Avoiding “Unavoidable” Interruptions

September 18th, 2011

By Leslie Rouder, LCSW, CHt.

When I first thought of writing this post, it was with the idea of providing people with ADD ways to get back on track after unavoidable interruptions, since I was recently asked to address this problem in my blog postings.  But the more I really started thinking about all the possible answers, the more I realized that there is no best way to get back on track if you have ADD and are interrupted.  This is because interruptions may make completing a task or project extremely difficult (and nearly impossible) for many people with ADD  to get back on track in a timely fashion. Now I understand that this is not very comforting to hear, but it is often the reality of the situation.

According to what research has shown, the average person working in an office is interrupted approximately every 8 minutes. (That’s over 50 times per day) In addition, the average person (without ADHD) takes 5 minutes to recover. That is over 4 hours a day, spent being interrupted and recovering. It would seem to me that almost anyone living in this fast paced life style (with or without ADD) might feel rather unproductive and a bit frustrated with the amount of unforeseen interruptions one encounters throughout the day. For this reason, my best advice on the idea of  unavoidable interruptions is to find ways to avoid them.

So the next question is how?

  • Make a list of what it is that you need to accomplish for the day.  Keep it to no more than 3 tasks.
  • Block out a segment of time that you will require to do this.
  • If you are in a distracting environment and can go elsewhere, find an alternative place that you can go to, where you will not be interrupted for this segment of time.  I have a client that goes to Denny’s (drinks several cups of excellent coffee) and studies for hours.  As an alternative, she will go to the beach and study by the ocean. 
  • If you are at home or in your office, turn off cell phones, or any electronics that are not necessary to the completion of your task that may distract you.  Turn the volume off of your computer so that you are not hearing when new e mails arrive.  
  • If you are in your office at work or at home, delegate tasks to others for the time segment that you have blocked out.  Put up a sign on your door saying “Do Not Disturb” and explain to your fellow workers or household members that you need their help in providing you this designated amount of uninterrupted time.
  • Use either ear plugs to block out noise or use static noise, background music, or TV sounds to help you stay focused.  Some people do better with no sounds, while others need background noise.
  • Keep plenty of water or snacks nearby, so that you do not get distracted by feeling thirsty or hungry while completing your work.
  • Some people work better alone, while others work better with a “body double”. (Someone in the room with them, which helps keep them on track) Find what works best for you and do it. 

Although there is no perfect solution to avoiding interruptions, if you use some of the above suggestions, I am sure you will be amazed at how much more productive you can be.  If there are other suggestions that you have found helpful and would like to share, please let me know.  I would love to hear how you have handled unavoidable interruptions effectively in your life. 


Tools for Coping with ADHD Within the Family

September 13th, 2011

Lately there have been a lot of questions in regard to how best to manage ADHD within the family.  ADHD is not isolated to the individual (or individuals) in the family that have it.  It effects the entire family on a daily basis in significant ways.  So for this reason, my next few blog entries will address some of these concerns.

When a family member presents with what we would consider many common ADD symptoms, and has been properly diagnosed, the next step is to educate the whole family so that everyone understands what the diagnosis of ADHD actually means.  Make sure to clarify that having ADHD is no one’s fault and to provide each family member  the opportunity to ask questions.  Do take your time to answer all questions because understanding what ADHD is all about can often alleviate many of the problems that arise in the family.

Try not to label the individual in the family as being “the one with ADHD”.   Giving someone in the family a role or reputation of the “problem person” can set the family up for more of the same behaviors they are trying to avoid.  What we expect from our children is often what we get.  Focus on the strengths and special talents that all of the children in the family have and particularly focus on the special talents, creativity and sense humor that is indicative of children with ADHD.  This will encourage  those positive talents to be further developed and flourish.

No Comments »

Attention Regulation and ADD

September 9th, 2011

By Leslie Rouder, LCSW,CHt 

Very often I will hear a parent tell me that his child could not possibly have ADD because he is able to play video games for long hours without being distracted in the least.  Or that one’s spouse can watch a football game without ever being distracted. This can be very misleading and also accounts for a lot of arguments as people often interpret “ADDers” as being able to select what they can focus on depending on what they like.  Therefore, the conclusion is that they are either lazy, disinterested, or lack willpower in whatever else they “should” be focusing on (but are obviously not). ADD may appear to be all of the above, but in reality, it is not within the voluntary control of a person with this disorder, due to an impairment of the management system of the brain that regulates these kinds of behaviors. For this reason I often think of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) as Attention Regulatory Disorder, which is really a more accurate name for it.

To complicate this issue, brain chemistry can and does change very rapidly with perception of either a reward or imminent threat. This is because once the brain perceives either one of these; it immediately releases dopamine and/or norepinephrine from the limbic system that activates appropriate behavioral responses.

But with people with ADD, who have impaired executive functioning, the inability to self-regulate appears as laziness or lack of willpower. It clearly is not.  Many studies have indicated that when individuals with ADD are provided psycho stimulant medications, their level of executive functioning is greatly enhanced through the duration of the dosage of medication.  In fact, it has been established that they are able to sustain attention in the very same way they would in those circumstances in which they have a strong pressing interest.   

This is mostly because these medications improve the release and reuptake of the very same neurotransmitters that the brain produces during times of reward or imminent threat.  (Dopamine and/ or norepinephrine)  Furthermore, the results are in direct correlation to the timing of the medication, with impaired functioning returning when the medication has worn off. This further supports the idea that impaired executive functioning is not a lack of willpower, but rather directly related to the inadequate release or reuptake of these critical neurotransmitters in the brain.  Therefore, it is the alteration of this dynamic, through the use of proper medication that affects the improvement of one’s ability to focus and regulate attention, and definitely not willpower.


No Comments »

Adult ADHD/ Hidden Diagnosis

September 5th, 2011

 I had the pleasure of being interviewed for a wonderful article that appeared in Social Work Today magazine last year  by Jennifer Van Pelt.  In her insightful article she discussed the various challenges adults with ADHD face.   http://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/052010p14.shtml

No Comments »