselor. Your pediatrician should be able to make a referral so your grandson receives the help he needs.

I encourage you both to arm yourself with knowledge. “ADDitude” magazine ( is one of my favorite resources. Look into joining a group such as Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder ( or Attention Deficit Disorder Association ( These groups provide support and knowledge. Driven to Distraction (Hallowell & Ratey) is a great book – many of my clients really love it. ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize (Kolberg & Nadeau), Organizing Solutions for People with Attention Deficit Disorder (Pinsky) and The Organized Student (Goldberg) are excellent resources for organizing strategies.

Organizing strategies can make a difference in how effectively your grandson operates. Being more effective and productive may lead to a sense of greater control and calm. Here are a few organizing strategies you can put in place now.
* Make sure that your grandson has a student planner and he writes down his assignments and all of his social commitments.
* Use large, brightly colored sticky notes on the front door, bathroom mirror, and locker with checklists of routine things to remember.
* Strengthen his sense of time by using analog clocks and an analog timer. One of my favorite timers is the Time Timer (
* Set up acceptable working periods – such as 20 minutes – to encourage focus. If the activity is not completed in 20 minutes then take a couple minute break then set the timer for another 20 minutes.
* The Sonic Boom alarm clock ( a really loud alarm and vibrates so even the hard-to-wake wake up.
* Make everything as simple as possible and eliminate unnecessary steps.
I wish you and your grandson peace and understanding as you face this challenge in your lives.
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