Sunday, August 9, 2015

Book report: Taking Charge of Adult ADHD

Back in June, the doctor suggested maybe I have ADHD.  I'm not sure if I do or not, but I do have difficulty focusing sometimes.  I figured I'd read about ADHD, and even if I don't have it, I could get some ideas for strategies to help  me focus.  I read through the reviews on amazon, chose three books that I thought looked most promising, and ordered them on inter-library loan.

The first of the three is Taking Charge of Adult ADHD by Russell Barkley with Christine M. Benton.  Dr. Barkley has a thorough background on ADHD-related research, and shares the findings in a readable way.  He has found that people with ADHD need to be on medication.  The coping strategies he suggests are meant to be used after you get onto medication.  He offers 8 basic guidelines:
  1.  Stop the action: Before you blurt something out and do something impulsive, stop.  You have the urge to do something, so find a halting action you can do.  For example, inhale, exhale, and say, "Hmm, let me see now." 
  2. See the past and then the future: Imagine a TV screen, computer screen or whatever works for you.  Imagine that you are watching a video that shows you what happened in the past in a similar situation.  Also, for specific situations in which your mind's eye is blind, post images.  For example, a woman would impulsively buy designer shoes and then not be able to afford books her son needed for school.  She posted a shoe ad with a zero balance bank statement.  On the other side, she posted a photo of her son and an image of a diploma. 
  3. Say the past and then the future: Picture yourself holding a microphone and interviewing yourself on TV.  Be a journalist who asks tough questions.  Ask what's going on here, what did I do last time, how did that turn out, what are the options, what will happen if I do X.  Talk to yourself out loud as you try to choose your course of action.  Not necessarily in public, but at home, while driving, while walking in the woods at the beginning of the day planning the rest of the day. 
  4. Externalize key information: Post notes and images in key places.  Examples: a note with your wallet reminding you not to spend too much, a sign on the computer reminding you not to surf the internet.  Carry a journal at all times to write down the things you have to do, and check it hourly.  Use to do lists, and figure out how to make them realistic.  Identify how long each task will take, so that you can set realistic goals. 
  5. Feel the future: Think about the negative consequences of doing the wrong thing, but also the positive consequences of doing the right thing.  Think of how satisfied you will be when the task is finished. 
  6. Break it down and make it matter: Break tasks into chunks.  Steps that will take an hour or half an hour.  After completing a chunk, take a break for just a few minutes, and give yourself a small reward, such as looking at the view or playing a musical instrument.  Find someone you can be accountable to, and tell them when you've completed each step. 

    In a book on writing, Anne Lamott said that when her brother had to write a paper on birds and was having trouble getting started, their father advised to just write about one bird at a time -- take it bird by bird. 
  7. Make problems external, physical, and manual: Use tools so you don't have to hold it all in your head.  Like children using counting items like beads as the learn arithmetic.  Designers make models. 
  8. Have a sense of humor: Take ownership of your ADHD and laugh at yourself.  Say to people, "Well, there goes my ADHD again.  Sorry about that.  My mistake.  Now I have to try to do something about that next time."
 Then the book goes on to discuss strategies for certain arenas, such as education, work, health, driving, etc.  Of those, the only tips I found useful were in the education section.  Tips there included:
  • Find a coach or mentor, and meet with them twice a day for 5 minutes.  At the beginning of the day, tell them what you need to accomplish that day.  At the end of the day, tell them what you did accomplish.
  • Use a device that cues you to stay on track.  There is a device called MotivAider that vibrates.  You can set it to vibrate at certain intervals or randomly.  
  • Taking notes helps you pay attention to what is being said.
  • Use SQ4R method for reading: Scan the material to be read to get an idea of how long it is and how it is organized.  Write some Questions that the reading should answer.  Read one paragraph, the Recite out loud what it said, then wRite what it said, then Review what you wrote.  After you get practice, you can do this every two paragraphs instead of every paragraph.  
  • For tests, time off the clock seems to work more than extra time.  Take a break, walk around a few minutes.  The time of the break doesn't count toward the time doing the test.  The amount of time you spend actually doing the test is the same as for the other students, but you do take longer because of the breaks.  
  • Exercise helps with focus.  Do aerobic exercise before a test or before a boring class.  Develop a routine to do aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week. 

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