An Interview with Ben Glenn: ADHD AWARENESS WEEK

Oct 12, 2012 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1)      Ben, you have been working in the field of ADHD for years. Tell us about it.

Since my official diagnosis as an adult in 2002, I’ve been working very hard to understand this thing called ADHD. It’s a tough disorder to get to know well because there’s as much information as misinformation being circulated. I’ve used myself as a guinea pig of sorts, trying out different accommodations, diets, supplements and medications.

After being at it for  a decade and interacting with literally hundreds of individuals who have ADHD, now, more than ever, my focus is on telling people about the positive attributes of ADHD/ADD, sharing simple strategies of coping with ADHD on a daily basis and bringing parents, teachers and kids hope that ADHD does not mean a lifetime of failure.

In fact, quite the opposite. What I have learned is that with the right accommodations and in the suitable environment, ADHD has the opportunity to become less of an impediment and more of an asset.

 2)   Now, it seems that ADHD is still very much with us. Would you consider it an “epidemic “?

I don’t know about “epidemic”, especially when you see statistics for something like childhood obesity. ADHD is thought to be present in 3-5% of school aged children, obesity, in 17%. Statistics have definitely spiked in the last 10-15 years for both. Overall, the disturbing trend I’ve noticed is that our nation is becoming less and less healthy. Obesity, diabetes, autism, learning disabilities, ADHD and others all seem to be on the rise. Lack of wellness is definitely the epidemic that deserves our attention.

3) Any thoughts as to WHY this condition seems to be increasing?

I think that our lifestyles definitely have a lot to do with it. The lack of consistent, vigorous physical activity in most children’s lives might have a bearing. The other popular train of thought is that people are more familiar with ADHD today and are more likely to seek a diagnosis and help. So whereas 50 years ago if you had an unruly, can’t-sit-still kid you wrote it off as bad behavior or lack of discipline, but now it may well be that that kid really can’t help himself because his brain chemistry will not allow him to focus and sit still.

 4)      We have “ADHD AWARENESS WEEK” this week. What do you hope it accomplishes?

ADHD is a bit of a mystery and that means that there are all kinds of myths and misinformation out there about it. My hope is that ADHD awareness week helps to bring us closer to getting people to understand this disorder better. There are people out there who don’t believe that ADHD is real. And they like to play the blame game: It’s the greedy drug companies wanting to make money, it’s the neglectful parents that don’t spend enough time with their kids or don’t discipline them, it’s the lazy teachers who don’t want to keep up with their students, it’s the ignorant doctors who’ll can’t tell a real disorder from an imaginary one. My personal feeling is that the folks who make these claims either 1. have never interacted for any meaningful amount of time with a family with kids who have ADHD or 2. have some kind of a chip on their shoulder either about drug companies or teachers or physicians.

 5)      We all know about medication- but are there other ways for parents, and teachers to cope with kids with are ADHD?

Absolutely! I believe that the first and most important strategy to help parents and teachers cope is to UNDERSTAND how an ADHD brain functions. Your overall attitude to a student with ADHD is crucial to its successful management. If you believe that your child or student is being loud or forgetful or irresponsible or insensitive on purpose that totally affects how you approach and treat them. Anyone who has consistent contact with ADHDers needs to understand Executive Functioning and how it is impaired in people with ADHD.

Beyond that, there a good number of non-medicinal treatments to try. Everything from exercise, to bio-feedback, to computer-based memory training to adjusting the child’s diet. Not everything works for everyone, so expect a lot of trial and error. And know that your patience will be sorely tested. And of course, school accommodations are very important to the ultimate scholastic success of any student with ADHD.

6)      Now let’s turn our attention to hyperactivity- where does this construct fit in?

Hyperactivity seems to be something that affects mostly kids and teens and, particularly boys. It’s probably the easiest trait by which ADHD can be recognized and one of the most challenging to deal with, especially in a school setting. I have not met many adults with ADHD who are still hyperactive, but they are definitely out there.

7)      What about impulsiveness?  Is this also a major problem for parents and teachers?

Impulsiveness can be incredibly challenging for parent and teachers and of course, frustrating for the student as well. The only treatments for impulsiveness that I know of are experience and self-awareness. It takes years to learn to catch yourself just as you’re about to do something really not-so-smart. There is also the necessity of having someone in your life you trust absolutely that you agree to consult before doing anything “unusual”. In my life, that person is my wife. It’s crucial to have someone close to you who understands your struggles and is sympathetic yet, not afraid to disagree with you and be that voice of reason.

8)      What advances have been forthcoming?

I get asked this a lot, but unfortunately, there is still not enough information about the cause of ADHD to move forward definitively with diagnosis, and treatment. Seems like “links” and “possible causes” studies pop up on a regular basis, but there has been nothing concrete.

 9)      What have I neglected to ask?

My personal philosophy is that ADHD is highly treatable and that having the diagnosis of ADHD is definitely not the end of the road academically for your student. They can still be incredibly successful. Perhaps not in the most conventional of way, but nonetheless. So remember, stay positive, believe in your student and try to praise them more than you scold them, educate yourself on the subject of ADHD and keep things fun for them – they will function much better in a positive environment.

 

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