Understanding your unique brain
Many people, including parents, come to us focused on “what’s wrong.” This is understandable. You come to us because you are struggling with issues in your life. It’s critical, however, not to over-focus on your challenges. Research has shown us that those with attentional and/or learning disorders often have areas of tremendous talents and abilities that are overshadowed by their challenges. School years, especially, are often not the ideal environment for those with learning and attentional problems. We work with you to recognize your strengths. This process may involve talking with you in-depth about the results of previous neuropsychological testing. Or, it may involve conducting neuropsychological testing if it has not been done previously. With young adults and mid-career adults, we may also recommend abilities testing using the Highlands Ability Battery – a unique set of tests that can quickly pinpoint areas of work for which your particular skill sets are well suited.
After many years of frustration and feelings of failure, our goal is to help you develop a more balanced and positive view of yourself so that you can engage in our treatment with optimism.
Changing negative thought patterns
We use the techniques of Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help you to identify negative thought patterns that constantly get in your way.
Thoughts such as:
“I’m dumb. I’ll never be able to do this. It’s too late – I’ve already ruined everything. No matter how hard I try, I always fail. Nobody likes me. There’s nothing I’m really good at.”
Often, such thoughts are so automatic we’re not even aware that we are sending ourselves such self-defeating messages many times throughout the day. Through CBT, we can help you to become aware of those automatic thoughts, because then you can begin to actively change them, sending yourself positive, constructive thoughts.
Constructive thoughts such as:
“Not being able to finish that test doesn’t mean I’m dumb, it means that I need to ask for more time.” Instead of “Nobody likes me,” thinking, “I’m going to be friendly and say hello to my classmates (or coworkers) every day and see how things change.”
“I’ve already made a mess of my life,” thinking, “Here are some things I can start to do today to begin to turn things around.”
Developing brain-friendly habits
We will teach you what a profound effect (positive or negative) daily habits can have on your brain functioning and will teach you how to improve how you feel and function by following these five daily brain-friendly habits:
Healthy sleep patterns – chronic sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality impacts the brain in a way that gives an individual a “double-dose” of ADHD
Aerobic exercise – which increases the brain’s production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) that supports learning as well as the development of new neurons
Healthy, low-glycemic nutrition – to stabilize glucose (blood sugar) levels throughout the day – glucose is the brain’s fuel source and when it varies, so does our ability to think clearly, learn easily, and remember well
Stress reduction – as stress levels increase, so do ADHD symptoms; stress can be reduced through relaxation and meditation, but also through making smart choices to reduce daily stress levels
Nutritional supplements that are demonstrated to improve cognitive functioning
Reducing stress and reactivity
The right environment is the key to success for those with ADHD at every stage of life. Some fortunate people find the right environment through good fortune. But most individuals with ADHD need to create or search for ADHD-friendly environments. An essential part of our treatment of ADHD is to help families and individuals understand what factors would create a supportive environment for them (we’re not all alike!) and then help them to find or build such an environment – home/family environment, social environment, school environment, and work environment.
Stress management – as stress levels increase, so do ADHD symptoms; stress can be reduced through relaxation and meditation, and stress reduction strategies.
Reduce emotional reactivity – Mindfulness as an approach to daily living is a critical part of lowering anxiety and gaining control of emotional over-reactions.
Finding (or creating) an ADD-friendly Environment – at home, at work, at school, in social life
Building social skills and improving relationships
Not everyone with ADHD or learning differences has difficulty in relationships, but many do. Sometimes it is related to being withdrawn or negative. Sometimes it’s due to not being tuned in to the reactions of others so that we annoy them without meaning to do so. Sometimes it’s because we have developed negative or aggressive ways of interacting as a way of protecting our own feelings. In others, social problems may be due to low frustration tolerance and frequent outbursts of temper. Whatever the problems are, we can help you to recognize them and work on them. Good social relationships take practice and we are here to guide you along the way.
Developing a positive, problem-solving approach to your challenges
Discouragement, depression, and low self-esteem can all play a role in developing a negative, defeated reaction to life’s problems. In our work with you (and with parents) we will help you to develop realistic expectations (sometimes we feel defeated because we expect too much) and tackle one thing at a time (sometimes we defeat ourselves by trying to change several things at once) and engage in practical problem-solving – what is something that I could do differently to begin to change this problem? Starting small is the key – success breeds success. If you try something that’s too big a step, you almost guarantee failure, which only reinforces your feelings of defeat. We’re here to support and guide you, step by step, as you gradually feel empowered to make positive changes in your life.
Building a real appreciation for your natural skills and talents
Sometimes we’ve been so over-focused on our struggles (I can’t read well, writing is hard for me, I’m terrible at math, I don’t know how to make friends) that we discount very real abilities that can help us to feel good about ourselves and begin to make a positive contribution in our world. A middle-schooler that has difficulties making friends may completely overlook her wonderful skills in connecting with and taking care of younger children. Someone that struggles with writing may completely discount his ability to express himself verbally – sometimes because this is not a skill that is measured and graded on a test. We help move people from thinking of what they “ought to be good at” to recognize what they are naturally good at and how to use those skills in our daily lives.