Is Your Teen Struggling To Concentrate, Organize And Stay On Task?
Are your concerned with your teenager’s academic performance? Is your teen making low grades, missing or misplacing assignments, struggling with homework, distracted in class or perpetually late for school? Does he or she experience difficulty with concentration, staying organized or time management? Is your teen often irritable, impulsive or increasingly withdrawn? Do you think that your teen’s self-esteem is being affected by these challenges? Is he or she constantly discouraged with him or herself, wondering why it’s so hard to complete tasks that seem to come with ease for others? Are you feeling frustrated with your teen, yourself or the school system? Are you and your teen in ongoing conflict over everything from grades to media time to friends? Have you felt fearful about your teen’s ability to get into a good college and function well as an adult? Are you struggling to help your child and find resources that really work?
Determining if your teenager truly has attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and, if so, figuring out how to help him or her manage symptoms can be a challenging and frustrating experience. You may be struggling to understand why you teen behaves and learns differently or why he or she can’t seem to complete simple tasks. It’s not that your child is less intelligent than other teenagers, which is a common misconception of people with ADHD. There are no studies that link the two. Rather, for teens with ADHD, the executive functioning of the brain – the organization center – is not operating optimally. If you teenager has ADHD – which BPS can help determine – there is a biological reason for you child’s struggles.
You And Your Teen Are Not Alone
In every classroom there are students who struggle a little more than others. For some, the root cause of their difficulties is ADHD, which is biologically based and no one’s fault. The best thing that you can do for your teenager – and yourself – is to seek a comprehensive evaluation. It’s important that you rule out other possibilities, such as other learning disabilities, anxiety or depression, which can have similar symptoms. If your teenager truly does have ADHD, there are many tools and strategies that can help him or her cope effectively and develop skills to be more focused and complete routine tasks.
The BPS Staff Can Help
First, getting that true diagnosis can provide an immediate sense of relief. As a parent, you’ll finally know and understand what’s going on with your teen. For more information on comprehensive evaluations for ADHD and other learning issues, contact Dr. Jan Hittelman, BPS Director. In addition to being a licensed psychologist, Dr. Hittelman is a school psychologist with decades of experience in ADHD counseling for teens, and has evaluated hundreds of adolescents over his career.
Second, therapy can be extremely effective in helping teens with ADHD. Your BPS therapist will access your teen’s behaviors and symptoms and suggest behavioral modification strategies that your teen can use at home and in school to help him or her cope. Specific structures can help him or her develop better systems to organize, stay focused and retrieve memory.
If these tactics are not leading to noticeable improvements, your therapist may suggest having your teenager meet with a staff psychiatrist to determine if medication may be helpful. It’s important to understand that your teen’s difficulties may not be due to his or her not wanting to participate in or complete tasks. If something is biologically wrong, the executive functioning of the brain may not be operating correctly, making it extremely challenging for your teen to organize, focus, and/or remember things. If medication is prescribed, your child may experience dramatic improvements in his or her ability to function normally. Medication in combination with therapy has been shown to yield the best results.
Your therapist will also help your teen work through the self-esteem, academic, social, and family issues that living with ADHD symptoms can create. The teenage years, are by their very nature, a struggle. Teens are charged with the challenging tasks of figuring out who they are and how they fit into the broader world. ADHD symptoms can complicate this already tricky transition from child to adult. Your BPS therapist can help your teen work through the self-esteem and social components that affect all teens, but may be especially challenging for a teenager who has viewed him or herself as different or unintelligent before a diagnosis. With help, your teen can feel better about him or herself and develop strategies to reshape how he or she learns and interacts in the world.
ADHD is pervasive – meaning it’s ongoing – and your teen may need new strategies to adapt as he or she continues to develop into adulthood. Addressing your teen’s ADHD now and getting support, tools, and guidance from a qualified and experienced BPS therapist can get your child well prepared for the future. Therapy can help your teen create the positive self-image that he or she will carry throughout life.
ADHD is manageable. It’s workable. With practice, planning and the right therapist, your teen can learn how to better remember things, stay organized and follow through. This can lead to higher productivity, improved self-esteem and better relationships. Rather than expecting and accepting struggle as the norm, therapy can help your teen move into his or her future feeling empowered, prepared and positive.
But, you still may have questions or concerns…
I’m worried that an ADHD diagnosis will mean medication and that my child will need to be on meds for the rest of his or her life.
The fear of your teenager being diagnosed with ADHD and being put on medication for the long-term is an understandable and very common fear. But, sometimes the diagnosis and understanding that something is biologically unbalanced can provide relief. At least you’ll know what’s going on with your teen and understand why all your previous attempts at helping him or her feel and function more normally have failed.
There is a lot that can be done to help your child that does not include medication, such as behavior modification strategies. These strategies can help strengthen the executive functions of the brain, such as memory, organization and ability to follow through. Some teens have achieved success with a variety of techniques and have not needed medication.
If medication is needed, however, your BPS psychiatrist will be able to help you find the right medication and dosage. Many teenagers with ADHD have experienced dramatic, positive results from medication.
I think that my teen could really benefit from therapy and other outside resources, but I’m concerned about costs.
This is your child’s life and wellbeing. Addressing your teenager’s ADHD issues now may prevent a host of problems from occurring as he or she becomes an adult. Investing in their mental and emotional health and ability to function now can lead to immediate improvements. It can also keep symptoms from getting worse and interfering with all aspects of their development – including academic – as they get older.
Many people come to BPS having worked with other therapists who were not trained to work specifically with adolescent ADHD issues or who they or their teen couldn’t relate with – which is a waste of time and money. At BPS, we’ll conduct a referral assessment and match your teen with a therapist who is trained and experienced to treat ADHD issues and whose personality is a good match for your teenager’s. Once you find that good match, making a commitment to your child, yourself and your family may be one of the most valuable investments there is. Imagine your teen feeling and functioning better now and in the long-term on a regular basis and ask yourself what that’s worth.
If money still is an issue, you can talk with your BPS therapist to see if they work on a sliding scale. They may also be able to help you find other lower cost resources in the community.
I think that my teenager has ADHD, but I’m afraid of a diagnosis and the stigma that the label carries. I don’t want my child to be viewed as different.
First, an expert can help you determine if your suspicion is correct – if your teen’s behaviors fall outside of the range of normal and if he or she could really benefit from outside, expert help or medication. If so, it’s not the label, but the needs of your child that is the big issue here. Getting support during this critical developmental time can make a significant impact on how your teen feels and functions throughout the rest of his or her life. Therapy can help your teen not only learn how to cope with ADHD symptoms more effectively, but to also feel better about who he or she is. An increase in confidence and self-esteem can make a big difference now and throughout life.
Also, ADHD is a very common diagnosis, which holds less and less of a stigma. Countless other teens have been diagnosed with ADHD and have benefited from outside help. With proper treatment, there is no reason why your child should be perceived as anything other than normal. In therapy, your teen will learn appropriate coping skills and strategies, which will help him or her to complete the same tasks as everyone else. Your teen just needs the extra support to learn how. With help and medication, if it’s prescribed, your teen can manage ADHD symptoms and function better now and throughout his or her entire life.
We encourage you to schedule a referral assessment with a BPS therapist, trained by BPS Director Dr. Jan Hittelman. We will work with you to determine what your child’s specific issues are, if additional psychological testing is warranted, and ensure a good match between you, your teenager and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.
You can also check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you and your child with a therapist who has expertise working with adolescents and ADHD issues.