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ADD/ADHD Online Information
Teenagers & ADD/ADHD
This Information Sheet has been written for Teenagers to help them to understand more about ADHD and how this affects them. It is also useful to parents, carers, teachers and anyone else involved with teenagers to help them to work with teenagers with ADD/ADHD and also to help to explain the condition to them.
As a teenager you have probably heard and maybe know a lot about attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (or ADD or ADHD for short). If you have been diagnosed you will also know how this makes you feel and how it affects you. If you are not diagnosed but you know you have some problems which you cannot understand then you may have heard a lot about ADD/ADHD and be thinking if this could be the reason you are having these problems. This information sheet will try to help you to understand a bit more about ADD/ADHD and how it can be managed. It will also try to give you some ideas of places where you can find more support, information and advice. Along with information on where to go to and how to get a proper assessment. It will also try to explain a little about the various treatment options you may be offered. These could include medication, possibly some forms of therapy, some extra help and support in school and also ways you can help yourself.
ADD and ADHD are in the main parts the same however for some people the H or Hyperactivity part is more of the problem so therefore the term ADHD. For those who do not have as much problem with the H or Hyperactivity side of things but who have problems with focus, concentration and paying attention then the term ADD is normally used.
Living with ADD/ADHD
It's like trying to watch TV while somebody is constantly changing the channel. A constant stream of changing images, sounds and thoughts. You can't focus on one thing, because something else or new is always distracting you. Sometimes you find that you haven't even realised that someone has been talking to you as you are so wrapped up in this whirlwind of thoughts and pictures in your mind Parents and teachers then keep telling you off because you forget to do things or answer them when they speak to you. Often you will do things that irritate them, or you don't do some of the things you're supposed to do or what they have asked you to do. The trouble is that a lot of the time the other kids realise this and they think it is fun to wind you up. That is not fun to you though!
OK so "What is ADD/ADHD" then?….
ADD/ADHD IS A MEDICAL CONDITION - ADD/ADHD IS NOT A NEW OR FANCY LABEL FOR NAUGHTY KIDS OR BAD PARENTS. ALL CHILDREN MISBEHAVE SOMETIMES AND NO PARENT IS PERFECT.
BUT FOR THOSE OF US WITH ADD/ADHD THINGS NEED TO BE LOOKED AT SLIGHTLY DIFFERENTLY - IT IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR US TO GET AWAY WITH EVERYTHING AND WE DO NEED TO LEARN TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN ACTIONS BUT THERE ARE TIMES WHEN THINGS HAPPEN WHICH WE CANNOT HELP. SO WE DO NEED TO UNDERSTAND THIS AND SO DO THOSE AROUND US.
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is a well know and accepted medical condition. In the UK, some doctors use the term "Hyperkinetic Disorder", but it means the same thing.
As with a lot of other medical conditions, we don't know what the cause is. But we do know that:
ADD/ADHD normally tends to run in families.
The brains of people with ADD/ADHD are different from those of other people. Specific areas of the brain show differences in their structure and the way they work.
ADD/ADHD IS COMMON.
AS MANY AS 1 IN 20 CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE MAY HAVE ADD/ADHD. MANY OF THESE HAVE NOT SEEN A DOCTOR AND HAVE THEREFORE NOT BEEN DIAGNOSED.
Boys are more often affected than girls, often as much as 4:1 but this is not always the case.
The other thing is that not all those with Attention Deficit Disorder have the Hyperactive bit. Some just have the ADD part and this means that often they are not even assessed or given any help - they can have as many problems but will tend to sit at the back and be dreamy a lot of the time and never seem to be able to keep up with things - not because they are stupid but because they cannot focus and concentrate so therefore they often miss what is being said too and then they don't know what to do or when to hand in things like homework.
Each individual is different.
The key symptoms of ADD/ADHD are:
Inattention - you can't concentrate, you skip from task to task, forget instructions and are disorganised.
Hyperactivity - you are restless, fidgety, always fiddling and touching things.
Impulsive behaviour - you speak and act without thinking, and can't wait your turn. Sometimes there can be outbursts of temper.
Of course all young people are sometimes inattentive, restless and impulsive.
The point about ADD/ADHD is that these kinds of behaviour are extreme. They cause significant problems at home and at school, and have been obvious from a young age.
Each individual experiences these symptoms in a different way. With some people, inattention is the biggest problem; with others it is Hyperactivity and impulsiveness; others show all three symptoms.
Sometimes there are other problems.
ADD/ADHD is enough to handle on its own, but many children or young people with ADD/ADHD have other problems too, such as:
Specific learning disabilities, for example difficulties with maths, reading or spelling.
Anxiety and depression.
Clumsiness and lack of co-ordination - Dyspraxia,
Oppositional Defiant Disorder, where the child or young person deliberately defies parents and teachers.
Conduct Disorder, where the child or young person lies, steals and damages property.
OK so that is What ADD/ADHD is so now "What can I do about it"?
Find out as much as you can about ADD/ADHD.
Good ways to do this include:
Talking to people - doctors, nurses, psychologists, teachers.
Reading books about ADD/ADHD.
Using the internet. There's a vast amount of information of variable quality. The web site you have found this on at www.adders.org is a good place to start as there is lots of other information sheets and research and loads of other things that you can look through - there is also an ADD/ADHD Simulation programme which you can show to parents or teachers so that they can see a little bit of how you and all of us with ADD/ADHD see the world.
Get into a routine where you need to, e.g. for getting to school/work in the morning, or doing homework.
Don't be afraid to ask your teacher/boss to repeat instructions - it's better than making them up if you can't remember them.
Break down large tasks into smaller ones. Set a deadline for completing each step and give yourself a small reward when you complete each step.
Make a "to do" list for each day. Then plan the best order to do things in. Then make a schedule, showing when you plan to do each thing.
Work in a quiet area, away from possible distractions. Take regular short breaks.
Use a small notebook to write down appointments, homework, phone numbers etc.
Use post-it notes to remind yourself to do things. Stick them where you'll see them on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror.
Right so that is "What it is" and "How I can do things to help myself" but what other things are there to help:
"How is ADD/ADHD managed"?
INDEPENDENT MEDICAL AUTHORITIES, INCLUDING THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR CLINICAL EXCELLENCE (NICE) AND THE SCOTTISH INTERCOLLEGIATE GUIDELINES NETWORK (SIGN), RECOMMEND A MULTI MODALE APPROACH:
Sorry what does that mean? - It means that Government have asked experts to look at what can be done to help those of us with ADD/ADHD and these Experts have said that the best way to help is with 2 or 3 different sorts of help one is medication, another is therapy - there is also certain sorts of help which you can get school as well and that by all of these working together that is the best way to help those of us with ADD/ADHD - that does not always mean that we will get offered all these things but sometimes by having one or maybe two of these it really can make a difference to our lives and how we can cope with living with ADD/ADHD.
Medication - mainly Methylphenidate but there are some others now available but for now we will stick to this one to make it easier to understand. Behavioural Treatments. Specific School Intervention.
MEDICATION AND ADD/ADHD
METHYLPHENIDATE, THE MOST COMMONLY PRESCRIBED MEDICATION FOR ADD/ADHD, HAS BEEN IN USE FOR MANY YEARS.
Methylphenidate is not a cure for ADD/ADHD, but while children and young people are taking it, it improves the key symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. It helps us to focus and concentrate and when we can do that we can learn more both at school and in social situations.
The only branded formulations of Methylphenidate currently available in the
Ritalin or Equasym both of which are the fast acting forms - these start to work within about 20 minutes and normally last about 4 hours and therefore have to be taken two or three times a day. These times are a rough guide and everyone is different so they may last a bit less or a bit longer in some people.
Concerta XL which again starts to work within about 20 minutes but it lasts all day about 8 - 12 hours so is therefore only taken once a day.
The other medications which are now available are Strattera and Dexedrine and both of these help in the same sort of way but here in the UK the most common medication used is Methylphenidate and according to the Experts this should be considered first and if that does not help then others can then be tried.
"Behavioural therapies" vary from person to person, according to the individual's needs and the resources available. They can include training programmes developed by specialists to help children control their behaviour and perform better at school, such as:
Behaviour management therapy: where specialist work with you in a group or by yourself to help you to learn how to control some of the behaviour which is not very helpful and also to learn better ways of handling certain situations and not get quite so frustrated and annoyed and possibly go off in a temper.
Parent training: to help your parents to learn that because you have a medical condition they may need to do things in a different way with you such as making sure that you are paying attention to them before they ask you to do something or to ask you to repeat things back to them so they know you have understood them - they will also learn ways to help you to control your own temper and for them to do the same and maybe not to shout at you so much too!!
Social skills therapy: again this would normally be in groups to help you to learn some of the skills we all need when we are with others - sort of things like facial expressions where we can see that someone is maybe not quite understanding what you are saying so that you can try to say things in a different way rather than them not quite doing what you are asking them to do. Also things like how to stop and think before saying something which may hurt someone as we probably don't want to do that but it sort of just slips out. There are so many things which we all need to learn especially things like taking turns not only in games but in conversations as well and if we have problems with this then others get fed up with us so we need to perhaps learn of different ways of dealing with things in social situations.
Anger control management therapy: normally on a one to one but can be in a group where we can learn how to perhaps ask for someone to explain things again to us about something rather than just getting frustrated and going off in a temper - sometimes we have to learn how to express ourselves better to be able to control our temper and anger.
SPECIFIC SCHOOL INTERVENTION
School-based programmes to improve performance and behaviour can be with the help of perhaps a learning support assistant who is there to help explain things better to us if we don't understand or hear exactly what the teacher is saying.
It could be that the teacher works on a signal with you that only you and they know about so if you are starting to get fidgety in your seat then they can maybe look at you and pull on their ear to help you to then realise you are fidgeting and then you can stop.
It could also be something like only doing half the questions for an exercise so that we can at least finish at the same time as everyone else rather than having to stay in at break time to finish the work everyone else did in class time.
There are a lot of different things which can be done to help us get on better at school and help us to fit in and also to reach our full potential and to make our time at school happy rather than a place we hate going as we are constantly being got at by staff - OK so maybe not somewhere we want to go but we all know we have to go to school so why not make it as good as possible rather than totally miserable for us all the time.
So you can see that having ADD/ADHD is not the end of the world - we are not lazy, crazy, stupid, a waste of space or plain naughty all the time. There are a lot of people who have ADD/ADHD who have made huge successes of their lives - Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Billy Connelly, Richard Branson, Daniel Beddingfield, Paul Gascoigne, maybe people from history like Winston Churchill who had school reports saying could do better if he concentrated more (where have we heard that before!!), Einstein, the list could go on and on.
Therefore, we can learn that with the right help and support we too can do what we want to do as we get older and we too can achieve our dreams.
© adders.org 2004
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