Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a developmental disorder of self-control. It consists of problems with attention span, impulsive control, and activity level. Although the behaviors are the first symptoms that we see, it is important to understand what is going on in the brain in order to treat these symptoms. By definition, individuals experiencing ADHD have executive control deficits.
Executive functions describe the mental functions that occur in the prefrontal lobes of the cerebral cortex, in addition to the limbic system. In general, these functions have an impact on cognitive and emotional functioning, including cognitive inhibition and initiation, self-regulation, and motor output.
There are many symptoms of executive functioning deficits that manifest including:
• Difficulty planning and completing projects
• Problems understanding how long a project will take to complete
• Struggling with telling a story in the right sequence with important details and minimal irrelevant details
• Trouble communicating details in an organized, sequential manner
• Problems initiating activities or tasks, or generating ideas independently
• Difficulty retaining information while doing something with it such as remembering a phone number while dialing.
Intervention can be achieved through environmental adaptation (coaching) and/or medication. Medication may be helpful by correcting the neurological deficit in the brain. However, from a behavioral point of view, individuals can be coached or taught various skills in the areas of future-oriented planning, organizing, and thinking.
There are many effective strategies that you may find useful to assist with these difficulties such as:
• Give short, precise instructions with visual aids
• Use planners, organizers, and other technology
• Provide visual schedules
• Create checklists
• Use positive reinforcement (token economy)
• Break assignments into smaller chunks while incorporating short breaks
• Organize your workspace to eliminate distractions