Category Archives: Diagnosis

Adult ADHD: Soft Signs and Related Issues

By LuAnn Pierce, LCSW

ADHD in adults has many symptoms. The ones that are usually associated with ADHD may be easily recognized, but there are others that look like or create additional problems that can rise to the level of separate psychiatric disorders if not managed carefully.

As an Adult ADHD specialist and an adult with ADHD, I am quite familiar with these soft signs. They are not usually found in the diagnostic manuals, like the DSM-V, but experts in the field of ADHD write and teach about them. This is another reason it is so helpful to see an Adult ADHD specialist if you need help learning to manage the symptoms. Specialists have more training than just a couple of seminars about ADHD.

To find a true Adult ADHD specialist, you might want to ask questions about the person’s training and experience in the area of Adult ADHD. You might ask them how much specific training they have in adult ADHD (different from children’s ADHD) and how many clients they treat with Adult ADHD. Ideally, you can find someone who has significant experience and training in this field. (See Questions to Ask Before Scheduling an Appointment by Cynthia Hammer)

Other Lesser Known Symptoms of Adult ADHD

Some adults with ADHD may have recognized the ‘soft signs’ of ADHD in childhood and adolescence, but many do not acknowledge these (or confuse them with other problems) until adulthood. The following list is probably not all-inclusive but provides a good overview of the most common soft signs in the literature.

  • Hypersensitivity/ Sensory Overload – Some people with ADHD find they are very emotionally sensitive. They feel their feelings strongly, and often take on the feelings of others. These folks are like sponges absorbing the emotions around them. They are often considered highly sensitive people, as defined by Elaine Aron, Ph.D.

Some people with ADHD are very sensitive to touch, the feel of certain fabrics and tactile experiences, ie. the texture of some foods. These people find it difficult to tolerate tags in their clothes, the feel of specific foods in their mouths, scratchy or otherwise uncomfortable fabrics. Tight clothing or the way it feels to wear shoes that have laces can be a miserable experience for some people with ADHD. Personally, I could not eat baby food and still don’t eat many foods with that texture. I also had quite a reaction to getting my hair brushed, wearing tight clothes, tags in clothes and other experiences.

Many people feel claustrophobic in crowds or areas where there is a lot of noise, light, etc. Places like airports, stadiums and other areas where there are too many people, lots of noise, bright lights and chaos can be overwhelming for us. (Yes, I have this symptom, too.)

There are a number of related psychiatric disorders that may overlap in symptoms. Some people with Adult ADHD have enough of the symptoms to meet the criteria for diagnosis with a coexisting or comorbid disorder, like social phobia, anxiety, panic-attacks or sensory processing disorder. Others find that if they can learn skills to manage or minimize these situations, they can deal with it using specific skills and techniques. They often do not meet the criteria for a separate disorder but suffer from these ADHD-related symptoms nonetheless. (For those who have clinical anxiety, it will need to be treated by someone who understands both anxiety disorders and ADHD.)

  • Overwhelm or Overstimulation Many adults with ADHD describe feelings similar to anxiety that are related to hypersensitivity. For those whose symptoms do not meet the criteria for a separate disorder, overwhelm and overstimulation are often more accurate descriptions of the problem. Laypersons throw around terms like anxiety and panic attack without much thought or awareness of the criteria for diagnosis. If a person with ADHD experiences these symptoms in isolated incidents, learning how to manage the symptoms is usually preferable to taking on an additional diagnosis and highly addictive anti-anxiety medication.
  • OCD-like coping skills – (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) Some people with ADHD develop obsessive-compulsive type coping skills to manage the chronic disorganization and feelings of being overwhelmed. These behaviors are a way of compensating for the messiness of ADHD, but can also create a lot of anxiety if the person becomes rigid in his/her approach to coping. An example would be someone who can’t begin homework or a project until everything is in the exact proper place on the desk. In those cases, a type of paralysis can develop that prevents them from doing anything productive other than obsessing about getting things in order.

True OCD is driven by anxiety – it is a form of anxiety disorder. OCD-like skills used to cope with ADHD is different but may result in anxiety. The messiness of ADHD creates anxiety for some people when it reaches a certain point of being out-of-control. For many, this is a way of building up enough energy to actually start on a project or chore. We literally allow enough time and chaos to ensure that we create stress.

When the stress reaches a crescendo, people with ADHD finally stop procrastinating and act – often due to a looming deadline that we can no longer ignore. Other times it is because the chaos reaches the point of anxiety or frustration. Feelings of anxiety may be the result – even though it is self-imposed or created. Some experts call this type of anxiety cognitive anxiety – thinking without acting on your thoughts also known as ruminating. Managing it requires learning to deal with the underlying ADHD symptoms of procrastination, time management, and executing tasks (instead of delaying starting or worrying for an extended period and not acting).


  • Hyperfocus – Although it may be hard for us to get focused, once we get into something that triggers the dopamine we often get so focused we find it hard to stop or change tasks. This usually happens when we are doing something we really enjoy. For many, it happens when working on a project we are excited about, playing video games or getting pulled into social media.  It happens to me with writing when the topic is something I know well and feel passionate about. (Which is why this article is getting so long!)


  • Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria – Definitely not in the DSM-V, but a term coined by William Dodson, MD, one of the top experts in the field of ADHD. Dodson describes this as akin to atypical depression, which means it is not true depression but dysphoria, a term that means difficult to bear. In essence, Dodson has found with his patients a common theme of people who describe an internal state of arousal that prevents them from simply relaxing and enjoying life (hyperarousal vs. hyperactivity – remember after adolescence most of us show few symptoms of hyperactivity). The other commonality they reported is feeling devastated by failure or rejection. (See the first item in this list about hypersensitivity.)

This is an important distinction because Dodson links it to the differences in the ADHD nervous system, which he describes as hyperaroused. (Elaine Aron has found the same thing in people who are highly sensitive – a difference in central nervous processing). The literature is full of accounts of highly successful people with ADHD who report feeling ‘dysphoric’ when they experience failure or rejection. Behaviorists would have us believe that this reaction in adulthood stems from earlier experiences that trigger the emotions. Dodson says it is in the hard-wiring, and that about half of his patients have shown improvement with medication. This is worth noting as those who have this issue may want to consider talking to their medical provider about it now that they realize it may be ADHD-related.

It is important to know that some of these issues can be managed by learning to manage and/or treat ADHD effectively. 3 Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks by William Dodson, MD  from ADDitude Magazine further expands on other less well know symptoms of ADHD as well as how to recognize and manage an interest-based nervous system for starting, following through, and getting things done. This interest-based nervous system states that Interest, Urgency, Challenge,  and Urgency are the keys to creating strategies for “turning on” the ADHD brain. A mnemonic device to remember these is “I see you now.” (I. for Interest, C for C.hallenge, You for U.rgency, and Now for N.ovelty.)

Treatment of ADHD is complicated – much more so than just taking a pill. Learn more about it in our Thriving with ADHD section. You can choose those articles or videos that meet your specific needs. Another article we have by this author covers additional methods in ADHD Success at College and Work.


Matlen, Terri. “Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Sticky!” ADDitude Magazine, n.d. Web. June 9, 2018.

Dodson, William, MD. “Devastated by Disapproval.” ADDitude Magazine, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2013.

Dodson, William, MD. “The Fear of Failure is Real – and Profound,” ADDitude Magazine, n.d. Web June 9, 2018

Dodson, William, MD. “Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria” From Dodson’s website. n.d.  Web June 9, 2018


About the Author: LuAnn Pierce, LCSW has 30+ years in the field and is a guest author for a number of mental health-based websites. LuAnn offers solution-focused counseling to people in Colorado and Wyoming via teleconference or telephone. She also provides training and curriculum development to a variety of organizations. Contact Information:

Original article, “Adult ADHD: Other Soft Signs and Related Issues,” is used with permission from LuAnn Pierce and Theravive: Find a therapist  – “Our purpose is to help people everywhere find great counselors and psychologists. Everyone can have a new start in life.”


Photo by Ludde Lorentz on Unsplash    Modified on


ADHD Grows Up: New perspectives on ADHD


ADHD, Executive functions, emotions, and comorbidities.New perspectives on ADHD plus a Video tour

Compiled by Joan Jager


ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder looks different in adults. This realization has been slowly changing how we understand ADHD and its expression throughout the lifespan. 

Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity have long been considered the classic hallmarks of ADHD, but those symptoms change as the brain matures. We once thought that children with ADHD “outgrew” it in their teens. Any lingering problems were dismissed or thought to be better explained by other disorders. However, further research has shown that about 60% to 75% percent of children with ADHD continue to demonstrate symptom persistence and impairment in some area of their adult life. (1) Researchers and other experts on ADHD began to realize that Adult ADHD presented as a much more complex disorder than was reflected by the current diagnostic guidelines for ADHD in children. Furthermore, these discoveries are rewriting our entire perspective on ADHD.

We now realize that the symptom called inattention is better described as Variable Attention. This is true both for children and adults. When a person with ADHD is interested, challenged, or under the right amount pressure, they can indeed focus. Indeed, they may be so involved that they go into hyper-focus and ignore everything else. This explains how kids can spend hours playing Minecraft and other video games, but feel overwhelmed by homework that has no intrinsic reward.

ADHD has long been thought of as neurobehavioral condition but has since been reclassified as a neuro-developmental disorder. —- That is, certain brain structures are up to 10% smaller in someone with ADHD and connections in the brain’s neural network are underdeveloped.  (2) New research posits that ADHD is a disorder of self-regulation.  That is, the ability to control one’s attention, impulsivity, and emotions, is significantly delayed in the ADHD brain. Research has also shown that although “ADHD is a genetic disorder, DNA is not working alone. Stress, diet, and environmental toxins change the brain as well” according to researcher Joel Nigg, Ph.D., writing for ADDitude Magazine. (3)

The core issue with ADHD is perhaps better described as Executive Dysfunction.  These are constructs that describe “problems of a neurobiological nature that particularly affect “planning, flexibility, organization, and self-monitoring.” (4) Getting out the front door on time, being able to find the tools that you need, attending to the work of the day without getting off track, and finishing small tasks that lead to project completion over time are all important skills. This is called self-regulation, the ability to control your attention and take action towards future goals. Russell Barkley, Ph.D. explains this concept well in this 3-minute video.

ADHD and Executive Function

Most notably, by adulthood, Hyperactivity and Impulsivity are often no longer overtly physical. Instead, they become internalized with age and are better described as Emotional Dyscontrol, a major, albeit often overlooked symptom of ADHD.  Emotional dysregulation, as Steven V. Faraone, Ph.D. describes it, is “the failure to modify emotional states in a manner that promotes adaptive behavior and leads to the success of goal-directed activities.” This may involve just feeling impatient and getting frustrated. Or you may be paralyzed by not knowing how to proceed, lose your temper or be so overwhelmed that your ability to get started or to finish a project is short-circuited. In other words, our ability to suppress our emotions or express them appropriately is poor. (5)

For further information, watch this 3 ½ minute video with Dr. Farraone.

ADHD and Emotionality: What’s the Connection?


It’s important that we acknowledge that ADHD is a  complex and highly comorbid disorder. (Comorbidity or co-occurring, means having two or more diagnosable and related conditions at the same time) (6) Indeed, researchers are discovering that ADHD “seldom rides alone.” Studies suggest comorbidity rates of between 50% and 90%. This complex interplay between ADHD and its commonly occurring comorbid psychiatric disorders complicates diagnosing and treating ADHD. (7) “Knowing that ADHD symptoms transform over time, offers researchers and clinicians new opportunities for treating ADHD symptoms and ADHD adults new opportunities for understanding their own gifts and challenges.” (8)

Getting diagnosed and treated in adulthood can change lives. This 3-minute video depicts one man’s  Adult ADHD Treatment Success Story.

Medication can help. Learning coping skills adds to our bag of treatment ideas – Writing everything down, setting timers, creating habits and routines to help with organization and planning all help. But we’d be remiss if we focused merely on improving our ability to get things done. Too often being productive is the only measure by which we judge a man. But success can come in many forms. Focusing on our inner values and strengths is another way to approach finding our purpose in life.

 David Giwirec of the ADD Coach Academy (ADDCA) notes “Who you are and your associated self-worth is not based on how well you do things. Who you are is who you choose to be based on your important, heartfelt, character values and strengths. Learn how to focus on what’s important, so you don’t get emotionally hijacked by the expectations of inconsistent performance.” (9) His 3-minute video explains more.

Cultivating Habits of the Heart

Ron Kessler, Ph.D. of Harvard and the World Health Organization promoted his presentation comparing ADHD in kids to their behavior of kids with ADHD to adults at the American of Professional Society of ADHD and Related Disorders (APSARD) conference in 2015.  I have hit the high points above, but the video is also worth watching. Much of it is presented as slides accompanied by the transcribed interview. If you prefer reading to watching, APSARD offers a full transcription. (9)

 How ADHD Grew Up as ADHD Kids Grew into ADHD Adults   (11-minutes)


  1. Could my Child’s ADHD Symptoms follow Him or her into Adulthood? (60%) (U.S.News & World Report, April 26, 2017)…” (Link works) Harvested August 31, 2017 – Also see CHADD’s Fact Sheet about ADHD (75%)  Numbers have changed over time and can vary by how it is measured. – Harvested October 24, 2017
  1. Is there an ADHD Spectrum? By ADDitude Editors, Janice Rodden, Joel Nigg. Ph.D. Harvested August 31, 2017)
  2. More Than Just Genes: How Environment, Lifestyle, and Stress Impact ADHD by Joel Nigg, Ph.D. ADDitudeMag Harvested August 31, 2017
  3. Lazy Kid or Executive Dysfunction –  LD online – – Harvested June 13, 2017
  4. Emotional Dysregulation and ADHD in Adults by Steven V. Faraone – – Harvested June 13, 2017
  5. ***ADHD and Comorbidity: What’s under the tip of the iceberg? by Carol Watkins – I recommend this quite readable exploration of a difficult subject.– Harvested June 13, 2017
  6. ADHD in Children With Comorbid Conditions: Diagnosis, Misdiagnosis, and Keeping Tabs on Both – By Stephen V. Faraone, PhD; Arun R. Kunwar, MD – Medscape  (Link works) Harvested June 13, 2017 – See list of common co-existing conditions below.
  7. YouTube description of Cultivating Habits of the Heart – Harvested June 24, 2107
  8. YouTube description of How ADHD Grew Up. – Harvested June 13, 2017

Common conditions that often co-exist with AD/HD (10)

Disruptive Behavior Disorders
Learning disabilities
Mood disorders

Health Risk Behaviors:
Abnormal risk-taking and impulsive behaviors
Risk for injury (what types)
Substance abuse

There’s a good Venn Diagram from an article by Joseph Biederman and Stephen Faraone, Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute Letter – Winter 1996 Volume 5 Number 1 – Found at July 20, 2017 – I wasn’t able to copy it.

10. From ADHD Long-term Outcomes: Comorbidity, Secondary Conditions, and Health Risk Behaviors – Center for Disease Control – – Harvested June 13, 2017

Photo Credits:


(Title photo from facebook/Credit unknown) Modified on Canva


FREE Professional ADHD Assessment Forms

Professional ADHD Assessment Forms – No charge

CADDRA ADHD Assessment Toolkit 2011 –  48 page PDF with recommended assessment forms, screeners, and rating scales from the Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance.  Includes SNAP, Weiss Assessment forms, and others. Rating scales are for suitable for educators, children, adolescents, and adults.

 Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was designed as a brief behavioral screening questionnaire about 3-16-year-olds. It now has a version for 2 to 4-year-olds as well as one for over 18  – 25 questions – Choose from a wide variety of forms in a number of languages. Impact and follow-up versions are also available. Scoring is quite complex. Setting up an account to have them do it for 25 cents is difficult as well!

The Disruptive Behavior Rating Scale can be completed by parents and/or teachers to report the presence and frequency of symptoms of ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Conduct Disorder (Pelham, Gnagy, Greenslade & Milich, 1992)

The Impairment Rating Scale is a form that can be used by parents and teachers to indicate the impact of ADHD symptoms on important functional domains. (Fabiano et al., 2006)

The DIVA 5.0 – Diagnostic Interview for Adult ADHD. Sorry, there is now a charge for accessing this screener. DIVA 5.0 is based on the criteria for ADHD in DSM-IV. It assesses ADHD symptoms in adulthood as well as childhood, chronicity of these symptoms, and significant clinical or psycho-social impairments due to these symptoms. (Translated into about five languages so far. See Diva 2.0 for more.

DIVA.20  was developed in Dutch and translated into many different languages. Please donate to keep this instrument available at low costs for research and clinical assessment purposes.


ADHD Screening Tests

Printable Screening Evaluation Forms (Will not link: Copy and paste (Print out and score yourself)

Response to Treatment Rating Scales – Children and adults


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Online ADHD Tests

Online ADHD Tests

Return to ADHD Screening Tests

Other tests include:

Printable Screening Evaluation Forms (Link works or Copy and paste (Print out and score yourself)

Response to Treatment Rating Scales – Children and adults

FREE Professional ADHD Assessment Forms – Children and adults

For Parents and Teens

The ADHD Character Traits (ACT) survey uses the Strengths and Weaknesses of ADHD Symptoms and Normal Behaviour Rating Scale (SWAN Rating scale) If the link doesn’t work, copy and paste:

ADD (ADHD) Checklist for Girls – 11 questions by Kathleen G. Nadeau, Ph.D.

Tests for both Parents and Children from WebMD (Link works)  – For you and your child – Online questions, includes short videos to inform you. Provides screening for symptoms and also accesses how well you’re doing with your current treatment.

For Adults

Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale – Developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Harvard University – 6 Questions with online scoring

ADDitude Magazine’s Adult ADHD Symptoms Test – Link works –  Online 31 question quiz with scoring

Are you Totally ADD? (5-minute unofficial online test) May need to Copy and paste URL:

Dr. Daniel Amen’s Adult ADHD Symptom Checklist Online version with scoring. (4-minutes) Includes Amen’s proposed 7 sub-types of ADHD.  After determining your type, you will receive a full, comprehensive report including an ADD Action Plan with natural and targeted treatments that you can start from home. (Don’t be surprised if your results show a lot of overlap.)

Structured Adult ADHD Self-Test (SAAST): Test Yourself for ADHD – 22-question self-test differentiates between two distinct components of ADHD diagnosis (namely, inattention together with hyperactivity/impulsivity) and is also sensitive to factors which typically preclude a diagnosis of ADHD.

Adult ADHD Spectrum Self-Test helps you assess the full spectrum of ADHD traits, including both strengths and challenges. 55 yes or no questions. Informal assessment designed by therapist Don Baker. (Link works or cut and paste

ADHD Self-Test for Women – 9 Questions – ADDitude Mag

23 Signs You Don’t have ADHD – Link works or Copy and paste URL: – A humorous ADHD test.  – From the always entertaining Rick Green of TotallyADD

Yet another Totally ADD Unofficial ADHD Test in a 30-minute video – Link works or Copy and paste URL: Find out if you might have ADHD. And have fun at the same time. (If you make it to the end, you deserve a prize.)


“Image courtesy of Luigi/”
Modified on Canva –


ADHD Screening Evaluation Forms

Return to ADHD Screening Tests

Other tests include:

Online ADHD Tests

Response to Treatment Rating Scales – Children and adults

FREE Professional ADHD Assessment Forms – Children and adults

Screening Evaluation Forms (Print out and score yourself)

For Parents and Teachers

SNAP IV – 18 questions – Teacher and Parent Rating Scale by James Swanson, Ph.D. (Link works – Or copy and paste

Vanderbilt Assessment Scale 10 page PDF

  • Includes Parent Informant form – 55 questions
  • Teacher Informant form- 55 questions
  • Scoring information
  • and Assessment Follow-up

NICHQ Vanderbilt Assessment Follow-up For teachers – Easy to fill out on-line, print out or email results to provider- Use Zero as a circle. 18 questions plus 8 questions evaluating performance.

Extensive SWAN Scale – Strengths and Weaknesses of ADHD Symptoms and Normal Behavior – 90 questions – 30 for strengths

SWAN Strengths – 18 questions rating scale includes positive “weaknesses” and negative “strengths” scoring, assessing symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Parents are asked to compare their child’s behavior in a variety of settings over the past month to other children on a 7-point: 3-Far below, 2-Below, 1-Slightly below, 0-Average, -1-Slightly average, -2-Above, -3-Far above. Higher scores indicate greater symptomology.

Child and Teen ADHD rating scale IV (home version)
• ADHD rating scale IV (school version)
• ADHD rating scale IV (self-report version) – All have 18 questions

ADD (ADHD) Self-report Questionnaire for Teenage/College-age Girls – PDF page 1 – 15 questions – Kathleen G. Nadeau, Ph.D. and Patricia Quinn, M.D.

The Ultimate ADHD Test for Teens – ADDitude Magazine reports on yet another questionnaire by Kathleen Nadeau and Patricia Quinn


Evaluation Forms For Adults (Print out)

6 Questions for recognizing ADHD in AdultsProposed version of the WHO Adult ADHD Self-Report screener listed below. Developed in 2017 by researchers to include non-DSM-5 questions that relate to Executive Functions.  Free Printable 

Adult ADHD Self-Report Scales (ASRS-V 1.1) Printable 6 question Screener Printable 18 Question version. Developed in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Workgroup on Adult ADHD at Harvard University –  Quick and easy tests screen for ADHD symptoms in adults.  The ASRS-V Screeners are also available in over 20 languages through Harvard’s website. *Adult ADHD Self-Report – 6 Questions with on-line scoring *

Russell Barkley’s Proposed Adult Checklist – Page 10 from a Sample Chapter from Barkley’s “Taking Charge of Adult ADHD” (2007) See pages 5 and 6 for additional symptoms.

Dr. Daniel Amen’s Adult ADHD Symptom Checklist – 77 questions

Symptom Tracker – Discussion Guide for Children and Adults – Vyvanse

Self-test for Women: Do I have ADHD – PDF: Compilation of other women’s rating forms – Print out to share with your Doctor


Both photos were created on


ADHD Awareness – Understanding + Intention = Positive Change

October is ADHD Awareness month. As the official website attests, “Knowing is better.”  They cover basic information, provide personal stories,  and are sponsoring a video contest that’s sure to entertain. Try to find time for the ADHD Awareness Expo from October 2nd – 17th. Watch at least a one or two of Tara McGillicuddy’s interviews with top names in the field at this FREE online event. Sign up now.  Videos are pre-recorded and available for 24-hours after 12 noon each day.

Another online event is ADDA’S Daily TADD Talks! TADD recordings are like TEDTalks, but about various ADHD topics and only 9 minutes long . You’ll also be able to see many of these speakers in person at the International Conference on ADHD November 9 – 12 in Atlanta! Consider this an appetizer!

ADDitude Magazine offers advocacy and stigma-busting tips in their ADHD Awareness Month Toolkit (Link works) and by sharing 31 truths about the condition.

***My own ADHD Awareness board on Pinterest also offers a lot of good material.

I first became aware of ADHD when I read You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Crazy, or Stupid(Link works) by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo. I ended up crying through most of the book. I had always known that I was a bit “different,” but never knew there was an actual name that described my personal foibles and disappointing failures. Amazingly, I found a wonderful Adult ADHD support group with a library of books, audio and video tapes in my hometown. Thus began a life-long path of learning to understand and live with ADHD.

I’ve collected a number of resources to inform and support diagnosis, treatment and other necessary services for children and adults with ADHD. I would get numerous calls a day asking for help to find Treatment and Support. This section also includes a money concerns section with sources for more affordable medications and mental health care.

In ADHD Awareness: What’s Next?  Coach Jennie Friedman of See in ADHD describes the benefits of providing a new understanding of ADHD.  “The latest and greatest information will be available to everyone with Internet access.  Myths will bust, and more people will get over the stigma that surrounds the condition.  And more people will discover that they or someone they love has ADHD.”

“But, just knowing about ADHD isn’t enough.” Becoming aware is just the first step to getting effective treatment for ADHD, The benefits can be life-changing, but there are a number of practical and emotional issues involved in the process…. The way that ADHD affects each individual varies and the specific areas in which there’s struggle are unique to each person.” There are no hard and fast rules.”

Kristi Lazzar. writing for ADHD New Life Outlook, says, “It’s so important to get diagnosed…Everything about yourself that you, or others, never understood starts to make sense.” In Learning to Accept Myself After my ADHD Diagnosis, she wrote, “I could finally be myself and stop wondering why I couldn’t be like everyone else. I could stop the self-loathing. I now had a name for my behaviors, which gave me something to work with…  It’s okay if I have my quirks — it’s who I am. Getting a diagnosis gave me that, and I will be forever grateful.”


To explore further, see my Pinterest boards, ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment, Undiagnosed + Untreated ADHD = Unfortunate (Link works), and ADHD from the Trenches.


Another featured author this month, Mary Fowler, shares ADHD challenges and accommodation strategies in her mini-workshop for teachers. First, we must understand,” she explains, that most ADHD management is not a problem of knowing what to do. It’s a matter of doing what we know.” Mary describes in detail many specific tools to help children “do what they know” through simple support techniques in Increase On-Task Performance for Students with ADHD 

But, DO NOT expect that using these ideas just a couple of times will change their behavior in the near future. That’s like expecting a child in a wheelchair to get up and walk up the stairs because they’ve used a ramp for a while. People with ADHD need Point of Performance or P.O.P. interventions to “do what they know” It’s not a lack of knowledge, but an inability to perform mundane or confusing tasks at an assigned time that is affected by ADHD.

“What you need to know about Attention Deficit Disorder:

  • Accept that supports may be needed throughout the school day, month, year,
  • or even across the lifespan of a person with ADHD.
  • Interventions have to happen in the here and now on an as-needed basis.
  • Their use often requires coaxing and coaching from an external source (teachers, parents, peers, visual cues, and/or technology).
  • The strategies ONLY work when they are used.”

Although Mary’s advice is quite useful for the classroom, the same understanding of ADHD and principles for getting things done remain true for all ages. It is well worth reading for yourself as well as sharing with your child’s school

Advocacy and Homework

Guest author, Mary Fowler shares 8 Tips to Help you be your Child’s Advocate. If your child is struggling at school, she says, “most teachers appreciate your clearheaded understanding of your child’s problems and any possible interventions you can suggest.” Do the work. Be prepared to offer the help that your school will need.

For children and parents who dread homework, see Strategies to Make Homework Go More Smoothly. It provides routines and incentive systems to help kids complete AND turn in their work. Peg Dawson, EdD, of Child Mind claims ”This is the best guide to helping kids do homework successfully that we’ve seen.” For a printable version to share, download the ADHD: A Primer for Parents & Educators from The National Association of School Psychologists. 



I really like The ADHD Manifesto, by Andrea Nordstrom of the Art of ADHD. Andrea is a professional ADHD Coach for adults wanting to turn their amazing ideas into reality.

The Art of ADD is not about being normal or fitting it. It’s about being ADD and using that medium to create a masterpiece out of your life. We don’t do life the normal way, we do it the ADD way! (3-minutes)


The ADHD Poem by slam poet IF – 4-minute spoken word poem by IF.  “My childhood tasted like chaos…At 8, I was diagnosed a disaster… a Hurricane… Having ADHD is like being an exclamation point in a world of commas. … But, isn’t being different the one thing we ALL have in common?”


You’ll find an animated version of the ADHD Poem on IF’s home page.



Until next month,

Joan Jager

ADD freeSources


(Photo courtesy of ohmega 1982/FreeDigitalPhoto)  Modified on Canva –

(Photo courtesy of pakorn/FreeDigitalPhoto)




How to Accept your Child’s Diagnosis: Even When it Hurts

By Elizabeth Lewis


What is normal, anyway?

Based on conversations I have had with other moms, we all have moments where we wonder if we have done something wrong. Have the Gods cursed us? Are we bad mothers?

When my son screams at me in public or verbally threatens his kindergarten teacher I want to sink into the floor. I envy the moms whose children come out of school beaming, holding up their prizes for an entire day of good behavior.

Not that my son never gets a prize, he does, but every single day I am sweating, waiting for the phone call.

I write all the time about how abnormal I am. I have no explanation for why I want my son to be something I am not. But I am starting to think my feelings are not uncommon.

My son has Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD. Life in my house can be a little…..errrr challenging.

It is totally normal and acceptable to have mixed feelings about your child’s diagnosis.





In the past, my son has had some emotional regulation issues. I have run around town to play therapists and occupational therapists and one cognitive behavioral therapist. Each time we went through a bad spell, we came out of it and I thought that I had it under control.

In my own way, I was arrogant for believing that having lived through ADHD I could handle it in my own son. As it turns out he does have ADHD. But he also has Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of high functioning autism that does not affect speech.

E likes the same things all 6 year-olds like. But he cannot transition at all. Not from one activity to another, and not from one environment to another. And if his daily schedule is altered in any way he is highly likely to have a meltdown.

When I say meltdown,  that means anything from crying and covering his ears, to telling his teacher that he will, “Hulk smash the building.”  He is that unpredictable.

E is also incredibly funny. Within the last week I have discussed all of the following:

  • Where “meat” comes from = dead animals
  • Black holes in space
  • The fact that my son swears he is never moving out of my house
  • Meditation, mindfulness….and, “why does that lady keep talking?”


Here is a link to more information on Asperger’s.

When you get a diagnosis for your child you will go through a process. Here are some ideas to get you through the tough times.



I have not been alone in 6 years. Literally.  My son was attached to me like an appendage for most of his life.

If there is one piece of advice I can give it is to take time for yourself.

This year we didn’t have a dog-sitter for Easter so I stayed by myself in my house over the holiday weekend. It was glorious. No interruptions. Just quiet time.

And I was fine. I can exist separate from my child with Asperger’s Syndrome and my husband.

My life is so consumed with taking care of others that I often forget how to take care of myself. Now I know that I can. I can be alone with my thoughts and it is ok.



For at least 2 years I suspected my son has some kind of sensory processing or pragmatic disorder. Nobody really believed me, but I always knew. A mom just knows.

To date, I have yet to cry over my son’s diagnosis. Maybe because I spent so much time crying before?

Having an answer is somewhat comforting. With the diagnosis, I can make plans. I can enroll him in social skills classes, and schedule occupational therapy.

There is a forward motion to what I am doing.

But there is sadness. Will he ever be the boy I KNOW he could be? Will he make friends?

Let yourself cry if that is what you need. Hopefully, I will get there. Right now I feel like I don’t even have time to feel sorry for myself.

I have cried enough for all of us.



Like every other parent, I want the very best for my child. I want him to achieve… everything.

I have this vision of a handsome young man traveling abroad his junior year of high school. The same young man goes off to college and leaves me. I can literally feel the potential in my son.

I can feel it, but my son is too young to see the world through my crystal ball.

We have had issues at every single child care provider we have tried. Daycare directors have told me my child is “unmanageable.” There have been countless notes home from preschool teachers.

I have cried for days. I have cried rivers over my son. Every meltdown, every incident report chips away at my “vision” of who my son is.

But this is the thing – I know that he is more than his behavior.

It is my expectations that are being shot down. My hopes and dreams.

It is ok to grieve the death of your own expectations. Always keep the end goal in mind.



I live in one of the best public school districts in the country. I have shared with them my son’s recent diagnosis. We are working on a 504 plan.

It’s complicated because my son has an above-average IQ, but marked social skills deficits.

I am fearful of the labels that are often assigned in public schools. The labels, though necessary, tend to be life-long. I do not want to go to IEP meetings for my son. I do not want to get phone calls and emails from the school.

But as the mom, it is my job to make the tough decisions. Talking to teachers and administrators is part of my job. I got this. So do you.



I worked for a time with older students in a special education setting, I loved my time there but what I saw was not encouraging. I witnessed bright kids who were going through a tough time being thrown together with emotionally disturbed kids.

My students believed they could not and would not achieve. They had given up on school and even worse, on themselves.

In order for my son to be successful in any school he is going to need support. Private schools are sometimes unable to offer the types of supports that a kid like mine needs. I would like to think that I can provide enough support outside of school that he can live up to his potential.

I am scared and I am sad. But I know I am not alone.

To all of the moms out there dealing with an Autism diagnosis; I hear you. I feel you.

It is totally normal to question everything. It is also ok to just sit and cry. Sometimes this feels like a life sentence.

Every single expectation and hope goes down the toilet when you hear the words, “autism spectrum.”

But it’s ok. Your mixed feelings are ok. A diagnosis gives you the chance to learn and grow and provide the resources your child needs.

I feel you, I hear you. And I am right there with you.

Now I want to know: How do you accept your child’s diagnosis?



About the author:  Elizabeth Lewis is a freelance writer, wife, mother, and self-appointed CEO of her home. Liz founded A Dose of Healthy Distraction, a website and a private Facebook group (Link works) to provide a realistic yet positive face to living with ADHD.  She also runs the ADHD Coaching Corner, a low-cost online support and coaching group.

Contact Liz at or


This article was originally published as How to Accept your Child’s Diagnosis

Reprinted and edited with permission from the author.

Link on Asperger’s goes to Autism


“Photo courtesy of Vlado/”  Modified on






6 Questions for Recognizing ADHD in Adults

This proposed version of the World Health Organization ADHD Self-Report Screening Scale is a short questionnaire designed to help people easily assess the possibility that they might have ADHD. (Researchers have revised the scale to fit the new criteria for evaluating ADHD introduced by the DSM-5 and to reflect how ADHD  presents differently in adults than in children.)

It’s important to keep in mind that this new questionnaire isn’t an absolute measure of whether someone has ADHD. But it can be a useful tool for assessing whether a further look is in order.

The official screener hasn’t been published yet. At this time,  “scores” would be best guesses based on the following information.

The choice of answers range from never, to rarely, sometimes, often and very often. Never is always zero, but the higher frequency answers are assigned varying points.

  1. How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people are saying to you, even when they are speaking to you directly?
  2. How often do you leave your seat in meetings or other situations in which you are expected to remain seated?
  3. How often do you have difficulty unwinding or relaxing when you have time to yourself?
  4. When you’re in a conversation, how often do you find yourself finishing the sentences of the people you are talking to before they can finish them themselves?
  5. How often do you put things off until the last minute?
  6. How often do you depend on others to keep your life in order and attend to details?

Points are given to each question according to the relative importance of the question is to diagnostic criteria. The highest score if Questions 1,2, and 3 are answered very often is 5 points. The 4th question’s top score is 2. The 5th’s highest is 4, while the final question is 3. That makes 24 points in total, with 14 points being the point at which additional evaluation is recommended.

We’ve created a Free Printable of what we think the scale will look like based on the previous information.


The development of the new ADHD Screener from a 2017 APSARD conference promotional video – 13-minutes


6 Questions for Recognizing ADHD by Neil Patterson – (Link works)

The World Health Organization Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Self-Report Screening Scale for DSM-5 

Authors: Berk Ustun, MS1; Lenard A. Adler, MD2,3; Cynthia Rudin, PhD4,5; et al

Brief Screening Tool for Adult ADHD Released

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WHO ADHD Adult Self-Report Scale

Proposed World Health Organization (WHO)

ADHD Adult Self-Report Scale –   Free Printable 

     6 Questions for Recognizing ADHD in Adults    Never    Rarely     Seldom         Often     Very


   1. How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people are saying to you, even when they are speaking to you directly?        0         1           2         4        5
    2. How often do you leave your seat in meetings or other situations in which you are expected to remain seated?        0          1            2          4        5
    3. How often do you have difficulty unwinding or relaxing when you have time to yourself?        0           1            2          4        5
   4. When you’re in a conversation, how often do you find yourself finishing the sentences of the people you are talking to before they can finish them themselves?        0           1            1           2       2
    5. How often do you put things off until the last minute?        0           1            2           3        4
    6. How often do you depend on others to keep your life in order and attend to details?        0           1            1            2         3

 The total number of available points is 24.

Recommend further testing with screening scores of 14 and above.   

For further information see:

6 Questions for Recognizing ADHD in Adults


The World Health Organization Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Self-Report Screening Scale for DSM-5 

Authors: Berk Ustun, MS1; Lenard A. Adler, MD2,3; Cynthia Rudin, PhD4,5; et al

Brief Screening Tool for Adult ADHD Released

Copy and Paste: