Double Challenge: ADHD and Covid

By September 3, 2020ADHD / ADD, Parenting
    The diagnosis of ADHD has no age limitations and has a bigger challenge to address in this time of COVID. The common ADHD traits of distractibility and impulsivity are heightened by being in front of a computer screen for hours at a time. COVID has put pressure on the distracted, disorganized and busy mind to stay focused while sitting still. The positive side of this demand is the structure it provides to those who don’t have a natural sense of time. However, it’s the demand of sitting still that can create agitation and possible oppositional behavior.
     If you understand why those of us with ADHD (I include myself) crave stimulation then the “solutions” are clearer. We all have a dopamine reward system that is responsible for motivation. But what goes on in the (true) ADHD brain is this reward system is underactive, making it difficult to derive pleasure from regular everyday activities. There is a surge of motivation after something stimulating happens, but that surge returns to the reduced base level and so motivation drops off and may need a “re-boot.” When tackling a “to-do” list, the ADHD person often chooses the item with the greatest relevance first, since seeing/feeling the reward is immediate.
     There’s a misconception in the belief by some that a definition of an ADHD brain is only someone with high-energy behavior who is overly talkative and outgoing. This brain also exists in the low-energy, more passive person, too. Boredom is a common complaint. For them, trying to tackle low-stimulating goals, increases their internal discomfort and often starts to fidget and become more restless.
     The fidgeting person, child, adolescent or young adult needs “outlets.” Start the day with a physical activity ( to increase dopamine levels). Use an in-home/outside bike, mini trampoline or treadmill or run/walk outside to start, for at least 30 minutes. Look for virtual Tae kwon Do or ballet class or get them to walk the dog ( even if it means a “reward” of some sort they may ask for). Once the virtual computer study begins, allow for stretch and walk around time, maybe your student does better listening when moving around the room or swaying side to side while attending to the screen. Try putting the bike in front of the screen and see if the movement of their body keeps them engaged in what they are learning. Perhaps a large balancing ball to sit on might be tried.  There are no rules.
     Just know that having a diagnosis of ADHD makes the struggle for self-regulation more difficult and your child may exhibit a negative disposition or oppositional behavior. This is a neurological issue, many times inherited from other family members. The ADHD brain is always having a tug-of-war. Let’s not judge but find a way to compensate. I remember for me it was lying on the floor, with my legs against the wall, music blasting. I did some of my best concentrating during that time even if my parents thought it was “unusual.”
During this difficult time, we are here for you, as we always have been, to help consider safe, educational and therapeutic opportunities for your adolescent/young adult.