Monday, November 7, 2011

Coaching Can Empower Youth with ADHD

Today's guest blog is by Jodi Sleeper-Triplett, MCC, SCAC.

I am counting the days until the CHADD conference in Orlando and imagine that you are equally excited! There are many reasons for my excitement—reconnecting with friends and colleagues, meeting new people and learning from the many ADHD experts from around the world. I am especially pleased to have the opportunity to share my passion for coaching youth with ADHD with the conference attendees. My breakout session, Empowering Youth with ADHD: Coaching Toward Success, is on Friday morning, following a must-see opening session with Rick Green, Patrick McKenna, and Umesh Jain.

For many adolescents and young adults with ADHD, coaching helps them learn techniques to become more focused, stay on task, and improve time management and organizational skills.

Coaching is a beneficial tool for many young people. At this stage of life, adolescents and young adults are yearning for independence, but they lack the basic skills for success. Life skills can be fostered through coaching and may include self-care, socialization, financial responsibility and self-advocacy. Each client is an individual, with unique needs. The coaching process is designed to meet the needs of the individual. This is not a one-size-fits-all process.

Choosing a coach who has experience working with adolescents and who understands the intricacies of the ADHD brain, medications and co-existing conditions is of the utmost importance. It is essential to work with a coach who has a good rapport with the client. The connection between coach and client, of any age, is essential for coaching to be a success.

Attendees will learn how starting the coaching process with adolescents and young adults with ADHD leads to improved executive functioning skills and self-confidence, leading also to greater success in adulthood. Through coaching, we are able to increase motivation, self-awareness, independence and self-worth. I will share the JST coaching model for successful youth coaching, focused on the whole person, not just on academics. As adults, if we don’t pay attention to ourselves and manage both our personal and professional lives, we struggle. Young people with ADHD experience the same problems and coaching helps!

This interactive session will provide background on the common difficulties faced by adolescents and young adults with ADHD. We will discuss the importance of confidentiality between coach and client and how parents can adjust to their role outside of the coaching partnership. Coaching demonstrations will provide concrete examples of the value of coaching for adolescents and young adults with ADHD. Young adults considering coaching are encouraged to attend.

I enjoy the opportunity for Q & A at the end of my sessions and throughout the conference. Often times you can find me chatting with others in the hallways between sessions, answering questions about coaching and learning from others what works and does not work for them or their children. So, when you see me at the conference, please tug at my sleeve and let’s chat!

See you in Orlando!

Jodi Sleeper-Triplett, MCC, SCAC, is the president of JST Coaching, LLC and the author of Empowering Youth With ADHD (Specialty Press/ADD Warehouse, 2010).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Stress and Kids with ADHD

Today’s guest blog is by Jerome Schultz, PhD.

I have often said it’s fairly easy to diagnose ADHD and LD. What’s difficult is explaining the results of testing to students at a developmentally appropriate level so that they have a clear understanding of their challenges.

Way too many kids with ADHD and LD have no clue about how to conquer their challenges. Too many of them think of themselves as stupid. They confront challenges with an “I can’t” attitude. This way of greeting a task triggers the stress response in the child’s brain. You can hear the brain singing this tune now: We gotta get outta this place…if it’s the last thing we ever do! Even when kids hear teachers and adults say “I know you can do it,” this vote of confidence often puts them under more pressure. They think: “Easy for YOU to say, Mrs. Johnson!” I’ve been there—and I’ve failed.” So why are we surprised when they fight or flee? For kids under the chronic stress of ADHD and LD, there’s simply nowhere to run… nowhere to hide.

I invite you to attend my session at the CHADD conference in Orlando next week to learn how stress gets in the way of learning, and how if it’s not addressed, can lead to a deterioration in actual brain function.(Talk about going from the frying pan to the fire!) Learn how the DE-STRESS Model can turn this around and head kids in the direction of success. You’ll like what you hear. This approach costs NO money and it WORKS!

Want more of a preview? Check out my website and learn about my new book, Nowhere to Hide: Why Kids with ADHD and LD Hate School and What We Can Do About It, which forms the basis for this stress-reducing, cartoon-laced session at CHADD's conference. There will be a book signing after the event. Hope to see you there. Sign up early. Rumor has it that this will be a standing-room-only event!

Jerome Schultz, PhD, is a clinical neuropsychologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of children and young adults with learning disabilities, ADHD, and other special needs. He is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Beyond Medications

Today’s guest blog is by J. Russell Ramsay, PhD.

If adults with ADHD could only have one treatment for their symptoms, research indicates that pharmacotherapy, particularly the use of stimulant medications, is the single most effective option for reducing the core symptoms of ADHD. However, medications alone may represent insufficient treatment for the many difficulties experienced by adults with ADHD, such as disorganization, procrastination, poor time management, mood and anxiety issues, and low self-esteem, to name a few.

During CHADD’s Annual International Conference on ADHD, my session on adjunctive treatments for adult ADHD will be held on Thursday, November 10. The session will cover the current status of various non-medication treatments for adult ADHD that are often used in combination with medications in order to help individuals achieve improved overall well-being and functioning in addition to symptom relief. Here is a brief overview of those treatments.

Psychosocial treatments. Many standard psychotherapy approaches have been modified in order to more effectively address the typical coping difficulties faced by adults with ADHD. In general, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches for adult ADHD, which focus on modifying self-defeating thought and behavioral patterns, have been found to be a useful adjunct to medications in several published studies, including recent randomized controlled designs comparing CBT with other active treatments. Sessions focus on the development and consistent implementation of coping skills in daily life. Psychosocial treatment, namely CBT for adult ADHD, stands out as the adjunctive treatment with the strongest research support.

Coaching. Although not the same as CBT, ADHD coaching shares the goal of helping adults with ADHD to employ more effective coping strategies to fulfill their personal goals. ADHD coaches target specific coping difficulties, such as disorganization and poor time management, and help clients develop and follow through on action plans. While the benefit of coaching support makes logical sense and it is an increasingly available option, to date there has been only one published study of its effectiveness for adults with ADHD adults.

Academic support and accommodations. Similar to ADHD coaching, while academic accommodations targeting specific areas of impairment make logical sense, such as extended time to complete an exam, these adjustments do not have research support. There are many informal steps that students can take to manage the effects of ADHD on their academic performance. However, there are preliminary studies of learning support and coaching approaches for college students with ADHD that have yielded positive results, making it a promising option.

Workplace support and accommodations. Workers with ADHD whose impairments fulfill the legal definition for a disability may be entitled to reasonable workplace accommodations, though most adults with ADHD do not pursue official accommodations. As with students, there are many informal adjustments in the work setting, assistive technologies, and other coping tools that may be helpful for adults with ADHD. As with academic accommodations, the effectiveness of these coping efforts has not been systematically studied.

Relationship treatment. Research on the effects of ADHD throughout the lifespan has increasingly identified its negative impact on family and social life for both children and adults with ADHD. The parents and caregivers usually participate in treatment programs for their children with ADHD, though they are rarely screened for ADHD despite high heritability rates. In fact, parental ADHD (even in sub-clinical form) is likely a common reason for dropout in family treatment programs for child ADHD and/or oppositional behavior.

Similarly, there may be unique difficulties faced in marriages and committed relationships in which one or both partners has ADHD. No studies have yet been published on either marital or family therapy involving adults with ADHD.

Neurofeedback and working memory training. Proponents of neurofeedback training cite numerous studies of its effectiveness, though there have been few studies using samples of adults with ADHD. Critics of neurofeedback, on the other hand, point out that many of the studies are case reports or have serious methodological flaws that cast doubts on their findings. A review of the few studies involving adults with ADHD suggests a middle-ground conclusion that neurofeedback has tentative support. There have been some recent studies of neurofeedback for children with ADHD that used improved research designs.

Computerized working memory training has yielded some positive results in samples of children with ADHD and such training would seem to be helpful for adults, though there have not yet been published reports involving adults with ADHD. However, as with neurofeedback, even if the therapeutic effects are reliable it remains unclear precisely how these interventions work and whether the positive effects generalize to improved functioning in day-to-day life.

Complementary and alternative treatments. There is a wide array of what are deemed “alternative” treatments for ADHD, such as nutritional supplements, specialized exercise programs targeting certain brain regions, dietary approaches, etc. There is preliminary evidence that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may result in mild improvements in some ADHD symptoms, though these are based on studies of children. Likewise, pilot research of mindfulness meditation suggests it is associated with some improvements for adults with ADHD. There are obvious health benefits of mineral supplementation in cases of identified deficiencies; likewise, exercise, healthy diet, and other good health practices should be part of an overall wellness plan rather than being considered “treatments” for adult ADHD.

There are a number of treatment options for adult ADHD that can be used in combination with medications to target specific areas of impairment. A few of the treatment options have relatively strong support and some others have promising but preliminary evidence for their use while still others have not been found to be helpful. It is important to personalize the combination of treatments to meet the needs of the adult with ADHD in order to optimize functioning and well-being.

J. Russell Ramsay, PhD, is associate professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry and co-director of the Adult ADHD Treatment and Research Program at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Making Homework Simple

Today's guest blog is by Ann Dolin, MEd.

Helping with homework can be a humbling experience, and this is especially true when you are the parent of a child with ADHD. All too often, parents find themselves cast in the role of the nightly homework police, and the divide this role creates can be one of the most painful aspects of parenting.

My presentation during CHADD’s Annual International Conference on ADHD in Orlando this November will bring you proven solutions for even the most challenging homework issues.

In this workshop, parents and professionals will learn specific strategies for each of the common, yet challenging homework profiles that students present when pressured by homework. They are:

o The Disorganized
o The Rusher
o The Procrastinator
o The Avoider
o The Inattentive
o The Easy Frustrated

Novel strategies to address each issue will be shared. These include:

• Easy solutions for setting up the Simple Solution binder system, including an accordion file and one dedicated homework folder.
• Identifying optimal homework spaces (there should be more than one!) and organizing portable materials.
• Simple tips for encouraging students to record their assignments accurately whether it be a paper assignment notebook or one of the cutting-edge electronic calendars.
• Prioritizing, planning, and managing long-term assignments. Quite often, students with ADHD have great difficulty breaking down large tasks into smaller increments.
• Ways to reduce procrastination and eliminate last-minute stress by using a timer, study groups, and other self-regulation strategies.
• Novel study skills for academic success such as easy note-taking ideas, using color for comprehension, creating study guides, and proofreading strategies.
• Strategies to encourage on-task behavior such as the use of the Tangle Jr., Wikki Stix, timers, and software.
• Solutions for finding the balance between helping too much and not enough.
• And for educators, best practices for assigning homework to ADHD students.

Above all, participants will learn how to help children do the most important things when it comes to homework – focusing and finishing!

I look forward to seeing you on Saturday, November 12th from 3:30 to 5:00. This workshop is DEFINITELY worth staying for until the end of the day!

Most sincerely,

Ann Dolin, MEd

A recognized expert in education and learning disability issues, Ann Dolin, MEd, sits on the board of CHADD of Northern Virginia and the International Dyslexia Association. She is the author of Homework Made Simple — Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework.

Monday, October 24, 2011

“Hey, I Need Help Too!"


Today's guest blog is by Terry Dickson, MD, ACG.

The profound impact ADHD can have on marriage is well known. Less emphasis has been directed toward what a non-ADHD spouse married to an ADHD spouse truly experiences and what competencies, skills, and techniques are most effective for strengthening the relationship with a partner who has ADHD. A few of the questions a non-ADHD spouse may have are:
1. How can I understand the hard-wiring of my ADHD spouse? What are the traits of ADHD that tend to get in the way of the relationship?
2. How can I effectively communicate with my ADHD spouse when he/she has challenging communication skills?
3. How can I effectively cope with the frustrations of daily life with my ADHD spouse?
4. How can I work with my ADHD spouse to reach his/her full potential in the context of a healthy marriage?
5. Am I to blame for my ADHD spouse’s behavior?

Who are non-ADHD spouses? What do they experience that brings them to their wits end, that makes them want to divorce, or yell, feel unloved, tense up in a ball of frustration, or scream in anger?

Come join me as we explore these questions and more on Thursday, November 10, 2011 for a pre-conference institute from 9 am until noon at CHADD's 23rd Annual International Conference in Orlando, Florida.

During the presentation, my wife (who is a non-ADHD spouse) will talk about her experience being married to a person with ADHD (me). We will discuss how we have been able to work together effectively to strengthen our relationship. You will also hear the experiences of other non-ADHD spouses I have videotaped. You will gain a better understanding of the impact the behaviors of a person with ADHD has on a non-ADHD spouse and tips for strengthening your relationship for a lifetime.

To your success,

Terry M. Dickson, MD, ACG

Terry M. Dickson, MD, ACG, is an ADD Relationship Coach. He is also the founder and director of the Behavioral Medicine Clinic of NW Michigan, and has been principal study investigator for several clinical ADHD medication trials.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Understanding Cyberbullying


Today’s guest blog is by Meghan K. McCoy, MEd.

Bullying—the repetitive, targeted and intentional, peer-on-peer abuse inflicted among two people in an unequal power relationship—has been in existence for as long many of us can remember. High-profile cases, tragic consequences, and increasing legal sanctions have aided in bringing this important topic to the forefront of our consciousness. Now that we all recognize the problem, it’s imperative that we begin to understand it from an evidence-based perspective!

This peer-on-peer abuse is not restricted, or even most rampant, in the hallways and classrooms of our schools. It has also invaded the online world of children and teens. We call this online abuse cyberbullying. In a world where youth are spending increasing amounts of time online, educators and professionals working with these digital natives will inevitably be faced with the fallout of this online abuse. A better understanding of digital natives, those who have “grown up online,” as well as the trends, frequencies, methods, and motivations of cyberbullying behaviors is crucial in helping to keep youth safe and responsible in their online use.

Join me at CHADD’s Annual International Conference on ADHD in Orlando to learn best-practice tools and techniques for preventing and responding to bullying and cyberbullying.
• What advice can we offer to victims and bystanders?
• What specific principles do the kids need to know about their online behavior?
• How can understanding the common characteristics of digital natives help us in combatting these issues?

Come to CHADD’s conference and let me share the some of the newest research with you!

Meghan K. McCoy, MEd, is the program coordinator of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Friends Are Important

This week's guest blog is by Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA.

I always look forward to the CHADD conference. As a psychologist and presenter, there's no better place to learn about ADHD from the biggest names in the business. But honestly, my biggest reason to look forward to it is that I have so much fun with my friends there (my wife calls them my "CHADD buddies"). Unfortunately, since most of these friends aren't local, I only see them at the conference. Sure, phone and email are good but they're not as good as the real thing of being together in person.

So it's fitting that this year I'll be presenting Everyone Needs Friends: Even (Especially) Adults with ADHD. It's hard to find the time to stay in touch with friends, whether they're local or far away. I know this very well from personal experience, as I juggle work obligations, giving time to my family, and staying in contact with friends. Far too often, work and family get most of my time and my friends get a quick email. I know I need to keep a better balance, but it's a real challenge. It also seems like I have more and more clients talking about similar struggles. Like me, some don't feel like they have enough time for friends. Others have the time but don't know how to make those friendships happen. In both cases, we feel like we're missing out. And we are.

So that's why I wanted to present on this important but often overlooked topic this year. It's a universal struggle, but folks with ADHD often have some additional challenges because of the way that typical ADHD behaviors tend to be interpreted. This then influences how others see the person with ADHD which feeds into how that person sees himself. Self-esteem and self-image interact with relationship dynamics. My goal for this presentation is to help attendees better understand themselves and others, so that they can create friendships where everybody feels better.

Hopefully I'll see you at my presentation on Saturday morning at 10:30. But you can look for me and my friends each night at the hotel bar. We'll be the ones laughing and making a bunch of noise.

Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA, is a psychologist in private practice who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of children, teens, and adults with ADHD, anxiety, and depression. He is the author of More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD (Specialty Press, 2009).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Saving SSI for People with ADHD

This week's guest blog is by Soleil Gregg.

Imagine that you have a child with very severe ADHD symptoms, serious behavior problems, and a recent expulsion from school. Then imagine that you have no job and very limited resources to pay for treatment, medication, or assistance for your child.

This is the plight of many families who apply for Supplemental Security Income for their child with a disability. SSI is a program of Social Security that provides assistance for children and adults with disabilities who are living in poverty. Recently this program has been threatened.

Since its founding in 1987, CHADD has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of individuals with ADHD through education, advocacy, and support. The fruits of this labor have been increased understanding of ADHD as a neurobiological disorder and recognition that the disorder can be debilitating throughout the lifespan. Thanks in part to CHADD’s efforts, eligible children with ADHD are now able to receive education services under Section 504 and IDEA, college students and adults with ADHD may be eligible for accommodations under the ADA in the classroom and workplace, and children and adults who are severely affected by ADHD and meet incomes guidelines may qualify for SSI to help with their care and treatment.

But just when we are feeling good about the strides we’ve made over the years to improve the lives of people with ADHD, something comes along to shake us out of our complacency and make us aware of just how tenuous these gains might be. Such was the case when we learned that SSI for children with ADHD was in jeopardy.

Last fall the Boston Globe ran a series of articles on SSI fraud, claiming that some low-income families have their children diagnosed with ADHD and give them “drugs” solely to get SSI, implying that a substantial number of children are being misdiagnosed with ADHD and unnecessarily medicated by doctors and parents. While CHADD certainly doesn’t condone fraud, the Globe articles presented no real evidence that there is fraud in SSI—only a few anecdotes.

In fact, the number of children who are approved for SSI for ADHD is relatively small, given current knowledge of the incidence of ADHD. In order to be eligible for SSI, a child must have a diagnosis of ADHD (or another disability) and meet very restrictive functional criteria and income guidelines. SSI is intended to be reserved for those in financial need with the most severe impairment. Recent SSI data showed that nearly 71 percent of children applying for SSI for ADHD were denied approval, ranking ADHD in the lowest quartile of approval rates for childhood mental disorders.

Nonetheless, the Globe series raised concerns in Congress and prompted several members to request an investigation of SSI by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), particularly focusing on children with ADHD, depression, and other mental impairments.

CHADD began working with the SSI Coalition for Children and Families, spearheaded by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, to address Congressional concerns and to preserve SSI for eligible children with ADHD and other mental health disorders. Then, to make matters worse, we learned that the House Budget Committee had added language to its budget report to remove “incentives for parents to place their children on medication solely to receive SSI benefits” and, more recently, to specifically eliminate ADHD from SSI altogether as part of spending cuts.

During the week of July 21, the SSI Coalition managed to arrange a briefing with Senate Finance Committee staff despite the looming debt ceiling crisis. CHADD identified a mother, Suzanne Poe, whose child receives SSI for ADHD and who was willing to come to Washington on a moment’s notice and share her family’s experiences. Suzanne and CHADD CEO Ruth Hughes met with staff from seven Congressional offices in addition to Finance Committee staff.

I am happy to report that these meetings were very successful, and Suzanne was a fantastic voice for families. The very best news we heard is that the proposal to take ADHD out of children’s SSI is now off the table and no longer part of the overall budget negotiations—that ADHD is no longer a target.

But we are not out of the woods yet.

There are still discussions about limiting the SSI program, and many programs will surely face cuts under the debt ceiling agreement. In addition, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee has requested the GAO to look at “waste and abuse of prescribing practices” for children in foster care, and another group of senators and representatives has asked the GAO to look at rates of mental health conditions and medication use in children in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and foster care. We have also learned that Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a special interest in medications for mental disorders in children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP.

CHADD will review the GAO reports when they are released. We will keep you posted on events as they develop and let you know what you can do to assist us in protecting the rights of people with ADHD.

Rest assured that CHADD will do its very best to educate policymakers on Capitol Hill about the challenges facing children, adults, and families with ADHD. CHADD will work to preserve the hard-fought gains we’ve made in recognition, treatment, and services over the past 24 years.


Soleil Gregg is past secretary of CHADD’s board of directors and past chair of the public policy committee and editorial advisory board for Attention magazine. She represents families with ADHD for CHADD on AACAP’s Pediatric Pharmacology Initiative and is a member of the SSI Coalition. She is a retired education consultant and worked as a disability and policy specialist at one of the regional educational research laboratories and regional technical assistance centers. She is a mother of two grown children with ADHD and is also an adult with ADHD.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

CHADD's NRC Needs You!

by Mary Durheim

To all my friends and colleagues in the world of disability—this is a National Call for Action!

Those of you who know me know that I do not Tweet, seldom correspond via Facebook, avoid blogs, and never participate in chat rooms. The mere fact that I am writing this blog posting is a sure sign that we who are touched by disability—either as a person with a disability, or as that person’s parent(s), sibling(s), relative(s) or friend(s)—are facing something important.

I’m writing to tell you of a national challenge with potentially devastating consequences for millions of Americans with physical and mental disabilities. I’m writing to ask for your help!

I write specifically on behalf of CHADD’s National Resource Center on ADHD (NRC), but this issue directly impacts millions of people with disabilities and the organizations that are usually the only voice for individuals and families like ours.

For Fiscal Year 2012, the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is planning to eliminate specific funding for programs that support people with disabilities such as ADHD, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, limb loss, and paralysis.

Instead of sharing the burden of decreased funding among all of the disability programs it currently supports, government bureaucrats have decided to play a game of winners and losers. In this game, some programs or conditions will continue to be funded at current or even higher (!) levels, while others will simply not be funded at all.

Does that seem fair? Does that seem right? If there’s not enough stew in the dinner pot, is any mother going to feed two children their full portion and tell the third child, “There’s none for you”? Of course not! Everyone should still have a place at the table and the burden of less should be shared by all!

Instead of sharing the burden in these tough economic times, the bureaucrats call their plan “consolidation.” But to us, it looks more like “elimination.” Over the past few months, a coalition of disability organizations has met numerous times with CDC officials to learn more about what this “consolidation” means. Like many of their colleagues, CHADD representatives came away from these meetings wondering where ADHD fits in.


Established by an Act of Congress in 2000 (P.L. 106-310), the NCBDDD impacts the health of millions of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens: infants and children, people with blood disorder, and people with disabilities. NCBDDD is the only CDC center whose mission focuses on these populations. (In FY2010, NCBDDD was funded at $143.6 million and at $136.1 million in FY 2011, a decrease of 5.25%, while the National Resource Center on ADHD had a decrease in funding of 7.16% during the same period).

Consolidation of programs or elimination of the NCBDDD disability division would be disastrous.

For families dealing with ADHD, these changes would continue to seriously jeopardize the funding base that supports CHADD’s National Resource Center on ADHD (NRC). Think back to when you, your child, or family member was first diagnosed. Where did you go to find reliable information? Where will you go in the future to stay up to date with the most current research and appropriate interventions?

I still painfully remember when my son received his diagnosis, including but not limited to ADHD. I was scared, had little to no information, and had no one to talk to. Don’t you remember the day you received the “diagnosis”? Yes, there’s a lot of information online, but not all of it is reliable or unbiased.

In addition to providing only science-based information, the NRC is the only resource center that has trained specialists that people can actually talk with. Elimination of public funding for the NRC would essentially destroy much of the progress that has been made over the past ten years.

NCBDDD and NRC Successes

It is currently estimated that one in 33 babies in the United States is born with a birth defect and approximately 13% of children have a developmental disability. The NCBDDD funds surveillance, research and prevention activities aimed at helping us track, understand, and ultimately prevent these disorders. The success of NCBDDD programs has contributed to a 26-36% decline in neural tube defects, as well as significant advances in the identification of preventable risk factors for birth defects and improved screenings.

As for ADHD, since the NRC opened its doors in 2003, trained health information specialists have responded to over 27,000 individuals seeking information, guidance, or sometimes just a listening ear. And then there are the millions of visits to the NRC web site; the special projects reaching out to African Americans and Spanish speaking persons; the monthly Ask the Expert chats; the newsletters; the information sheets… the list goes on!

Business in Washington, DC, is and always has been centered on party politics. My call for action to maintain the current structure and funding of the NCBDDD, its disability divisions, and especially funding for the NRC, has nothing to do with whether we are Republicans, Democrats, Independents, or however we may classify ourselves. It has everything to do with the lives of our children, our friends, ourselves. It is about our future and those who will be born in the future and the quality of life future generations of people with ADHD or other disabilities will have.

We urge you to become involved and let your voices be heard. Help us to save not only the National Resource Center on ADHD but also the NCBDDD disability division.

Yes, these times are tough. But certainly no one—not the President, not Republicans or Democrats nor leaders in either the House or the Senate—wants to be known as the ones who undid a decade of work done through CDC that positively impacted the lives of people with ADHD and other disabilities.

How You Can Help

In the coming days, while Congress is in recess and our senators and representatives are in their home states and districts, we will be asking you to contact these elected officials and let your voice be heard. CHADD will provide you with the facts on the accomplishments of the NRC and NCBDDD.

We will post sample letters for you to assist in communicating with your representatives. We will give you tips on how to tell your story—because nothing has an impact like the power of a personal story! We will ask you to make sure that your elected officials know how important it was—and is—to have access to solid, science-based information that has the ability to change lives and help people with ADHD reach their full potential.

Congress must hear these stories—by the thousands—if we are to continue to make progress.

Thank you… and stay tuned!

Mary Durheim

Mary Durheim is a past president of CHADD and one of the founders of CHADD’s Parent to Parent program. An educational consultant, she is active in numerous county and state interagency organizations as a trained mediator, Section 504 hearing officer, and behavior strategist. Durheim is the mother of two adult children with ADHD.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Don't Miss NOW WHAT?! This Sunday!

This week's guest blog is by Marie S. Paxson.

“Overture, curtains, lights... this is it, the night of nights!” Now What?! is Sunday!

Let me apologize in advance for being a shill for the new production of Now What?! Two performances of this show about adult ADHD will be held at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center this Sunday. While the name of the show may seem odd, for those with a recent diagnosis of ADHD it sums up what’s likely been going through their minds…now what?

The show is a must-see for anyone who has been diagnosed with ADHD and could use some good information about dealing with the disorder and what treatments and options exist. In fact, if you are close to someone that you think has the disorder, my suggestion is get tickets and go see this show! Oh and the best part? Rick Green and Patrick McKenna, two stars of Canadian television and PBS, make this show hugely funny with their comedy bits and sketches. It’s just good medicine for those affected by ADHD, plain and simple!

If you’ve ever seen the PBS documentary about ADHD called ADD & Loving It?! then you know the talents of these two men. They’re joined by Dr. Umesh Jain (Dr. J) an expert in ADHD, who plays the straight man to the comic antics of Rick and Patrick. But there’s more to this show than fun and games. There’s a lot of good information delivered in the form of an engaging stage production. The actors even bring members out of the audience to play “roles” in the show. The purpose of the show is to dispel the myths and rumors about ADHD and to let people with ADHD know that a diagnosis is not a death sentence. Many, many people diagnosed with ADHD are hugely successful actors, authors, doctors, athletes, and politicians.

Many people feel that ADD & Loving It?! has taken a lot of the blame and shame out of having adult ADHD. It would be good for recently diagnosed adults, as well as those struggling to accept that their lives will be different than they expected. Public television stations across the country have run the documentary ADD & Loving It?! and it was featured on the most recent cover of Attention magazine.

In Now What?! Rick, Patrick and Dr. J discuss ways to manage money, improve organizational skills, and provide advice on what to say to those who feel that people with ADHD are daydreamers and lazy. And while there’s nothing funny about ADHD, the actors provide poignant dialogue about the foibles of this misunderstood disorder. Interestingly enough, when Rick approached Dr. J with the idea of creating a humorous documentary about ADHD, he was met with incredulity. A show that makes fun of a mental disorder… Is nothing sacred? Well, my friends, the old adage is you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar and this production is sweet honey!

I hope you’ll take my advice and see this show.

Now What?! is scheduled for two performances (1:00 and 6:30 pm) at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Dekelboum Concert Hall on the College Park, Maryland campus this Sunday, June 12.

TICKETS ARE NOW AVAILABLE AT DISCOUNTED PRICES WITH SPECIAL PROMO CODES! For information visit the CHADD website or contact CHADD directly at 301—306-7070 x118. For online ticket orders click here. Adults can purchase tickets with the promo code SPECIAL at $24.50, and students may use the promo code STUDENTSPECIAL to purchase tickets at $10.00 each. Tickets may also be purchased at the box office.

Marie S. Paxson is the immediate past president of CHADD.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Geniuses Behind NOW WHAT?!

This week's guest blog is by Barbara Hawkins.

I am so looking forward to seeing the new stage production about adult ADHD called Now What?! with Rick Green and Patrick McKenna. These two popular Canadian actors/comedians have created a new show to dispel the myths and misinformation about adult ADHD. No small accomplishment if it works.

I’ve enjoyed watching McKenna and Green in ADD & Loving It?! on PBS more than once. The popular documentary has likely done more for people affected by ADHD and their families than a lot of other “treatments.” What I am really excited about, however, is that this new show is a stage production, not a documentary. That means live on-stage performances that include skits and interactive exercises in which the audience actually gets to participate. It’s kind of like an entertaining therapy session with no doctor’s bill afterward!

Rick and Patrick have themselves long been diagnosed with ADHD. That’s the reason why their production should be something special, because everything in the show is influenced by their personal experiences. They are joined onstage by Dr. Umesh Jain, or Dr. J as he is known, internationally recognized in the field of ADHD.

Dr. J can boast some major career accomplishments, with over 50 peer reviewed papers and book chapters, 90 peer-reviewed posters, invited lectures and workshops and over 300 presentations. He’s the perfect straight man to the comic characters portrayed by McKenna and Green. Dr. J has joined with Rick on in an effort to take ADHD into the mainstream and get people talking about ADHD with facts and certainty rather than drama, fear, and misinformation.

Rick Green has made hundreds of innovative television, radio, and stage shows including History Bites, The Red Green Show, Prisoners of Gravity and The Frantics. I think his greatest roles are the ones he plays in ADD & Loving It?! and in the Now What?! production.

To quote Rick, “Everything I used to know about ADD was wrong. Getting a proper diagnosis and treatment was transformational; like losing 400 pounds, only from the mind rather than the body. I was more productive with far less wear and tear on my soul. Everyone deserves to have this feeling of being in charge of their lives, rather than being a confused victim of mysterious whims. It’s possible.”

For a long time Rick managed his ADD in an “ADD kind of way”—sporadically and only when it reached a crisis. God bless television deadlines. The more roles Rick took on (producer, director, actor, writer, teacher, and father), the more he took on his ADD—and the more surprised he was at the amount of stigma, misinformation, and vitriolic opinion masquerading as fact. Knowing the power that understanding makes in addressing this syndrome, Rick created ADD and Loving It?!

While it may seem odd for a comedian to be doing something quasi-educational, Rick actually has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics, which he barely earned in his three years at the University of Waterloo. (That didn’t stop the university from naming Rick one of their Top 50 Graduates of the First 50 Years!) Rick’s first job was teaching at the Ontario Science Centre where he ran demonstrations, wrote and produced science-themed plays, developed exhibits, and set his hand on fire with a 40-foot-long, 1000 watt laser. OMG!

What about Patrick McKenna? He spent most of his life trying to hide what he suspected was ADHD. As a child, he was chastised for doing badly at school and didn't feel very good about himself.

Still, he is one of the fortunate ones who came through the tough times. Today, Patrick has a very happy, successful life—his career as an actor and comedian feeds into his ADHD-fueled needs. To quote Patrick, “I always craved something new and exciting, and all the scripts, characters I played, and bright lights fulfilled that desire.”

Now What?! is scheduled for two performances (1:00 and 6:30 pm) at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Dekelboum Concert Hall on the College Park, Maryland campus on June 12. For information visit the CHADD website and for ticket ordering, click here.

Barbara Hawkins, president-elect of CHADD, is the former coordinator of CHADD of Greater Baltimore and a recipient of the CHADD Volunteer of the Year Award. Hawkins is assistant dean of Villa Julie College in Stevenson, Maryland, and chair of the Children’s Mental Health Conference in Baltimore.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Now What?! Join Us on June 12!

This week's guest blog is by Steven Peer.

I always take an interest in new efforts that focus on ADHD education and information, especially when those efforts are fun, creative, and innovative. The new stage show about adult ADHD called Now What?! is one of those efforts. And it is coming to the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Maryland.

Rick Green and Patrick McKenna, the creators of ADD & Loving It?!—the popular documentary that has aired on PBS around the country—along with ADHD expert Dr. Umesh Jain (Dr. J.), have created this new stage production to help dispel the myths and misinformation about adult ADHD. They have made the process fun and engaging. This unique show was created for people with adult ADHD and for those who suspect they may have adult ADHD or who know someone with adult ADHD symptoms.

Now What?! is not a Broadway production or a long-winded dissertation about ADHD. It is a stage production the promoters call “edutainment.” As far as I know, nothing like this about ADHD has ever been done before!

If you’re familiar with the ADD & Loving It?! performances by McKenna and Green (both of whom have ADHD), Patrick gets his own ADHD diagnosis and learns from top experts about adult ADHD. The groundbreaking documentary is a blend of humor, hope, and science that educates while being entertaining, ergo edutainment. Now What?! does the same, but is a stage production that engages the audience in ways the film production doesn’t. It goes to the next level and takes the audience on a hilarious and transformative journey combining humor, drama, first-person stories, and interactive exercises.

Dr. J. and Rick Green created this funny, lively audience experience to help adults recognize the symptoms of ADHD, understand the process for a proper diagnosis, and become familiar with the various treatment options. The primary message of Now What?! is that much can be done in treatment and that diagnosis should not lead to fear, but hope!

In Now What?! Rick, Patrick and Dr. J. explore everything from careers and finances to relationships and parenting; from the history of ADHD to coping tools and strategies. “I’m the free form, free thinking out-of-the-box kinda guy,” McKenna says to Dr. J. in a hilarious skit called “The Therapy Session,” in which Patrick plays an adult with undiagnosed adult ADHD coming to see Dr. J. As the patient, Patrick inadvertently displays the most common adult impairments. “Where do you work, by the way?” asks Dr. J. “On an assembly line… making gas pedals for Toyota,” responds McKenna. And it goes on from there… hilarious at times, intense and enlightening at others.

“I’m not here to make you normal, I’m here to make you functional. Mediocrity is overrated,” Dr. J says in one of the show’s interactive audience Q&A sessions. The audience gets into the act a lot during the show. “Relationship Issues—Opposites Attract,” “Are You Smarter than an ADDer?” and “Embracing the Diagnosis” are a few of the other funny and informative elements in the production.

There's something about Canada that breeds great comedians. Rick Green and Patrick McKenna join the ranks of Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Phil Hartman, Seth Rogen, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, and John Candy.

These two world-class Canadian comedians talk about their experiences and relate how they initially resisted their diagnosis, then discovered the facts, and the resulting rollercoaster of emotions from anger to joy to sadness to relief. Rick and Patrick talk about the difference knowing that they have ADHD has made in their lives. Despite all their career successes, according to McKenna and Green, life was much improved once they learned about ADHD and more importantly, that it was not the end of the world—more like a new beginning.

The initial Canadian performance was sold out and I expect the upcoming event at the University of Maryland will sell out, too. If you’re in the DC area on June 12 I recommend you take time and see this production, for yourself and for your loved ones.

Now What?! is scheduled for two performances (1:00 and 6:30 pm) at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Dekelboum Concert Hall on the College Park, Maryland campus on June 12.

For information visit the CHADD website and for ticket ordering, click here.

Steven Peer is the president of CHADD.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Secrets of Power Advocacy

Today’s guest blogger is Lisa LaVardera, Esq.

If you have a family member with ADHD and you are looking to cut through the information/advice clutter, then One Day, One Location, Many Solutions to ADHD and Co-Occurring Conditions is the place to go! By the end of the day, you will have a clear understanding of ADHD...and more importantly, you will have strategies to manage it.

ADHD is a lifespan disorder, and often comes with multiple coexisting conditions. If you are new to the world of ADHD, or continuing on your journey, you will find many interesting breakouts at this conference, from understanding twice exceptional kids, to special education law, to bullying, to how to transition your child to college, to women’s relationship issues and how to keep your marriage alive with ADHD. Plus, the keynote speaker is the one and only Chris Dendy, author of multiple books on ADHD and executive functioning deficits. Like to eat? This conference comes with lunch!

Do you have a child with special needs whose needs are not being met in school? Would you like to learn more about how to become a powerful advocate for your child? Separate myth from fact! Find out how recent changes in the law can help your child with ADHD. I will tell you what the school districts do not want you to know. Learn the secrets of Power Advocacy!

• Children whose parents are knowledgeable about ADHD and know how to advocate have better long-term outcomes.
• Recent changes to the law now make more children eligible to receive special education accommodations and services.
• Your child can receive services and accommodations in school even if he is doing okay academically.
• A school psychologist might not diagnose your child’s disability.
• Why you need to get an independent outside evaluation.
• New York State has a new IEP format that is both good and bad for our kids.

In my session, we will cover the basics of the special education process; why you should have an outside medical evaluation; and what the recent changes to Section 504 may mean for your child.

Come to Long Island on Saturday, May 14, for CHADD's NY Regional Conference on ADHD and be sure to register for Power Advocacy!

Attorney Lisa LaVardera, a Certified Parent to Parent trainer, serves as coordinator of CHADD of Suffolk County, NY, a CHADD Affiliate of the Year recipient. She has received the Long Island Speech and Hearing Parent of the Year Award and the Nassau Region PTA Advocate in Action Award.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why Do Executive Function Deficits Matter?

Chris Zeigler Dendy is this week’s guest blogger.

Executive function is a term parents and professionals have been hearing more and more often in recent years. If you’re wondering why executive functions are so important, you don’t want to miss my keynote address at the CHADD regional conference in Long Island on May 14. My presentation entitled Executive Function: Why Does It Matter? will explain what a profound impact these functions have on school performance and everyday life.

I first heard of executive function deficits in a presentation by Russell Barkley some fifteen years ago. I was stunned; everything he said described our son to a “T.” Ultimately I realized, that the deficits in executive functions were the primary reasons for our son’s school struggles, even more so that the ADHD symptoms themselves. Barkley had just provided the missing piece of the puzzle for me—the reason why our gifted son was failing four of six classes as a freshman in high school.

You probably don’t realize it, but you already know what executive functions are, it’s just that you may never have heard the term before. If your child has trouble getting started and finishing work, memorizing facts such as multiplication tables, is often late, forgets books and assignments, loses things, is disorganized and has a messy room, backpack and locker, then you’ve been dealing unknowingly with deficits in executive functions for several years.

I do hope you’ll join us on May 14. Not only will I identify key executive function deficits, but I’ll also suggest specific strategies to address these deficits. After my presentation, I’ll be available to autograph the second edition of my brand new book, Teaching Teens with ADD, ADHD, and Executive Function Deficits.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

Chris Zeigler Dendy

Chris Zeigler Dendy, MS, is co-producer of a new DVD, Real Life ADHD! featuring thirty teens who are affected by ADHD.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Love a Good Conference!

Ari Tuckman is this week's guest blogger.

I love my family and I love my job, but I really love getting away from everything for a good conference. So I'm really excited about the upcoming CHADD regional conference on May 14th on Long Island.

I love to hear what other experts in the field are saying about ADHD. I love to run into old friends (my wife calls them my "CHADD buddies"). And I love meeting new people (future CHADD buddies).

I also love presenting, and I am really looking forward to doing the Lunch and Learn at this year's conference. I will be talking about the important but often overlooked topic of acceptance. I am a firm believer in the value of good strategies to help people perform better in their lives so they can feel better about themselves and take on greater challenges. But what do you do when certain struggles remain? Hopefully you have made at least some progress, but perfection is hard to come by.

I will talk about how to feel good about yourself or others by letting go of unfulfilled expectations. This isn't giving up—it's making a conscious and intentional choice to move on. My guiding philosophy is "change what you can, accept the rest." The other presenters will talk about ways to change things in your life. I will talk about how to feel happy even when some things don't change. When you put the two together, life is much better.

Ari Tuckman

A clinical psychologist based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA, is the author of More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD and Integrative Treatment for Adult ADHD.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Take a Chance on Tomorrow

Steven Peer is today’s guest blogger.

If you had a chance to make each tomorrow better, simpler, and more understandable for you and the ones most important in your life, would you take it?

Whether you are a psychologist, mental health professional, parent, caregiver, or educator, embrace this opportunity on May 14, 2011 to make such a difference at the CHADD regional conference in Long Island, New York.

Attendees will choose from 22 breakout sessions and a keynote by Chris Zeigler Dendy, MS. And they will hear from top experts on current topics of executive function, alternative treatments, ADHD and co-occurring disorders in the classroom, practical answers for home, school, and workplace, and more.

Here are some comments from attendees at one of CHADD's past regional conferences:

"The different presenters were extremely diverse and were experienced. It was a pleasure to have them and listen to these experiences."
- Parent, 2009 Regional Conference

"... can apply many of these strategies/suggestions in my classroom."
- Educator, 2009 Regional Conference

There are many ways to learn. I prefer face-to-face conferences best. Here are a few of my reasons why.

1. Ask anyone who's attended a conference. The joy, the fun, and the connecting at a conference come from what happens before, during, and after sessions.

2. Teleconference attendees learn only what is directed at them. There's no overhearing of questions and comments; there's no body language; no inference; no bumping into world-class presenters in the hallway. There's nothing like face-to-face, live learning.

3. Checking-OUT of your routine and INTO a conference changes everything. No crying, barking, or other distractions. Many folks with ADHD learn best in this immersion-style setting.

4. Ask the presenters at a teleconference what they prefer—it's as awkward for them as it is for you.

5. What no teleconference operator can claim is CHADD's 23-year history of local and international, life-changing events. You owe it to yourself to find out for yourself.

Learn more about this exciting event and join me on Long Island on May 14th.

Steven Peer

P.S. If you belong to any national professional organizations (NASSP, COPAA, APA, NAPO, etc.) please spread the word about this conference on their member listservs, message boards, or forums.

Steven Peer is the president of CHADD.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Shortages of ADHD Medications

Timothy MacGeorge, MDiv, MSW, is this week’s guest blogger.

Are you experiencing difficulty in getting prescriptions filled for ADHD medications such as Adderall, Metadate, or their generic forms?

Earlier this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) added two major ADHD medications to its list of Current Drug Shortages. These shortages, which are apparently not widespread and seem to be sporadic throughout the country, are due to shortages in the “active pharmaceutical ingredient” (API) used to make brand medications such as Adderall XR, generically an Amphetamine Mixed Salt, and Metadate, a brand version of the generic Methylphenidate. It is expected that these shortages, which are the result of quotas imposed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on the manufacturers, should be resolved within the next six to eight weeks.

What to do? If you experience difficulty in filling an ADHD prescription due to this shortage, here’s what you can do:
• Ask your pharmacist if the medication is available from another location, especially if you use a large chain pharmacy.
• Contact the manufacturer to help locate a pharmacy that has your medication in stock (see the customer service numbers below).
• Contact the doctor who prescribed the medication to see if he/she has any samples you can use.
• Ask your pharmacist about the availability of other medications used to treat ADHD.
• As a last resort, discuss with your prescribing physician whether or not any of these available medications might be appropriate for you or your child.

Finally, if you’ve exhausted all avenues and still can’t get a prescription filled due to a medication shortage:
1. Tell the FDA: Send an email to or call 888-INFOFDA or 888-463-6332.
2. Tell CHADD: 800-233-4050.

Not sure which company makes your medication? Check the prescription label or ask your pharmacist.

Pharmaceutical companies that produce Amphetamine Mixed Salts ER Capsules:
• Shire Customer Service Number: 800-828-2088 (select “Option 5” for assistance in locating a pharmacy in your area with product availability)
• Teva Customer Service: 888-838-2872
• Global Customer Service: 215-558-4300

Pharmaceutical companies that produce Methylphenidate HCL:
• UCB Customer Service: 800-477-7877
• Covidien Customer Service: 800-325-8888
• Sandoz Customer Service: 609-627-8500
• Watson Customer Service: 973-355-8300

Timothy MacGeorge, MDiv, MSW, is the director of the National Resource Center on ADHD: A Program of CHADD that is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What Do I Do When Nothing Is Working?

This week's guest blog is by Marie S. Paxson.

If you have a family member with ADHD and you are looking to cut through the clutter of information and advice, then One Day, One Location, Many Solutions to ADHD and Co-Occurring Conditions, a conference sponsored by CHADD, is the place to go! By the end of the day, you will have a clear understanding of ADHD. And, more importantly, you will have strategies to manage it.

I will be presenting a program entitled What Do I Do When Nothing is Working? When Someone You Care About Is Struggling with Risky Behaviors. I would love to tell you that I learned this information from a book, but I am probably a lot like you. As the parent of two children (now young adults) with ADHD and co-occurring conditions, I've been witness to some of the negative aspects of ADHD. I've been on the receiving end of some really upsetting phone calls. ADHD doesn't just affect academic performance, and the consequences of "ready, fire, aim" can be very serious.

This session will be more than just a recounting of my family's story (let's face it, we could all do that). It will include the valuable lessons I learned along the way. And time will be allotted for audience members to share their insights on how they are managing the troubling side of ADHD.

If this topic doesn't speak to you, the conference will offer a myriad of other ADHD-related presentations. The planning committee worked very hard to provide a wide selection of topics to help you manage ADHD on a daily basis. I hope to see you in Long Island on May 14!

Marie Paxson,
Immediate Past President, CHADD

Friday, April 1, 2011

Artificial Food Dyes and ADHD

This week's news is all about food dyes and ADHD. For more than 30 years there has been concern about synthetic food dyes and ADHD (think Feingold diet) and a fair amount of research has been done to investigate this connection. The conclusion of the scientific community has been that artificial food dyes are not a major factor in ADHD. But a small subset of people diagnosed with ADHD who also have food hypersensitivities may see symptom improvement when the food dyes or the offending foods are eliminated.

Over the last several days, the US Food and Drug Administration convened a meeting to examine the scientific evidence on artificial food dyes and make recommendations in response to a petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food advocacy group opposed to the use of artificial food dyes in the food supply chain. One of the major questions before the FDA’s Food Advisory Committee was the effect of food dyes on all children, not just those with ADHD. This is the distinction many journalists missed in reporting on the meeting. I listened to the presentations by a number of scientists, including Dr. Gene Arnold (CHADD’s representative), and I want to share the discussion and conclusions of the FDA committee with our members.

The body of research to date, which has confusing and mixed results, suggests there may be a low-level, short-term effect on behavior for children in general. But both the severity and the chronicity of the symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity needed for a diagnosis of ADHD are of a much higher magnitude than demonstrated in these studies. In addition, food dyes may lead to some mild increase in the level of symptoms for children who are diagnosed with ADHD.

An important change that led to this week's hearing was a study published in 2007 in the British journal The Lancet looking at the effect of two mixtures of food dyes on children who were NOT diagnosed with ADHD. The investigators, from the University of Southampton (UK), found a small increase in activity levels and inattention by parent report. The changes were short-term in nature and would not lead to a diagnosis of ADHD. When increases in hyperactivity are reported in the media, they are referring to the activity changes reported in this study and not the symptoms of ADHD.

The Southampton study did raise many questions about the safety of food dyes on all children. As a result the European Union made the policy decision to add a label to foods containing artificial food dyes, warning that this food "...may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children." Although many food manufacturers in Britain and throughout Europe eliminated artificial food dyes rather than add the warning labels, the UK did not ban the use of these dyes, as some media have incorrectly reported.

At the end of the two-day meeting, the FDA’s Food Advisory Committee voted to take no action on our current use of food dyes. Concern was expressed that there are many unresolved questions about the studies done to date and many design concerns. For instance, the Southampton study included a preservative in both mixes in addition to the dyes, and this could account for the results. The behavior changes were only noticed by parents and not consistently picked up by teachers, clinicians, or performance scores on an objective test of attention. The Food Advisory Committee concluded, by a vote of 79% of its members, that the research to date is inadequate to conclude that food dyes have an adverse effect on children’s behavior.

Concern was also expressed about the public health impact of waiting for better-designed studies and a larger body of research. Given the finding in some studies that both attention and activity levels in children are affected by artificial food dyes, should the FDA be more proactive than the scientific evidence suggests? There was much discussion about warning labels or other methods to inform parents that there is some indication that artificial food dyes might have a mildly negative effect on attention and activity levels. But in the end, 57% of the committee members voted no action should be recommended because the scientific evidence is so muddled.

The FDA committee members were also asked to consider the prevailing guidance on food dyes and the impact on children diagnosed with ADHD. The committee voted no change by 93%, and were clear in the discussion that no new evidence had been presented that indicated any consistent connection between food dyes and ADHD. Current clinical guidance suggests that elimination of food dyes should not be considered a mainstream intervention, but should be considered if there is a history of food sensitivities or if parents notice a behavior change after ingesting certain foods.

And the FDA committee members agreed, by a vote of 93%, that more studies are needed to clarify these issues.

So what is the takeaway message for families coping with ADHD?

• A small number of kids who appear to be hypersensitive to foods and who are diagnosed with ADHD may respond well to a diet eliminating food dyes or other irritating foods.
• If your child's behavior or inattention gets worse after eating foods with artificial food dyes, then consider avoiding them. This will probably not make the symptoms of ADHD disappear, but it may reduce the severity.
• A healthy diet is important for all children, but especially for children with ADHD.
• If there does not seem to be an effect from eliminating foods with dyes and/or if avoiding food dyes is too expensive, too difficult, or creates too much tension in your relationship with your child, then this may not be a change that is important in your child’s overall treatment.
• About 80% of all ADHD appears to be related to genetics. It is inherited. Other things happening in the environment may make the symptoms worse (no treatment, family stress, poor diet) and other factors may help to reduce the symptoms (good parenting, multimodal treatment, healthy diet). Our job as parents is to provide the best treatment and supportive environment for our children that we reasonably can.
• If you are an adult with ADHD, there is no research available on the effect of food dyes in adults. Your best bet is to assume the effects may be similar, though we are not clear on what those effects are. How’s that for clarity!

CHADD’s job is to make sure you have the best information available so that you can make informed decisions about treatment and management of ADHD.

Ruth Hughes, PhD

If you would like more information on alternative treatments, the FDA hearing, artificial food dyes, or elimination diets, check out the following resources:

CHADD’s NRC What We Know #6: Complementary and Alternative Treatments for ADHD

Background Information on the FDA Hearing

Southampton Study

Food Dyes and ADHD

Elimination Diets

Thursday, March 31, 2011

You're Not Alone!

This week's guest blogger is Barbara Hawkins.

At last someone understands.

There is nothing quite like a CHADD conference! My first one was years ago, and I will never forget the sense that, at last, some one understands.

It is hard to describe how much it means to find people who really do understand what it means to be a parent to a child with ADHD, a child whose behavior you do not understand, a child whose behavior you sometimes cannot control. It is not easy to describe the relief you feel knowing that you are not alone. It is not you. It’s the ADHD and CHADD can help.

Many of us have children who do not have ADHD, and we do not understand why the next child does not react the same way to our parenting techniques. I know it is hard and I know that CHADD can help. Support and understanding cannot be understated. Techniques to deal with ADHD issues are invaluable. Join us on Long Island on May 14 for valuable tips and understanding.

Barbara Hawkins

Barbara Hawkins, president-elect of CHADD, is the former coordinator of CHADD of Greater Baltimore and a recipient of the CHADD Volunteer of the Year Award. Hawkins is assistant dean of Villa Julie College in Stevenson, Maryland, and chair of the Children’s Mental Health Conference in Baltimore.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Elimination Diets for ADHD Not Ready for Primetime

The news has been full of reports of the INCA study, including the following conclusion on National Public Radio from the lead author, Lidy Pelsser, MSc: “64 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD are actually experiencing a hypersensitivity to food.” CHADD experts have looked at the study published in The Lancet. Without a great deal more research that supports the findings of this study, we would urge people to slow down and not jump to trying an elimination diet.

The families in the study were either put on a rigorous and closely supervised elimination diet or assigned to a control group that received instructions for a healthy diet. An alternative explanation for the results could easily be that the children in the experimental group responded well to a highly structured environment and lots of attention—both necessary for an elimination diet—and not the diet itself. Another explanation is the all-powerful placebo effect.

While this was a randomized study, the participants all knew which group they were in. This lack of blind experimental and control groups is a major research design flaw. The placebo effect is usually controlled by making sure all participants are blind to the intervention they are receiving. For instance, an experimental group might get the elimination diet and the control group might get a bogus elimination diet which eliminates only foods unlikely to make a difference. Then the children in both groups would receive the same amounts of structure and adult involvement. That did not happen in this study. Conclusions about hypersensitivity to food and ADHD cannot be made on the face of this single study, and certainly not when the groups were aware of the interventions.

Years of research on diet and ADHD have concluded that a very small percentage of children with ADHD who also have food hypersensitivities may do well with a controlled diet. So if you know or suspect your child has food hypersensitivities, then you may want to try an elimination diet with good medical supervision. But for the vast majority of people with ADHD, there is not yet evidence that this will make a difference.

Ruth Hughes, PhD