Media Review of Coffee and Inattentive ADHD

Coffee Bean Image By:
I am not posting much these days as my work schedule has been a bear.  I, however, wanted to post today about an interesting article that I read in the Atlantic about caffeine.  Regular blog readers will know that I am a regular coffee drinker and that I use caffeine to help me focus, to motivate me and to keep me on track throughout my day.

The Atlantic article focuses on the use of caffeine in Athletics.  They come to the conclusion that caffeine helps performance but, as we all know, caffeine is also addictive.  Their recommendation is that it be used carefully and purposefully.  I would have to totally agree.

My 15 year old son is now making his own morning cup of coffee.  He drinks it black.  He seems to do fine with just that one cup though he just went through finals week and I did notice that on a few days he made himself a cup at 3:30 pm as well.  He always has trouble falling asleep so it is unclear if the coffee kept him awake.

As you will remember, I am also a devout believer in exercise for ADHD.  My younger son has taken up Lacrosse which thankfully he loves.  My eldest is walking home from school every day now so he is getting 2.5 miles of exercise a day as well.

The road is always a bit bumpy when you are watching kids with ADHD mature and find their way.  It seems that their lives are filled with periods of clear sailing, periods of  dead winds and periods of hurricane winds.  Well, come to think of it, that is probably true of all of our lives...

You can find more information on why caffeine may help ADHD in this post about caffeine and the brain and I briefly address caffeine and Sluggish Cognitive Tempo is this other post.

I hope you are having a happy Spring!

Inattentive ADHD Treatment Questions From the Primarily Inattentive ADD Mailbox

Inattentive ADHD Treatment Questions From My Mailbox

As many of you have likely gathered, I am posting only very sporadically now.  With one of my sons in middle school and the other in high school, I am finding that I am spending more time supporting them both by being at home for them and by working more to be able to afford their very expensive private school.

I am answering emails and lately I have had some good questions that I wanted to share with you.  None of these questions have pat answers but if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that there are no "one size fits all" answers.  This question is kind of a composite of the questions that I have answered of late.

Hello Tess,

I recently came across your website as I was searching for info on how to help my son.  He is 12 years old and was diagnosed at age eight with inattentive ADD.  He is on a very lose dose of Ritalin SR (10 mg) daily and this does seem to help him a little bit.  

He is really struggling at school despite having a tutor (since the beginning of the year) twice weekly.  The tutor is charging us $80 per hour and our family can barely afford her.  More importantly, I am not sure that she is making any difference.  His grades have not changed, he is still really struggling in school and cannot seem to focus on his schoolwork for any real length of time and homework time is always "meltdown" time at our house.

I am sure that, like you, I had this going on as a kid – teachers couldn't believe that I was actually smart and I had an amazing imagination and daydreamed all the time – still considered “spacey” by many.  My son is me times 10.  When he was tiny, I knew we were kindred souls, and we are very similar in many ways. 

We struggle with this diagnoses as you know very few people know the distinction of ADHD and ADHD-I.  We are constantly looking at schools where we might qualify for financial aid and that might be a better fit but have not succeeded in finding one that we are willing to take the leap of faith with.

Any suggestion that you might have that could help our son would be greatly appreciated!

My Answer

Hi,  Thanks for your questions.  I guess, before I can make any suggestions, I have a few questions about your son.

What does he love to do?
Does he focus when he plays sports?
Does he have any other medical, emotional, psychological (anxiety, depression, hearing, Celiac...)?
What subjects in school are the most difficult?
Does he like school?
Does he have friends?
Does he ever focus on something?
How is your relationship with the school?

The reason I ask all these questions  is that all these factors matter.  If he loves sports and focuses during sports, he should continue to do them.  ANYTHING that teaches an inattentive kid to focus (not counting hours of video games) will help them in the long run. 

 Melt downs over homework are really common.  Forging a plan as a team (it sounds as though you are doing this) helps.  Breaking down the tasks into pieces and interjecting fun activities, snacks, breaks all help. If you can meet with the teacher and have her make sure he stays on task at school, this would help.  Sometimes asking the teacher for a recommendation of a kid who could do the homework with him (not for him but with him) with you out of the picture helps inattentive kids focus as they tend to "sync" better with someone their own age (Or slightly older. In the 4th grade my son had a neighbor in 7th grade who I paid $7 an hour to be a "homework" helper.  Later, I got him a High School senior to be a homework helper for $10 an hour-my son never melted down with the homework helpers and they are cheap!!). 

 If he likes school, that is a real plus.  I do not know what you do but if you could help out at school, that often makes kids feel more like school is a family event rather than somewhere they are "sent off to".  Since you had ADD as a kid, try to draw on your own experiences of what helped you.  Kids with ADD/ADHD (as I am sure you know) often have other medical/emotional/psych things going on.  They all do better if these things are treated.

Let me know if any questions that you might have.