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ADHD and Teens & Pre-Teens

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Health & Medical > ADHD and Teens & Pre-Teens


Questions from parents about ADHD Related Pages

2010 - 2013 Advice


ADHD inattentive type - 13 year old

Nov 2012

Our very bright 13 year old is struggling in school. She does her homework but frequently forgets to turn it in. Has trouble completing tasks unless supervised. Doesn't plan ahead. She is otherwise a happy child with loads of friends and enjoys school very much. We suspect she may have ADHD- the inattentive type. We are torn. We were hoping it was just a ''maturity'' issue and would sort itself out. Unfortunately, she is getting ready for high school and still remains absent minded and this is taking a toll on her grades . I am very concerned about medicating her. I would love to hear from parents who have dealt with this issue. I would also love to get some recommendations of doctors, therapist etc who are experts in this field . Worried mom


At the age of 40 I was diagnosed as ADHD Inattentive Type. I always scored in the top 1 % percent of standardized tests but my performance at school and in life was always unpredictable. I am not sure how much I would have been helped by a stimulant at your daughter's age, because of maturity problems and problems at home. But by the time I was in college I would have definitely benefitted from medication. It took me eight years to get my bachelor's degree. My life has changed so much for the better since starting Ritalin. Before Ritalin I could not follow a conversation or news report or teacher's lecture or even read a few paragraphs without my mind drifting. I don't feel like an outsider in social situations any longer because I don't have to work so hard to make sense when I'm listening and talking over background noise. I am motivated to start projects and able to complete them. Completing projects was always a huge challenge for me before medication.

I know my post probably does not help with your decision about medicating your child, but if your home life is stable and she does not have emotional problems, my advice is to consider getting a prescription for her on a trial basis. If you then decide to discontinue the medication, stay open to medication as a possible future solution. Good luck to you and your family. Benefitting from Ritalin


Hi, We had concerns related to attention/focus/motivation etc. for years, but it was not an academic or behavioral problem in elementary school. Once he got into middle school, the expectations increased and he had more difficulty managing. We hadn't sought an official diagnosis for him until that point, although we had done some work with an OT around sensory integration issues and done neurofeedback, because we saw that the issues were there. We really wanted to avoid medication if possible. Finally we got to the point that we didn't feel there were other options and that we owed it to him (and ourselves/our relationship). It's been a godsend and I'm so glad we got to that point. Doesn't make the issues go away, and we have dealt with trying to maintain his weight, but it makes it workable. Also improves his mood hugely, I don't know if that is an issue for you or not.

I do believe that neurofeedback can do amazing things for many kids (but make sure you get a good provider who is familiar with ADD issues). It just was not helpful to him. You might want to try that route before medication, though (or at some point even if you opt for medication now). Good luck. I think it's not unusual that issues get more intense at this stage. anon


My daughter has similar issues and at 13 she was diagnosed with ADHD. We tried various drugs and they worked for attention issues but she did not like the effects - she felt they turned her into a boring, unimaginative person. (But trying them seemed right, and the results motivated her like nothing else could have). So we read Sanford Newmark's book ''ADHD Without Drugs'' and tried 1) organizational training, 2) general health, and 3) cutting back on computer/tv screen time. This has been working very well for 2 years. Though she still has her spacey moments, she is happier, has an a- average in school, and is doing well in extracurriculars too. For organizing, I basically had to do it for her for a year and gradually start turning it over to her: checking her planner every day, reminding her to check it, making a separate shelf for each school subject or project where she sorts all materials each day, buying extra used textbooks online (and the school provided some) so she could keep one set at school and another set at home. Now she is pretty good at it bur still needs some reminders (and praise). Seems like a lot of trouble at first but it's what she needs. For health, getting enough sleep (9+ hours!), taking vitamins & minerals, and eating well including real breakfast with protein made a huge difference. For screen time, which I don't think is good for the ADHD brain, our rule is no more than 1 hr/day, 2hrs/day on weekends, and none within an hour of bedtime because it keeps her awake for a while. All these have been hard to achieve sometimes but the effect is apparent every single day they happen. But the most important thing is that she understands better how her brain works and realizes she is not bad or lazy as some teachers have implied. Everyone is different but I urge you to try these kinds of measures in any case. Wishing you well
I was diagnosed with ADHD at 36. I wish that there had been more diagnoses and information about ADHD when I was a kid. My teenage years would have been so much easier.

There are many ways to manage ADHD without meds if that feels like a better fit for your family. I manage pretty well with a good diet, lots (I mean LOTS) of exercise, and keeping a pretty strict calendar.

The first step is a diagnoses and I urge you to do that. Once you know what's going on, then you can figure out what the next steps are for her to be successful.

I would also recommend two books: Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction, both by Dr. Ned Hallowell.

Well managed ADHD can be a gift. We're a super productive and creative group when given the right resources. Good luck! ADHD and loving it.


Our daughter too had ADHD Inattentive type. For 3 years my husband and I disagreed about medication so held off. Once started (roughly 5th or 6th grade), we found that a tiny dose of Ritalin made a very marked and positive difference. Immediately she was then able to focus and get school work done, the quality of her work went way up, and (directly related) her sense of self esteem soared with her other successes.

I highly recommend Dr. Lester Isenstadt, Psychiatrist (Berkeley). Don't wait though. Already in middle school and still dealing with these issues could leave her without adequate tools, coping skills, and sense of self to thrive in high school. Wishing you well


I hear you! My daughter is the same kind (although younger). However, I have talked to her teachers every year about the possibility of her having ADD. I would also like to avoid medication if at all possible. One day, my sister-in-law sent me an article about Executive Function (or dysfunction) in kids, and that was totally describing the problem. Read about it online, and find useful advice on how to help your child get organized: http://learningdisabilities.about.com/od/eh/a/executive_fun ct.htm.

In short, she needs to help herself get organized. She will need to learn to use calendars, written notes to herself, and other organizational material to get on task. She could also find a positive reinforcement for doing the right thing, and creating a plan for herself, with your help. You can get there, and so does she! Not organized but spontaneous!


My son was diagnosed at age 6 as having ADD, but we resisted medication for years. In middle school, he had all the problems you describe -- inability to focus and complete schoolwork, a backpack where completed homework went to die, no organizational or planning skills. His poor grades and negative feedback from teachers and peers really started to affect his confidence, and the management we had to exercise with a resistant teenager really strained our relationship.

Finally, after a horrible year in 6th grade, we had to act. We had him reevaluated and medicated (Focalin XR). It was like magic -- instant executive function. He was on top of things, we didn't have to nag, and he was able to be the student he was meant to be. Rather than hating school, he began to love it. The main side effect of the meds is appetite suppression. He needs a substantial, high calorie/protein breakfast before he takes the meds, and he brings to school every day a high-protein smoothie so that even if he doesn't eat, he gets some good calories.

Now, a HS senior, my son understands the meds, and plans around/manages them. He eats a lot and well (this is relative, of course; he's a teenager) before taking meds and after they wear off. He modulates his dose based on what he has to do (no meds on weekends/vacations unless he has a lot of schoolwork, time-release meds for full days, short-acting meds when there are limited school tasks, etc.). He is thriving: a confident, happy, successful teenager.

Our only regret is that we didn't go the medication route sooner. It changed his life.

We see Brad Berman in Walnut Creek. He knows his stuff. Only downside: It takes months for new patients to get an appointment. Grateful for Meds


You have nothing to lose by giving the ADD meds a try. If they are going to help your child, you will be able to tell immediately. Really, like within an hour. Ritalin is not addictive, and it leaves the body completely within a few hours, so if you don't like how your child is after an hour, in 3 more hours you are done with the trial. It's not like anti-depressants where you wait for months to see a difference. Ritalin has been used for ADD since the 1940's, so it's also not like a medical experiment with risky unknown results. Try it for a day or a week and then stop if you don't like it.

This is the argument that convinced my husband after our son was diagnosed in 3rd grade with Inattentive ADD, that we should at least try the meds for a short trial. We saw immediate benefits. All of a sudden, we could have a conversation with our son at the dinner table, something we'd never been able to do before. We didn't have to constantly shout his name to get his attention. He could read to the end of a sentence. He could follow a Little League game and understand when it was his turn at bat. We realized how disconnected he had been from the world, having Inattentive ADD, and for him, Ritalin was a great gift.

There is definitely a stigma attached to Ritalin, though. It was very hard for my husband to move past his aversion to giving our son meds, and I've found that most people, even teachers and close relatives, have a similar negative reaction. If I happen to mention my child's ADD to another parent whose child isn't ADD, I often get a look of disapproval, or a sermon about ''medicating children'' and ''over-diagnosis of ADD.'' People who don't have an Inattentive ADD kid don't get it. It's an organic brain condition that doesn't go away by signing your kid up for tutoring or seating him on the front row of class or turning off the TV or eliminating gluten from his diet.

So my advice is: do your child a favor and at least do a short trial of meds. You are no worse off by trying it, and you stand to gain a lot. a mom


Our child (age 7) was diagnosed with ADHD-inattentive this summer, and we started meds this fall. Her capacity to pay attention is much better, and so is her schoolwork. Her doctor comments that most kids are grateful to be on the meds because they function better socially as well as academically. Our kid no longer has poopy accidents (before meds, she didn't notice her own body) and no longer gets yelled at by teachers (before meds, she didn't notice they were talking to her). She no longer gets trapped by distractions -- and she felt trapped.

Among kids with ADHD, the ones who on meds are much safer drivers, considerably less likely to get mixed up with recreational drugs, and less apt to get pregnant or contract STDs, because they have more impulse control. Of course, they seem a little different on the meds than off. Does this mean the medication makes the child ''not herself,'' or is it that the UNmedicated child is the one that is ''not herself?'' I had a diabetic housemate that sometimes failed to regulate his blood sugar well; he would become suspicious and irrational, which meant we couldn't tell him to check his sugar. And my bipolar brother felt he wasn't ''himself'' on lithium - he died as a result. What happened with my housemate and my brother is not uncommon, and results from imagining we should be able to manage naturally on our own. Soemtimes we can, sometimes we can't. Sometimes medication is a means of managing a crippling, potentially deadly biochemical disability.


12 year old son super spacey - Advice Please!!!

Sept 2012

My 12 year old son is earnest, bright, and super spaced out about certain things. He has no sense of time and is always late - and always feels terrible about it. He writes down his homework assignments, then doesn't do them - he says he forgot - and feels terrible about it. He scores off the charts academically, and is super fast to learn things in the classroom, and loves his classes and school. He seems happy, walks around the house singing and loves to write and read, is social, and genuinely seems to want to do the right things, but just can't execute - and then he apologizes and agonizes excessively about forgetting or being late. He has always been like this, so it isn't a new teen thing. I don't want be responsible for repeatedly reminding him to do things, to hurry up, or to check the lists that we have made for him, especially since this hasn't been successful in getting him to be independent (and I am tired of doing it). So, should we have him tested for executive functioning? Or is he just lazy and wants to rely on my helicoptering? How do I know the difference? Should I keep helicoptering - and if so, when can I stop! What is going on here? He seems to authentically want to do things well, but I am out of patience! What should I do? HELP!! Thanks for your advice! Wants To Land The Helicopter!


Your son sounds a lot like mine, who is ADHD (inattentive type). We struggled for a couple of years then got him tested when he was eight. For a year after that, we tried everything *but* medication-- nothing really worked. Now he's on medication, which isn't a magic bullet-- you still need to work on behaviors, check in when it's homework time, etc.-- but wow, what a difference it has made in his life. You will hear a lot of negativity, in person and on the web, about medication, but it's mostly from people who have no clue. No clue whatsoever. So get your son tested. Good luck! Been there
Hi, Helicopter Mom, YES. Get your son tested. I was in the GATE program, my IQ score was at the genius level, and when I was 5, I memorized the phone numbers for all kindergarteners (without meaning to). In 7th grade (age 12), my frazzled mind started to get worse. My thoughts were disorganized, I was forgetting everything, I felt horribly guilty about not living up to my potential, and I started to lose self esteem. This worsened through high school. I wrote down my homework but forgot to do it, or I avoided it because I didn't know where to start. I survived with good grades by learning how to cram for tests immediately before that class started (I realized this was the only way I could get info into my head and actually retrieve it). It felt awful - I always felt something was wrong with me because my brain was obviously different than my peers'. I dropped out of college - twice. Last summer, at the age of 33, I decided to finally go see if there is help out there. After 5-6 months of trying meds and combos of meds, I was given a new life. For almost a year, I've been a rock star at work, started my senior year of college and am receiving A's in all classes while working full time and parenting 6 year old twins. A strange side effect was the fact that I am a lot more patient with my children. Please, please get your son tested. Your son is smart, and he might just need a little help to focus. My 6 year old daughter is exhibiting the same signs I did as a child, I had her tested, put her on a very low dose of medication, and she has blossomed. I had her in Sylvan tutoring for a year and my father was trying to teach her phonics (he was a teacher), but nothing stuck. She wasn't hyperactive - she just couldn't concentrate. With medication, she learns and retains info, is able to retrieve information easily, and she is more social with her classmates. It's like night and day. On the first day of her medication (she didn't know what it was for), she grabbed a book and went to the couch to read. She had never done that in her life, and I was floored. So - explore everything, don't give up, and don't delay. I wish you and your family all the best! CC
This pretty much describes how my brain works and i have ADHD, the attention deficit type. Particularly pronounced for me are problems with time management and scheduling - even getting out of the shower in the morning in time to organise my daughter for preschool is beyond me. No one likes to give kids medication but the drug Strattera was a miracle for me, suddenly i knew what it was like to have executive functioning and i finally understood what planet everyone else was on. Even when i havent taken my medication (it clashed with some thyroid meds i was on for a while), it was still invaluable for me to have that experience with better functioning because it allowed me to manage my life better knowing where my brain was letting me down. I wish i could describe what it feels like to have no sense of time, but its as if to have a shower and then get my daughter dressed and then for me to dress are all isolated incidents with no connection, my brain wont allow me to group all those task together and apply a time pressure, logically i know there is a timeframe but i dont FEEL it. Its great you are onto it so quick, I wish i had been diagnosed as a child rather than an adult. Erica N
I don't know how helpful this is, but I WAS a spacey 7th grader - what you said about your son pretty much described me at that age. I always got good grades, but was always losing points for forgetting to hand things in, being late, losing notes, etc.

My mom was very ''helicoptery,'' and in the long-run, I think it just delayed me learning how to function on my own. Having said that, I may have benefited from a tutor/mentor to help me with chronic disorganization, study habits and time management - sort of like a life coach for kids, if such a thing exists (someone who cares about you but isn't your mom).

Another thing to think about is the cause of the spaciness - for me, it was intense anxiety. I was very social, but I was preoccupied with certain things and unable to concentrate in the present moment. I don't know if that's an issue with your son. Good luck. Now as a mom myself, I can imagine how stressful it is. Former spacey 7th grader


You might want to look into the book, Smart, but Scattered. Has straightforward advice about helping kids of all ages who are struggling with different types of executive functions. I read it 1/2 for work and 1/2 for my own child and thought it was very good. Don't get the Kindle version, though- too hard to reference different sections! Mom of a space cadet, and pediatrician
Sounds just like my ''airy fairy'' who finally got diagnosed wtih ADD Inattentive type. She is doing great now with some behavioral treatment and some stimulant meds. Been There

Teen Won't Accept ADHD Diagnosis, neither does Dad

Mar 2012

My 14 yr old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD 7 yrs ago (re-evaluated and confirmed last year, both times by Gary Landman, behavioral pediatrician). In brief, we did a short trial of medication shortly after diagnosis, too short to see any results, and her father did not see the value in giving it more time. Fast forward to her first year of high school and she is struggling with the same issues she faced in elementary and middle school. Namely, inability to focus in class, doesn't write down the assignments, doesn't do much of the homework or projects or prepare for tests. She can usually perform well enough in one class that she pins her failures in the other classes on her teachers. They call her out more, they weren't clear about what the assignment was, the work is boring (please don't focus on the boring issue as her the issue is not that she's not being challenged), etc., etc.

She refuses to accept an ADD/ADHD diagnosis. There is clearly a genetic component as both her father and I have siblings, nephews, etc. with ADHD. It's likely her dad has ADD also, but he, too, is in denial.

Her father and I have been divorced for 4 yrs and he is very anti-medication, he derailed another trial of medication, scaring the crap out of her in regards to medication side-effects, yet he does nothing to acknowledge and make accommodations to help her be successful in view of the challenges ADD presents. He has an extremely hands-off approach, thinking somehow she will miraculously be successful in spite of her difficulties focusing.

If we presented a united front, I think she would be more amenable to trying medication. All I've asked of her is to give it a fair trial and then she can decide, she refuses. At this point I would like to go to family counseling with her and discuss ADD management. Freshman year is almost over, the clock is ticking and I fear she will continue to fail if something doesn't change. BTW, she meets with a tutor/mentor 2x/wk when she's with me, her father refuses to have her tutored in his home even though I've offered to pay.

Any recommendations for a good family therapist? I am not interested in any fringe treatment approaches, no offense. I'm interested in how other families have handled the issue of ADD acceptance and treatment with their teen.

Thank you. mother who cares


Wow...you have the exact same ex-husband as I do! I have a 14-year-old son who has been diagnosed with ADD, but his father (my ex) is totally against medications and has brainwashed our son against taking them (only mentally ill people take drugs, you will become dependent, they have side effects, etc.). I have a friend who is a pediatrician who has his own daughter on ADD drugs and swears by the difference they have made in his daughter's life...my ex won't even consider talking with him. I've come to the conclusion that there's not that much I can do to change the situation. It is what it is and my son loves and respects his dad's opinions... Unfortunately, it is my son's loss.

8th grade daughter just diagnosed with ADD

Mar 2012

Our daughter in 8th grade was just diagnosed with ADD, inattentive type. The doctors are not recommending medicine, but we do want to talk with a specialist to understand how best to help her. I have a few books I'm now reading, but they aren't based on her situation. I'd really like our family to learn some tips/tricks on how to help her, especially with her study skills/homework. Ideally an expert in ADD could spend time with her and help her figure out what would be best for her. All the information from the BPN website is from years ago. Do you know any such tips/tricks and who might help us uncover them for my daughter? Thank you. -Concerned Parent


I am curious why the doctors have not suggested medication for your daughter. My daughter -- who has the same diagnosis -- has been on medication since 5th grade (now in 8th) and it has made a world of difference for her. I'm not a doctor, nor a pill-pusher, just a mom who has seen her daughter's life become significantly easier as a result. That being said, there are tutors/coaches who can assist with ''executive function'' issues and teach skills for organization and focus. I don't have any suggestions because we haven't used one. However, if your daughter attends a public school, she may be eligible for such support paid for by the school district; I have a friend whose daughter receives those services. Been there
Linda Lawton has helped my daughter immensely, both with things like time management, study skills, focus, and prioritizing, and also with the feelings of confusion and shame that are so often a big part of the A.D.H.D. experience. She works with both teens and adults with A.D.H.D. in her office near El Cerrito Plaza. Linda is gifted at assessing what each individual client needs, and then tailoring sessions to suit those needs. Honestly, I don't know what we would have done without her. Her website is www.centerofattentionandlearning.org. anonymous

Testing for ADD/other: BHS and/or private resources? Kaiser?

Mar 2012

Hi, We are discovering somewhat late that our child may have ADD and/or another learning issue. Has anyone had success with getting BHS (e.g., BUSD) to assess your child for learning differences, and how did you go about it? We have heard that they will fight very hard not to do the testing; is this what you found?

Given that it's rather late for him, we're also prepared to get private testing, but have no idea where to begin on this. We belong to Kaiser, if that helps (or if anyone has tried it there and can weigh in).

Where did you go for private testing, what did it entail, and how much was it? Any and all resources and recommendations are welcome! Thanks Need testing information / help


Public schools cannot diagnose ADHD. They can help a physician/neuropsych/psychiatrist with information that will be used to diagnose ADHD. Kaiser has a process for diagnosing ADHD. They also have some support services for families with ADHD. Otherwise, you can go to a private behavioral pediatrician or neuropsych who specializes in attention issues; this will be much more expensive than going through Kaiser. Public school funds are being streamlined as special needs are increasing. Getting extra services is tougher as resources diminish. Private parties such as educational therapists can provide targeted support for families dealing with ADHD and attention issues.
My son was tested at Kaiser while in 9th grade. We had no problem with getting him tested, he did come up positive for ADD, and they were happy to write a letter to the school, which included the test results. My son now has an IEP at Berkeley H.S. You need to call the Pediatric Behavioral Health Program at Kaiser to set up an appt. mom of two teens

Intelligent 10th grader's grades are steadily worsening

Oct 2011

Hello BPN, My 10th grader's in trouble. He is highly intelligent as proven by umpteen tests, yet he can't get to school on time, can't turn in homework, and is failing or below C in every single class, including PE! His grades have been getting steadily worse since he started middle school until he's now hit the lowest of the low. SST meetings at school formerly resulted in nothing other than ''he'll grow out of it''. Now, the SST suggested testing him for ADD. We are a low income family and are now looking for someone reasonably priced to come daily and sit with him while he does homework, make sure it gets into his homework folder, show him time management strategies, etc. How does one find a great tutor at a low price? I'd be grateful for recommendations for tutors that have worked for you and would welcome any advice anyone can give me if they have ever been through this heart ache.


If your son is having consistent troubles in his classes, and is in public school, you can write a letter asking the school to test him for learning differences including ADHD. Look at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF.org) web site for more information on how to do this. From your posting, it sounds like you and the school need to know more about how he is processing information. anon
Even before I got to the line in which you wrote that SST is suggesting testing for ADD, I guessed he has it. My 10th grader does but luckily he was diagnosed in 1st grade. It is very trying and I cannot understand how kids get to HS without it being recognized. I think the schools wish ''he'll grow out of it'' so that they don't have to provide services. But they do. The school district is required by federal law to test him and if he does have ADD, they must provide accomodations and services. Since I don't have a lot of space to respond here, my best advice to you is to call DREDF, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. 510.644.2555 or info@dredf.org They will educate you on your rights at no cost to you. I don't know if they can help you find a tutor, but they will probably have some ideas. ADD is a disability. He may also benefit from medication. Best of luck to you. Living with ADHD and it does get better

ADHD/therapist/survival techniques needed

June 2011

We believe our 17 yr old has ADHD. This is not a new feeling, we've suspected it for a while. Our child would be inattentive type if diagnosed. Our child is easily distracted, takes hours to finish homework, doesn't always remember to turn in work or other important documents on time, won't use resources at school for those who can help (counselors, talk w/teachers) and a procrastinator.

While a very good student, the past 3 months have seen a downturn in interest and motivation. Not to mention no interest in looking at college info, just thinks it will all happen. Even started failing some classes, but has since improved.

I have no idea how we will get through Sr. year and college process if our child dosen't embrace the realities of all the requirements necessary to apply to college. I know, perhaps a gap year is in order, yes, but we need our child to want this, not just do it because they cannot get their act together.

It is hard when child thinks it's OK to take risks at critical times like Junior/Sr. year. From what I read/hear, college dosen't just happen and I'm very worried parents will get burnt out in trying to have our child understand consequences of not being engaged right now.

We plan on having an ADHD evaluation, and have some family therapy to discuss how we can all get along with all the deadlines approaching in next 8 months. Any words of wisdom, family therapy/adolescent therapy recommendations, ADHD recommendations (we can't afford Dr. Berman), etc. would be very appreciated. overwhelmed is not the word


You have listed a lot of issues around teen sons and ADHD. It is overwhelming and horribly distressing to see this unfolding in your own home. Trust me I have been there. It might be good to pick off one thing and start there. Doing well in school is of utmost importance for everything to come. Consider a serious incentive program with him if he can't seem to motivate on his own. ''Big juicy carrots'' is what they say these guys need. With Summer coming maybe he does a particular thing he is good at. Engineer a little success in one area and see if that influences other things. Do what you need to, do not give up. Seek professionals that you trust. The economy sucks maybe they will lower their fees to gain another patient? Get school accomodations in place if he needs them and he might do better and feel better too. Importantly, if your son is smoking pot and it sounds like he might be, that must stop. It is a non-starter for everything else. Sadly people w/ ADHD want to self-medicate w/ pot because for a while it works, but, ultimately it's the path to self-defeat. You are beginning what will likely be a very trying time period. But it is does end. We thought our guy would never get there and he's off to college. Now I only hope that he will actually attend class. Mom of an ADHD boy
We went through a similarly murky process to try and get a definitive diagnosis as to whether our teenage son had ADHD; he had many of the same symptoms you listed for your son. ADHD is a term or diagnosis that seems to get thrown around quite loosely; we were looking for a definitive,analytical approach especially since it may involve medications in the future. Our experiences were that 1) schools rarely make a definitive assessment when testing a child, because to do so would commit them to a number of support services that cost the school district money that they don't want to spend. 2) the behavior questions asked by the pediatrician (at least ours) were so non-specific that a huge swath of the US population could be diagnosed with the syndrome. 3) We chose formal testing by an educational psychologist that had been recommended to us. He does not do any individual therapy, just testing, so he has no financial incentive to ''find'' ADHD in the children he tests. The process involved about 6 hrs of recognizable tests (I'm an NP of 31 yrs) and he made a definitive dx. of ADHD. Both the pediatrician and the school accepted his results. It took some nudging to get the school to initiate support services in the classroom.We chose a medication trial instead of organizational training and support.Our son's grades improved immediately, and he reported that he could ''feel'' the impact of the drug and when it wore off.

We did not search out and compare different psychologists, since we had a recommendation from a trusted psychologist. The educational psychologist who did the testing was Alan Siegal, PhD in Berkeley, and his phone # is (510) 527-7929. If additional information would be helpful, I can be reached at (510) 814-8134. Good luck on this tough journey! Kate


I could have written your post, with the exception that our son is one year younger. We too are in the midst of seeking every shred of help we can find to keep our son's academic ship from hitting the shoals. One idea you might consider: we have hired an educational consultant, Betsy Kaye (925-284-7229), to work with our son at least once a week over the summer. She will serve as both a writing tutor and information conduit to all things college prep. She has done one session with him and it was a complete home run. She's very savvy about school politics, is warm and engaging (our son loves her), and understands that she needs to meet him where he is "which isn't anywhere near his abilities" with humor and understanding.

I'd love to hear what you learn from other parents in this amazing network if anyone responds to you directly. Or, if you'd like to commiserate please get my information from the moderator. Good luck! Worried too


2007 - 2009 Advice


Gifted 9th grader with possible AHDH

Nov 2009

Have a very young 9th grader struggling academically and socially inpublic high school. Currently being tested (suspect ADHD) and, if so, is twice exceptional. Giftedness likely masked his ADHD symptoms all these years. He is a bit nerdy, immature, underweight. Would like to hear from other parents about what has worked to help newly diagnosed 2E teens thrive? Most ADHD help classes are geared for elementary school children. (If only he had been so lucky to have been properly diagnosed early on). Would love to hear from others what worked and what didn't work.
- Prescription meds, if so, which, and how were the side effects?
- Alternative treatment?
- Coaching?
- Counseling for teen? for parents?
- Skills class?
- Biofeedback?
- Do you have a great doctor (psychiatrist) who ''gets'' 2e kids, if so, feel free to share his/her name. Thank you one and all. Signed, New to 2E


Last year we discovered our 8th grade daughter has ADHD (w/o hyperactivity), after struggling all 3 years in middle school. Over the summer, she started taking Strattera (not stimulant ADHD med). Now, her first year in high school, things are going great. She has A's, and 2 B's, and she is accountable for her own homework (no more excuses, etc.) Strattera takes about 5-6 weeks to start working, which is why summer was a great time to start it. Now there are no side effects, but the first two weeks were rocky. She was nauseated and had no appetite, and had mild sleep disturbances. Strattera stays in your system 24/7, so there are no peaks and crashes. She does not seem ''different'' in any way, except happier and more confident. She's actually enjoying school for the first time in 3 years. I wish we had an earlier diagnosis so we could have started treatment sooner. Now in high school, she's repeating the math class she failed last year (getting an A currently). It's never an easy decision to medicate your child, but for us, it was the right one. Our daughter has been seeing a therapist prior to ADHD discovery, and still continues. Our pediatrician is Dr. Nash at Alamo Medical. After he told us the pros cons of all the meds available, my daughter ultimately made the decision to try Stratter. Good luck to you, and if you would like to have more information, ask moderator for my email. concerned mom
Our daughter is exceptionally bright with a myriad of learning differences including ADHD. She too is in High School but was diagnosed earlier. She is on Concerta. I fought against putting her on medication for many years however she asked for them in 8th Grade and I honored her request. It has helped exhorbitantly. She can focus more in class and I don't think she could navigate her High School classes without it. She has few side effects. Some headaches the first few weeks of taking it but she says that they disappeared after her body adjusted.

What is most important though is that your son truly understands how his brain works. To that end, I can't say enough about Dr. Teresa Doyle. She is a neuropsychologist who has a unique insight to kids with learning differences and she and her staff after testing are able to discuss with you and your son his strengths and weaknesses. As a psychologist, she can offer counseling as well.

After filtering through and administering more tests, what she also can do is a project with your son that helps explain to him and to his teachers his learning differences. By presenting this himself, he at that point will become his own and best self advocate. Projects can be anything from artwork, to a written and bound book, to a power point (my daughter's choice) or anything that your son and Terry decide on. As an example, my daughter's Power Point has been shown for the last two years to her teachers with great success. With a little ''tweaking'' it can even be shown to professors in College.

I know if you have a diagnosis, you have already had some tests administered and interpreted (we did too) but I still think you should contact Terry. She is on College Ave and her number is 510- 594-1926. She is pretty amazing.

I also know that as this is your first plunge into the pool of learning differences, this can sometimes be an overwhelming and costly experience. You have my empathy. The best thing you can do is make sure your son understands who he is, how his uniqueness will ultimately help him and encourage him to understand that school is just a small window in time where people expect him to excell in everything and once he finds his passion and profession his unique brain will be a magnificent aid. anon


Our 14-year-old daughter is twice exceptional, too: gifted and emotionally disturbed (anxiety and depression). She was miserable in a traditional middle school due to social aggression from other girls. We pulled her out and she now is thriving at a school that values her specialness. It's the Envision Academy in Oakland, a charter school that is the quality of excellent private schools but is free because it's paid for by public funds. Envision is pioneering learning centering around projects and numerous other alternative approaches to learning. I highly recommend it. Search this site for reviews, including mine. I did have to advocate for accommodations for her giftedness. I recently donated 2 books and a CD to the school on Teaching the Gifted in a Regular Classroom. It included over a hundred sheets developed by experienced teachers that show in detail how to teach the gifted in a regular setting. These have ''primed'' the pump with her teachers, the learning specialist, the school psychologist and the principal, and they welcomed my input. It sounds like your son would fit well in this school community and thrive there too. Nancy
Brad Berman, Walnut Creek behavioral pediatrician, diagnosed our son. When consistent routine in both houses (we're divorced) was unachievable, ADHD meds showed minimal side effects. Big breakfast, snack & late dinner (after meds wear off) help with less appetite. Late puberty's a plus; evaluating meds is harder with hormonal changes. Berman said 1500mg/day of fish oil helps some ADHD kids. Alternative therapies use more supplements & diet control, conflicting with autonomy, fitting in with peers, & was unenforceable. I told him caffeine's bad with his meds & sugar's not great for ADHD; Sam avoids caffeine.

Meds helped class/homework focus & behavior, but a 504 plan (which took a year) was also needed. Accommodations address intellect (reduced routine tasks) & social challenges (a focused friend in each class) as much as the ADHD that qualifies him for the 504.

Your son's individual issues determine needed help. Poor executive function & frustrated intellect can hurt social interactions or be compounded by anxiety or depression. Your diagnostician can identify the issues, leads for help, school options/accommodations. Diagnosis brings realistic expectations & tools to support your son. If a parent may have ADHD, get assessed & treated; it's a modeling opportunity that helps everyone. Talk therapy didn't help Sam, but the relationship's there just in case. He did biofeedback training, but doesn't use the skills - or organizational skills from Linda Lawton, educational consultant, but he liked learning about ADHD itself. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy requires motivated clients.

Sam's best in focused AP classes & structured extra-curriculars like orchestra. He resists homework & refused programs (Classroom Matters) & tutoring. He likes after-school tutoring at school, not for content help, but a no-stigma setting for all: he goes as needed to finish homework. More autonomy, fewer home battles. Some hire college kids to keep a kid homework-focused, then reward with fun after.

CHADD offers parent support groups, speakers, useful links. Thinkkids.org is for parents of easily frustrated or inflexible kids, common to some with ADHD (The Explosive Child by Ross Greene is great).

Your son will partner in identifying what works as you go. Some bright ADHD kids tire of a new routine once it's no longer novel. Expect a few sure bets & lots of improvisation. Try to enjoy the ride. Anon


It took us until age 12 to get our son diagnosed as well. I work professionally with kids, so I knew he had it. But like your son, he is very bright and was able to hide it quite well. I only just started him on Adderal last month. I didn't want to, because he's already on asthma drugs. But the very first day into the trial, I asked him how it went. He said ''mom, everything just made sense.'' His symptoms had gotten a lot worse over the past year, which his 6th grade teachers would be likely because the social scene ramps up so much in 7th grade. Not to mention puberty, etc. We did work with an OT through the school years ago and found that to be helpful. OT's are really good at teaching kids mechanisms/tools for self-management. Good luck! mom in similar scenario
I am an educational therapist who specializes in treating AD/HD. One of the first recommendations I make to my clients is that they consult the website of CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) and follow the link to the National Clearinghouse for Information on AD/HD which CHADD cosponsors with the CDC. There you can find information about all the treatments you listed, and you can access research studies that might help you make up your mind about things like medication and neurofeedback. You might want to join (it's only $45 per year) because you receive a monthly magazine that keeps you up to date on research and timely topics across the lifespan, free attendance at support groups for parents, and discounts on AD/HD related stuff and the annual conference. A great book for teens to read is ADHD and ME, What I Learned from Lighting Fires at the Dinner Table, by Blake Taylor. Blake is a very accomplished young man and the book is full of good information and pretty entertaining. Good luck! Linda

12-year-old has many symptoms of ADD

May 2009

For several years I have been concerned for my 12 year old, and think he has many symptoms of ADD, lack of concentration, tantrums, inability to complete homework, low pain threshold, highly irritable, lack of organizational skills, just to name a few.

I've brought it up with several teachers over several years, but they all tell me it's a lack of motivation, or he's choosing to be social rather than do his work. I think this is because he doesn't show symptoms of hyperactivity, and they tend to lump the two together. He just can't seem to keep up, this last progress report he had a 22% in math and in science, subjects he enjoys. Then an A in English, and he tests in the 90th percentile when he's been assessed. He's so smart, but nothing we do helps him stay on track with his school work.

I have a referral to a psychiatrist that helped my friends daughter, she had similar symptoms and she now takes Ritalin, which they think is fabulous. I have also spoken with the Attention and Achievment Center in Walnut Creek, that uses cognitive skills training instead of medicating, which is very appealing to me.

I'd like some advice on how to go about getting my son assessed, whether the school district should be involved, should I go through a psychiatrist, or my ped? Or do I go with this alternate treatment, has anyone tried this center? Do I want an ''official diagnosis' or does that stigmatize kids in their schools? We are in Walnut Creek. Thankful for any advice


You have opened an explosive area and am sure you will get very strong opinions for both sides. My son got diagnosed with ADD at the start of 3rd grade. We too were told all the things your school is telling you. We are in Lafayette. We were fortunate to already be a patient of Dr. Brad Berman from 4 years earlier for something totally unrelated. Because of that we could get into see him quickly and get him evaluated and diagnosed. Berman's number is 925-279-3480. BTW, I can't say enough good things about him.

Anyway, we decided to go the meds route because of his young age. You could tell from the first day how much it helped. School was better and his self-esteem started to improve. We liken the meds to eyeglasses a tool to fix a defect. We did not go the behavioral route because we didn't want him to lose anymore time in school. He had ''checked out'' in February of his second grade and lost almost half a year. Also when the dose needed to be changed because he had grown, it was obvious from the day we changed it how much it helped.

The school would do nothing for us until we asked in writing for an evaluation. I'm not sure they would have done any special resources or would have changed their opinion of him if we didn't have Dr. Berman on our side. They quickly gave him an evaluation and gave him the resources and provisions he needed. Now that he's on the meds, we are starting behavior modification as well.

So I would run as fast as I can and get an evaluation. Unfortunately there is a huge wait to get into Dr. Berman. I would get on the waitng list, but find another behavioral pediatrician to help you now. Your psychiatrist may be sufficient, I don't know. At the same time I would ask for a school evaluation.

I also have an 8th grader whose friend is getting the exact treatment as you are. They have a doctor and an advocate and are sill battling the school, but started at the school when he was 13. He has been on meds for years. Their hope is to get him accommodations in time for high school. The work only gets harder as they go through middle school and high school and every minute is precious.

Good luck with your choice. People will question you no matter what you do, so go with your gut.
Mom and Wife of ADDs


We're going thru something similar with our son. We're both very wary about medicating kids (ours is only 5!) But we have a therapist we respect, who recommended we see a child psychiatrist for an assessment; I also spoke with an adult psychiatrist that I know and respect; they both advised me that 1) the research (which is plentiful and on-going) suggests that not only does medication really help the child focus, put them in a position where they can succeed, and thus begin to build their self esteem back up (which is usually destroyed after years of not succeeding the face of their teachers, family, friends and classmates), but that the brain may actually get ''healthier'' on meds - it shows signs of atrophy after years of untreated ADD/ADHD (not to mention the anxiety/depression that can develop with untreated ADD). They also both said that once on medication, cog. behavioral therapy has a better chance of working (for obvious reasons). I'm no doc so I'm not the best person to try to explain... but I would highly recommend you see a child psychiatrist for an opinion - and not just any child psychiatrist, but a really experienced one who is respected in the field, who will look at the whole picture, not just assume it's ADHD and prescribe ritalin, like less experienced ped's might, unless they are quite sure that that is what you are really dealing with. These mental issues are complex - there could be more than one thing going on. One such person is Herbert Schreier, who's been the head of child psychiatry at Oakland Children's forever. :-) And for the record, I was talking to our babysitter last night about my son, and she told me that she WISHES she had been medicated as a child for her ADHD! That her childhood was awful as a result - classmates constantly teased her in the meanest possible ways, she didn't have a single friend, teachers ''wrote her off,'' and she was constantly aware that she was ''different'' but couldn't manage to help herself. Her mom thougt she'd grow out of it. As a young woman now in her mid- 20's, she is doing cognitive behavior therapy to try to undo some of the life-long (bad)work and social habits, low self- esteem, and coping mechanisms she developed. Her story made me much more open to the idea of meds, and less ''judgmental'' about it. You just need to learn what you can, find doctors you trust, and do what feels right for YOUR son. Good luck. anon
Try taking your son off of all gluten products (wheat, barley, oats, spelt, rhy. Maybe Dairy, but try gluten first. Does he take Omega 3- fish oil? My son has been gluten free for 2 years(he's 14) and it was a stunning change. Also the Omega 3 helped him focus (fyi, Omega 3 was prescribed by a psychiatrist after a brain scan of my son). he takes 4 caps of Omega-3 per day. It helps to minimize sugar intake too. Personally, I find eliminating gluten easier then sugar. You have to read labels and ask questions....gluten is in a lot of things. It's hard at first, but definately doable. We've never used meds and dont' need to. Try these first. Much safer and healthier. mom of ADD plus other issues
There is a strong anti-meds bias in this community, which can make it hard to know what is right for your child. I shared it, and resisted any medication for my son when a sees-ADD-everywhere doctor said he had ADD in first grade. We managed until 6th grade, when everything fell apart: homework was an all-evening nag-fest, he couldn't keep track of assignments, and this brilliant kid was getting Cs and feeling like a failure. Enter the meds (and Brad Berman, whom we had seen for other issues and also adore). The change was immediate, and fabulous. Overnight, he had executive function. He was able to focus in class, keep track of assignments, get homework done in study hall. He was also more socially cued in, and doing better there as well. He goes off the meds on weekends unless he has homework or a school function (his choice -- he knows he does better with them). Now, finishing eighth grade, he is confident and has no concerns about his ability to handle the work in a demanding high school. So don't be afraid of meds. You wouldn't deny your kid insulin if he/she were diabetic. Some brains need meds to function well. There is little risk to trying them, and if they work, they really, really work. Grateful for Meds
The bottom line is that the best approach is not either/or but both. Medication maybe needed, and cognitive skills must be taught to make a change in behavior permanent (Pills do not teach skills). Like a previous responder, we resisted meds for years and then found that they worked wonders for our son. Our pediatrician also suggested that our son may have a condition that might benefit from meds when our son was in first grade (although she didn't name it ADHD as the time). In spite of considerable difficulty at school, I did not want a label and did not want to medicate him because of the anti-medication sentiment so prevalent in our society(and despite the fact that both my husband and I are physicians). After 7th grade, it became clear that there was a misfit between our perception of a very bright, creative person and his school performance. Our son went underwent a thorough assessment and has been managed by Dr Brad Berman with medication. What a relief! He has not been reduced to a zombie nor lost his personality. Instead, he is able to focus, is neater, gets better grades, and is a much more pleasant person on medication. We've also tried other alternative methods, such as fish oil (which Dr Berman supports) and PS/DH--can't comment on whether the latter has been effective. We also use cognitive methods such as educational therapy and behavioral modification techniques that we've learned through CHADD, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, http://www.chadd.org/ Try both.
Although whether or not any given treatment is effective varies from one child to the next, existing research on treatments for children with ADD/ADHD suggests that generally, treatments including stimulant medication are most effective in improving attention and related symptoms; next best are behavioral treatments (working with parents and teachers to structure the environment in a way that teaches the child skills and improves his/her functioning). There currently is not a lot of evidence that individual cognitive training with the child is effective (although it may be more effective if parents and teachers go out of their way to reinforce skills taught in therapy when the child is out in the real world). I am a clinical psychologist who does behavioral parent training and teacher consultation out of my San Francisco-based private practice-- I specialize in working with families of children with ADHD or other behavior problems (as well as with parents of children with significant anxiety or worry). NK

10-year-old diagnosed with both ADD and Tourette Syndrome

August 2008

My son is 10 years old and he has been diagnosed with Tourette Sindrome and ADD. His doctor talked about start him on some medicine to help wit ADD before the school starts.We will discuss with her about it and I need some advice from parents who may have the same or similar case to help us find the best solution for our son. thank you.


My experience with children who have comorbid diagnosis is that it takes a skilled psychiatrist - as opposed to pediatrician - to prescribe meds. The comorbidity in the meds can cause side effects and a downward spiral if both diagnosis are not thoughtfully considered. If you haven't already seen someone, I have had clients work with Dr. Ellen Krantz in Marin and also try Dr. Lisa Hardy in Walnut Creek area. HOPE THIS HELPS, ML

Teen has just been diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive type)

May 2008

We've just completed the testing on my HS teen, who has been diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive type). We are about to begin the 504 process to get help through the school. However, this disability has affected our home life (and even more so now that we are dealing with a teenager who gets emotional). I really do not have a sense of what I do (as a parent of an ADHD child) to make life easier for all of us at home. My child resents our acting as room monitors but otherwise homework or a project (such as cleaning the bedroom) may not get completed. What should I care about and what should I let go? How do you keep them focused without becoming an ogre? My teen seems to rely on us to fill in the gaps but sometimes, I feel like I am doing too much. Medication may not be an option because my child is currently opposed to it and I feel this has to be a joint decision. On the other hand, it takes so long for anything to get completed that it seems like my teen loses out.

I have read the books but now I am looking for classes or training for how we, as the parents, should deal with everyday experiences. There has got to be something more than just putting a label on a kid or thinking the school will fix everything

Also, I would appreciate any updated recommendations on local occupational therapists. Thanks so much!! anonymous


We have an ADHD (inattentive type) son also. We did several things of the course of a few years (and researched everything!).

The first thing we did was to find a therapist for our son (a child psychiatrist) and a family therapist (Licensed MFC) for us as parents. It was important to us that we learn how to support him so he didn't feel like we were nagging him all the time and for us to be able to filter out what was important (studying, getting to school on time, making good choices with spare time) vs that with which we could live (messy room, messy-looking homework). Besides the formal process of getting and IEP in place, we also worked with his teachers so a) they would understand what certain behavior could be attributed to, and b) so they could develop a feedback system for him so he could participate in the monitoring of his behavior.

We, too, were trepidatious about medication. We didn't initially put him on medication because he didn't want to but made sure he was fully informed about choices and what was being recommended. After a year and a half in therapy and NOT on medication, our son, himself, asked for medication. In just a few days, after adjusting the dose, he could see the difference, as could we. A couple of years later with letters of admission to several universities and colleges, he - and we - are happy as clams.

In summary, the combination of therapy, medication, and total family commitment is helping with a better outcome. Hang in there! Another parent of an ADHD son


I too struggle with this issue with my son. A friend recommended the book, ''Bright Minds, Poor Grades: Understanding and Motivating your Underachieving Child'' by Michael D. Whitley. I just purchased it and I am still reading through it, but already see much potential in its 10 step program. I found the book on Amazon, used. Hope this helps! Donna

How do I know for sure that 12-year-old has ADD?

Nov 2007

My 12 yr old son was just diagnosed with ADD (inattentive) by Dr Gary Landman. The reason we went to see him in the first place was due to my son saying he was having trouble focusing in class. (a few of his teachers had mentioned that he seemed pretty distracted at times in class.) My son went on line and researched his issues and told me ''I think I have ADD'' I had never, ever considered the idea that my son had ADD. He is a very smart kid but does not wow with great grades (B's and an occasional C) My friends who know him say that he is simply bored and under-stimulated. How do I know for sure if he really has ADD or if he simply needs a different type of academic setting? AND if he does need a different academic setting, where do I send him? confused mom


As you now know, the diagnostic process for ADD is pretty simple and straightforward: does the child's behavior meet a certain number of tests or not? I have heard that one bottom line question is whether or not the child's attention issues are responsive to medication. At this point, there's no way of knowing ''for sure;'' you will have to decide if the situation warrants treatment, and if so, what you and your son are willing to try.

In any case, now that you've obtained a diagnosis, you're going to have to learn to steel yourself against your friends' well-meaning assessments. Your son may well need a more stimulating or otherwise more appropriate educational environment (a topic for another post; there are many differing opinions on this subject), but please don't decline to treat an underlying problem (if you conclude that there may be one) because of the misconceptions of others. Good luck! ADD mom


ADHD, especially inattentive type, is best assessed in the context of the school setting. I would suggest that you have the doctor you are working with have one or more of your son's teachers fill out the Connors Teacher Scale. This is a standard assessment tool for evaluating ADHD. You might be asked to fill out the parent version of the scale too. Having the professional you are working with consult with the teacher and/or observe the child in school can be helpful as well. Don't be quick to change schools as yet? How well is your child doing in school? Has his performance been suffering? And if so, for how long. How is he doing in relation to his measured IQ? What have standardized achievement tests shown? Answers to these questions will help determine the extent of the problem and whether the current placement is working. Most children with ADHD can be adequately educated in mainstream classrooms of public schools, although some accommodations may be necessary (i.e., sitting in the front of the room, having oral & blackboard assignments be copied for the student, interventions for improving the student's organization skills, etc). Teacher awareness and acceptance of the child's problem and teacher cooperation with interventions/accommodations also is important. Once a reliable assessment of the problem is completed, a plan for intervention (academic, medical, psychological, and/or parenting) can be established. Most of all, don't panic. This is a very manageable problem. DB
My advice is to get a second opinion. I worked as a local school counselor for many years and had an opportunity to review many of Dr. Landman's reports on a variety of kids over a significant span of time. He made a diagnosis of ADHD for every child. You can interpret this as you wish. In his defense, I never consulted with him directly. I strongly recommend Dr. Debra Sedberry in Walnut Creek, Dr. Brad Berman in Berkeley or the Ability Resource Center: http://www.abilityrc.com/home.php. Most of the boys that I have worked with with this diagnosis generally have a long standing history of mild/moderate behavioral problems in school or poor grades in general. Finally, I recommend you consider having your child evaluated by a psychotherapist. Perhaps there are larger anxieties that prompted him to self-diagnosis himself in the first place. A parent and psychotherapist
Hi Confused about ADD, I'm a Learning Specialist and know Dr. Landman. He is great when you know for sure your child has ADD because he prescribes meds without doing thorough testing, however if you're unsure I don't think he's the right person to go to as he'll prescribe when something else might really be going on. An MD who does thorough (though expensive) testing is Dr. Brad Buhrman or Berman (sp? I just had a baby and can't remember how to spell). You could also take him to the Ann Martin Center in Oakland and Piedmont. They are a non-profit organization and they do thorough testing. You also might want to read The Mislabeled Child by the Eide's. He tells all about attention issues and other issues that mimic ADD. Susan
Hello. I am an adult who was recently diagnosed with ADD and I can tell you now, that a diagnosis as a child would have saved me years of trouble. From what I understand, you can have testing done on your son (very expensive), but you can also go to an ADD specialist and have him evaluated. There is also some great books out there, esp. anything by Edward Hallowell. He has written several. There is also a woman who works out of Albany and is an educational therapist. She can work with your son in terms of school and behavior modification. Her name is Linda Lawton (Linda Lawton 510-499-0994 cell; 524-0350 office; easy4you AT sbcglobal.net email ) I believe she has been reviewed on this site before. I've gone to her and she is fabulous. Even better is that she is a former teacher and a parent of an ADD child. You can tell her that Kate recommended her. Kate
My son told me the same thing and at a younger age. Frankly there is one really fast way to determine whether the diagnosis is correct - have him take the meds and if he feels he can focus better and he can TELL the difference, then he has ADD. My son can tell when he's taken his meds - it makes a difference in his ability to concentrate and do his homework or stay focused in class.

And don't dispair. Some people respond to ADD like it's leprosy. Ignore them. See today's (Tu, Nov. 13) NYT's article about two new studies on kids with behavioral issues. Of the kids with ADHD they say: ''The other (study) found that children with attention deficit disorders suffer primarily from a delay in brain development, not from a deficit or flaw.''

In other words they grow out of it. According to the study, they grow out of it by early adulthood. mom of adhd kid


Dear Confused Mom, I have a 9 year old with ADHD and I have been learning a lot about it. Your son may have ADD, but this diagnosis requires more than one visit to Dr. Landman. My son has had many extensive evaluations, but the most comprehensive, and the most useful has been the neuropsychology assessment by Dr. Kristin Gross (510-530-1676). Dr. Gross tests for many things- she can tease out what are real learning difficulties, what are attention difficulties, and where the two intersect. If there are attention difficulties, she can tell you more specifically what type. She is located in Peidmont, and charges $3500 for an evaluation. The evaluation consists of 4 sessions on 4 consecutive weeks: First with just parents, second and third with kid, fourth the results with the parents, and probably the child in your case. Each session is about 2 hours. Best money I have ever spent. Since your child is concerned enough to explore this on his own, I would suggest getting an extensive evaluation to take the guess work out of this. If money is a real issue, you can have a psycoeducational testing done at your local school district. There are support groups and information about AD/HD through CHADD, ADDA and good info at Swab Learning.org. I would be happy to talk to you about more specifics. I am just a struggling parent, but I have had so much trouble finding the right place for my son that I want to help others. email me and we can set up a call if you want. Good luck. Lisa
I suggest that you visit the websites of www.chadd.org and www.schwablearning.org and begin to read up on this disorder, if you haven't already done so. The media have done a poor job of presenting the facts around treatment and diagnosis of this condition, and it's easy to be dangerously misinformed. There is a lot of accurate information available, and these two websites provide well-researched science, and lots of other helpful stuff. LL

Middle schooler with ADD - poor note taking in class

Oct 2007

My son has just been diagnosed ADHD. He has never been very hyperactive in the usual sense, but he has had a focus problem. We had him eval. because of a marked problem at middle school. He is seemingly incapable of copying notes from the overhead or whiteboard. He is very intelligent, scores in the advanced range on the STAR tests, and gets Bs and As on his tests and most long-term projects in GATE classes at school. However, the middle school that he's in heavily weights class notes that he periodically must pass in and be graded on, as well as Daily Planner checks, that are also periodically graded for accuracy. He started taking a low dose for his height/weight of Concerta, and it seems to be helping with his focusing problem, but the note-taking is still pretty poor. Thanks for your help. E.


My mother was a 6th grade teacher for years, and she had a couple of kids who had a very specific learning disability -- they were incapable of copying from a vertical plane to a horizontal plane. If she laid things beside them on the desk, they could copy them just fine. Could your son have a disability like this? Karen
Hi. If you haven't already, it would be a great idea to have your son checked by a developmental optomotrist. This is different than a typical eye exam, and might uncover some issues, such as visual processing or accomodation issues that make copying from the board more challenging. Many children with visual issues look like they have ADHD. You can have 20/20 vision and still have problems with vision. David Grisham in San Rafael (Rising Star Optometry) is fabulous for this. Sara
You are fortunate that your son is doing so well in school, and the fact that he has difficulty taking notes should not hold him back! Have you attempted to speak to your son's teacher(s) about ways to make accommodations in his classes? Have you inquired at your son's school about a possible student study team or 504 plan? This can enable him to get accommodations in his classes. Students with diagnosis such as ADHD are sometimes entitled to certain accommodations in the class, such as being given copies of notes, rather than having to take them himself, or an alternative way of getting the notes he needs (maybe he takes only a portion of the notes and gets copies of the rest, or he may need a guided notes outline to help him get his notes down; another possibility is for him to borrow another student's notes or the teacher's notes and copy them at home at his own pace). I am speaking as a Special Education teacher who has taught many teenagers with ADD/ADHD and learning disabilities, and who have great difficulty taking notes. I am not suggesting that your son needs special education services, but rather some help and understanding from the school that might enable him and you to have more flexibility. Carmen
With an ADHD diagnosis your son would qualify for accommodations. Make the request in writing. Possible accommodations: using an organized student's notes, getting the teacher to provide a written copy of the material being presented on the overhead or board so your son can take his ''notes'' (underline, add to what is presented, etc.) on that paper, different grading policy for notes for him. Anon
Has he been evaluated for dysgraphia? I am a teacher and I had a student who had problems taking notes because of dysgraphia. In any case, if his ADHD results in his disability to take notes, that should be an accomodation in his IEP. The teacher can just hand him the overhead later or make a copy of it for him, and/or accept that he may be able to learn just as well or better by just listening, or recording lectures to listen to or take notes on later. anon
Hi - I wish I could send every parent my experience with the Handle program. I did recommend it here about 6 months ago for someone who did not want to medicate for ADHD. We just finished our set of exercises, and although according to the reassessment my daughter still is not quite up to speed with inner ear/auditory issues and right brain functioning, the change in her ability to do all the things required in her 6th grade class is remarkable. She never got evaluated by the public school system, since she goes to a private school, but it was clear that she wasn't able to keep up in lots of ways over the last year or two. I might have termed her issues as dyslexia, but in the assessment done by Handle, she had a lot of inefficiencies in many neurological systems. Her strong point was kinesthesia, which masked a lot of her issues with muscle tone, proprioception, binocular vision, and vestibular system. It sounds like your son has a neurodevelopment issue that is pretty specific, and he could greatly benefit from the Handle program. It's troubling to me that given all his strengths, he's now on a drug for ADHD. I hope you explore the permanent benefit your son could get from doing the Handle program. The local practitioner is Sindy Wilkinson. Google Handle Institute for the website, and go to the list of practitioners to find Sindy's website and contact information. She is located very close to the 24 freeway at the border of Lafayette and Walnut Creek, so not too far away from East Bay cities. Good luck - I cannot recommend her and the program more highly. Susan
Consider getting a 504 plan, and ask for a modification around notetaking. This seems appropriate given that his work/grades are ok otherwise. anon
You may want to get his eyes checked. I am a grad student and last year was having trouble copying notes and was missing a lot of material. Even though the board, projections, and teacher weren't bleary per se, trying to focus without glasses made it just hard enough that I couldn't write everything down. Hope this helps! T

My 12 year old son thinks he has ADD

Sept 2007

My 12 year old son has had a very hard time focusing on schoolwork recently. This has not been an issue before now. He thinks he has ADD and even went on line and took a questionnaire about it. We just moved back to Albany after being away for one year, so I have not re-established a relationship with our Dr (We saw Ben King at Berkeley Pediatrics) I do not really think he has ADD but he is certain he does and wants to get checked out. Do you know where I should start with this? albany mom


I suggest that you start at the website for chadd.org (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) and go the the information bank they operate jointly with the CDC (federal office, Center for Disease Control). This is science-based information about AD/HD that is not hysterical or faddish. If you are interested, there is a public event this Saturday at the Berkeley Public Library, from 12:30-3, sponsored by CHADD of Northern California. It will be a panel discussion in observance of AD/HD Awareness Day that will provide information from a variety of perspectives and take questions from the audience. If your child is having trouble paying attention, or thinks s/he is, there is probably something at the root of it, whether it is AD/HD or some other learning challenge. Good luck. LL
It's really good that you are respecting your son's beliefs. First of all, ADD can show up around adolescense so he may be right. Your doctor should refer you to a specialist. My son also told me that he thought he had ADD -- he was a little younger. He turned out to be right. Since he had ''discovered'' it, he was more willing and interested in the things that could help him. Don't worry. ADD just isn't so very bad. Some people act like you have leprosy but they are just ignorant. ADD kids seem to be an especially smart bunch and can be amazing at adapting. Good luck to you both. mom of a really nice, smart boy with add
Find a behavioral pediatrician, a clinical psychologist, a therapist, or an Educational Therapist, EXPERIENCED in evaluating attentional issues. You could start with the Ann Martin Center in Oakland (non-profit, sliding scale), Langley Porter in S.F., the Ability Resource Center in Walnut Creek, or check the directory of professionals on the East Bay Learning Disabilities Association website. Your pediatrician also might have this background, but ask first. Good luck! writeck
I would get him tested. My father had a learning disorder (not ADD) and as a child, a friend of his mother who was a specialist assured her that he ''couldn't possibly have any learning disorders.'' It took a real toll on him throughout his middle school, high school, and college life, and he certainly could have had a much easier time if someone had acknowledged that there was actually a problem and he wasn't just lazy. It's worth it. Anna
Hi, In an effort to educate myself about boys (I have a 5-year old) I just picked up ''The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life'' by Michael Gurian. It is a REALLY valuable book, and I recommend it to anyone who has a son in school. The statistics and stories about how boys are faring in this society are scary, but the book offers practical advice on what to do about it. Gurian maintains that most ADD is misdiagnosed and is actually attributable to normal young male behavior, based on boys'developmental patterns and brain development. He describes how to correctly diagnose ADD (it does exist, just not as much as everyone thinks), the social and environmental factors that exacerbate it, and what to do about it. Your son probably *doesn't* have ADD (you'd probably have known about it before now)but reading this book will probably answer your questions and give you some strategies to help him do better in school. Good luck! Mom of a young boy
My husband has ADD and his 15 year old son does as well (and after many fights with the mom he's now off the drugs). We both agree that we will never test any of our children for ADD because we feel like it just gave him a crutch for not doing the things that he needed to do. He's still hyper and has a REALLY hard time focusing on schoolwork and chores but now that he's not taking medication and knows he's expected to perform to a certain level despite those problems, he's actually improved a great deal and makes his way through as well as most other 15 year olds. We found that the real key was to focus on the issue that he does have a hard time concentrating but that means that he needs to come up with a system that will help him do better. We've worked to identify things that make him distracted and unable to accomplish tasks (for example, no talking on the phone while doing dishes)and he goes to bed earlier on school nights so he's not overtired. Most kids at that age have a really hard time concentrating at school - classes are generally pretty boring. I feel as though identifying a challenge that arises because of a particular type of personality damages a child's development by letting them see themselves as unable to overcome it - or as it necessarily being bad. We all have challenges in everyday life because of who we are and how we relate to other people. It's part of what makes us special. It's also part of how we learn to control and discipline ourselves to function in society by keeping jobs and building relationships. I can't tell you how many times I've heard ''you know I have a hard time remembering things'' to reprimands for not doing something he was told to do several times. Or using ADD as an excuse for being disruptive and rude to classmates and teachers. His behavior improved dramatically when we stopped accepting it. He's not perfect, but also not allowed to use excuses like ''I'm just not good at that''. There are lots of things each of us is just not good at and we find ways to figure out how to do better. I think that's a more valuable life lesson than diagnosing such problems as in escapable disorder. Even if your son does have ADD he will still need to learn how to function in society just like everyone else and the long-term use of personality altering drugs to control it is an option that you will probably both end up regretting... especially if you love your son for who he is now. You can also talk to the teachers and tell them he is having a hard time concentrating and ask if there is anything they can do to help him stay on track. anon
I'll try not to belabor this point: Whether ADD is over-diagnosed or not, those of us who have it -- and are attempting to parent kids who also have it, resent the perky insights of those who would assure you that its just ''horse-puckey'', and that ADD meds are ''bogus'' and completely useless without behavioral counseling.

Chances are your boy doesn't have ADD, but if he does, the appropriate medication would work in roughly the same way that glasses work for myopia. Not a cure all, but a tool to help with focus. That tool either would or wouldn't be enough to balance the years of thinking he's stupid or inadequate, when in fact he just has the neurological equivalent of ''can't see the board'', and years of people telling him to just try harder.

There is an on-line test you can give him, at www.amenclinic.com (or Google the Amen Clinic, Dr. D. Amen) that might reassure you, either way and point you in a good direction. My kids'had extensive evaluations with a psychiatrist who was also an ADD/ADHD expert, and were based on testing and interview - not teacher recommendations. They were also highly accurate and useful. Good luck. Heather


2004 - 2006 Advice


2003 & Earlier


Does my 18-year-old have ADD? (negligent driver)

May 2003

My recently-turned-18 y.o. son has a problem which I don't really understand. He's had his driver's license for 2 y ears now. Early on in his driving career he put a few dents in my car, one of which resulted in a point being added to our car insurance (at an additional $2,000 premium). Then he bought his own car (with his own money) with the stipulation being that he would pay for his own car insurance. Over the last year or so he has gotten numerous parking tickets (all of which he paid), had a moving violation for which he did traffic school, and recently another moving violation. He was going to go to court to ask the judge whether he could go to traffic school again, but he thought it was today instead of yesterday so missed the court date. I wasn't even aware that the date was yesterday or I would have reminded him (is that possibly the problem, that he should be remembering these things by himself, instead of being reminded?).

Well, today I'm taking him off our policy, which will mean he can't drive. He doesn't seem to have a problem with this (he sold his car after he realized that it was more hassle than cool), since he'll be occupied with stuff over the summer that won't really require driving and then off to college.

I don't understand what's going on. We lecture him ad infinitum, he dutifully takes care of the associated bills, but the consequences of his actions don't seem to sink in on some level - that he's throwing money away and shooting himself in the foot. In most areas he's a very responsible individual.

If this is an indication of how he's going to deal with issues when he goes out in the world on his own, I' m worried for him. Questions - anyone have any idea what might be happening here? Do I just sit back and let this one play itself out and let him handle it completely, or should I try to guide him through it? One factor in my questions is his age. Supposedly he's an ''adult''. At what point do we abandon them to their unwise choices?

Naturally I blame myself. I've had pretty severe depression most of my life and only recently with drugs has the heavy blanket of fog lifted so that I can see what's going on around me. I certainly wish I hadn't resisted anti-depressants for so long; it certainly would have made me a much better parent. How do I help my ''adult'' child when I know that the parenting he received was far from optimal? Or do I just say that these are the cards he was dealt and he'll have to find a way to play them?

His father (we're not together) was recently diagnosed with ADD; as with many diagnoses, it seems that eveyrone has this these days. But I don't want to completely discount it. Is this a possibility? With the necessarily limited information I've given and the numerous questions, does anyone have any ideas/suggestions?


It seems to me as if things are working perfectly! He is 18 and is learning how to deal with issues for when he goes out in the world on his own.

Example: He bought a car, had numerous problems dealing with it and sold it. That is a great lesson for him to have learned! Next time, he'll buy the car knowing what's involved and he'll then be ready to deal with the responsibilities. Example: He's accepting the consequences of not having insurance by not driving. And is going on with his life. This is a very valid choice.

My advice for you is to celebrate his successes: ''dutifully takes care of the associated bills'', ''In most areas he's a very responsible individual. ''

As far as the problem of ''throwing money away and shooting himself in the foot,'' from your description, I would ''just sit back and let this one play itself out and let him handle it completely.'' This is the learning process. I wouldn't completely ''abandon them to their unwise choices'' yet . . . I'd give advice (knowing that it might not be taken.)

Congratulations on coming out of your fog. As far as helping your ''adult'' child when you know that the parenting he received was far from optimal, I think that talking with him about it openly would be beneficial. Acknowledge that you know you weren't always ''there'' for him, express your sorrow for that and tell him that you are so thrilled by how he's growing up, what a good person he is, how responsible he is becoming [I believe in seeding self-fulfilling prophecies ;-)], and how well he did without optimal parenting, etc.

Are you seeing a therapist as well as the person who is prescribing the antidepressants? It might help you keep things in perspective.

My 19-year-old has been going through very similar things, but he's very good (too good?) at telling me that this is his life, he needs to make a few mistakes, he won't be sleeping in a box under the bridge, he'll make more money if he wastes some, going to college a year after high school is a valid option, etc etc.! And, you know, he's right! This year he's in college and is turning in his assignments on time, reminding me to pay his tuition, living within his budget, riding his bike to school . . . And it sounds as if your kid will be fine too.

Another Mom still in training


All of the behaviors you described sound typical of ADD, plus it does tend to run in families (along with depression). Considering how dramatically an ADD diagnosis and treatment seem to have improved many people's lives, I think it's worth looking into.

I think I know how you feel, though. I keep struggling with my own skepticism and confusion, because for my family and me nothing is ever so simple as the latest popular diagnosis or solution. Neither antidepressants and therapy nor self-help books, exercise, thyroid pills, Omega fatty acids, workshops, church, etc. etc. have made my depression go away completely. One of my sons, who was diagnosed with ADD four years ago and medicated for school days and homework ever since, still has lots of times when he can't focus enough to accomplish anything. My older son seemed to get his act together academically without medication, but he has gotten in serious trouble several times and is currently way behind on a big research project.

Anyway, it canít hurt to learn about ADD and consider having him evaluated for it. There are lots of books available, including a few focusing on teens and adults, and lots of resources at http://add.about.com and http://add.org.

Good luck, and don't blame yourself or think about what you should have done differently; just go from here to help your son learn how to help himself.

I think we need a Berkeley support group for parents of ADHD teens! Anyone else interested? anonymous mom


It sounds to me like your son is learning from experience. Lots of people screw up on dates and paperwork. And it does get expensive.

Whether or not he has a learning disability, it appears to me that he is dealing with the car insurance in a logical and realistic manner to me. Is he ranting about the fact that he can't drive? If not, I'd count my blessings and move on to the next opportunity for growth. ~Anita


Support for teen daughter who has ADD

June 2002

I am looking for a support group for my teenage daughter who has ADD. We are seeing a counselor, and she agrees that my daughter would greatly benefit from a group of other girls her age with her same challenges. Things are pretty dicely right now between us, and I think we both need support. The counselor is directing me to a group in SF, but my daughter still needs one. Any leads? Teen Mom


My daughter is twelve, going into eighth grade next Fall. She is a mild ADD child, with very few noticed behavior problems at school. At home, she is a high-maintenance child. She needs help with organizing her time, her assignments, her belongings, and so on. I am very organized and can offer her all sorts of help in managing her life. However, I get exhausted from monitoring and shaping her behavior. I could use some help from a peer support group. Are there any support groups for ADD teen girls in the Berkeley/Albany area? Please reply to the newsletter. Thank you.
I am an MFT and familiar with a great resource in Berkeley: Ability Resource Center, run by Glenn Gelfenbein, MFT. He is well versed in ADD/ADHD and other learning issues and is available for consultation & on-going treatment. He can be reached at 510-528-6059. He has a brochure describing his services and I'm sure wouldbe happy to mail it to you. Hope that helps! Best, Deb Scott

10-year-old may have ADD

Nov 1998

My 10 year old son will be going through testing at school to see if he has any learning disabilities. They have suggested that he be tested for ADD by a pediatrician because ADD is a medical diagnosis. Our entire family sees a "General Physician" and my boys don't have a pediatrician. I will be asking for a referral to a pediatrician through PacifiCare and am wondering if anyone has any reccommendations for a pediatrician who may have experience with ADD diagnosis and is located in Martinez, Pleasant Hill, etc. area (Hill Physicians Medical Group).


Kaiser offers a small group screening for ADHD every six weeks which is pretty thorough. The cost is minimal.
Galen
I have LOTS of info about ADHD. There's a lot of misinformation out there about ADHD and treatments. This "disorder" hasn't been termed "hyperactivity" for years and years. I would be very suspicious of an evaluator who called it that and then gave you the information that since she "attends" to what interests her, she is not "hyperactive." This is THE classic definition of ADHD. Have your daughter evaluated professionally by someone who knows what they are doing. NO teacher or parent can help your child develop normally if her brain synapses aren't firing correctly. Believe me I know what I'm talking about.

There's a ton of information about this very real disability on the Net. Also, your daughter may not have ADHD. There are many other conditions that cause children to appear "hyper" and unfocused, from emotional trauma and life changes (a divorce for instance) all the way to brain tumors. She needs a complete battery of tests before you decide on an intervention. The results of a looong study on children are just coming out. You may have read about it. The gist of it is that therapy, behavior mod, counseling, beneficial classroom environment, parental training, etc. are all good and important, but NONE are very effective without medicine. And fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, EVEN MEDS ALONE ARE MORE EFFECTIVE THAN ANY OF THE OTHER INTERVENTIONS COMBINED. It's a hard decision to put your child on medicine, but I see it much the way I would feel if she needed glasses to see with.

I am not pro-meds, by the way. Nor do I think every "hyper" kid needs treatment, far from it. Kids exist along a spectrum from very quiet to very wild and it can all be within the range of normal. My 8-yr-old daughter's behavior wasn't within that range, and I knew WAY before she was officially diagnosed at the end of second grade. She was not a behavior problem, just very "spirited." But it would take her 3 hours of intense struggle, watching her every moment, to do 15 minutes of 2nd grade homework and she couldn't learn to read at all, no matter how hard she tried. Now in third grade, she reads all the time and is doing very well in school, almost caught up and in some cases, ahead of her class.

Parents, run screaming from anyone who presumes to "know" your child is ADHD without a professional evaluation. This is a serious condition. People with untreated ADHD have much lower social and economic success in later life. They are frequently ostracised and many have few if any friends. They often end up "self-medicating" with illegal drugs. They take impulsive risks. ADHD is potentially life-threatening. It is a diagnosis, not a term to thrown at any kid who is spirited.


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