According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.3 million children aged 12–17 years have been diagnosed with ADHD in the United States of America? if you're a parent, teacher, friend, or guardian of an adolescent who has been diagnosed with ADHD then this episode was tailored just for you.
In this episode of ExpertsConnect, ADHD Teen Coach, at Loving GrADDitude, Kelly Biltz, initially provides an overview of ADHD. Later, Kelly describes the signs and symptoms of ADHD and the various treatment options. Thereafter, Kelly expounds on what ADHD looks like in a teenager and subsequently, highlights the differences between girls and boys. Kelly further explains how she is helping adolescents to navigate through the challenges surrounding ADHD, especially in the Covid-19 pandemic. Finally, Kelly shares how parents and loved ones can support teenagers living with ADHD.
Be sure to check out Kelly's article It's Called Revenge Bedtime Procrastination, for more tips on parenting Teens with ADHD.
What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder otherwise known as ADHD? [3:07] | Kelly shares the following. it's a lot more popular than how it was 2025 years ago. ADHD is basically a developmental impairment of the brain's self-management system. And what I mean by that is we have 41% of our brain in what's called our executive functions. And it's how we plan our days how we execute our tasks, how we focus, how we organise our thoughts. And it's basically that part of our brain that is impacting the ability to focus, execute, and plan out how we decided to live our days. In some ways it should be I feel it should be in an executive function disorder, if I may because it's caused by low amounts of neurotransmitters, which are the brain chemicals that correspond in our brain and majority of the neurotransmitters that are low producing, really feel that frontal lobe, which is where our executive functions reside.
What are the signs and symptoms of ADHD? [5:53] | Kelly states the following. I think the probably the main one that everyone knows and recognises is the lack of focus or challenges with focusing right, and also impulsivity, when you think about focusing again, the executive function, that neurotransmitter that helps with the focus of the attention. The brain has a deficit of those neurotransmitters. So a lack of focus impulsivity, for time management, regulate emotional regulation, difficulty in prioritising tasks, limited attention span, procrastination with my teenagers, right, a lot of procrastination on subjects, a lot of anxiety is very present. difficulty with getting motivated and forgetfulness. That pretty much encompasses what I live with on a day and my husband, for that matter.
ADHD Treatment: What are the options? [7:18] | Kelly states the following. There's a lot of ways and it's not one size, one pill, one approach that fits all. It's a multi-dimensional approach. And I liken it to a piece of pie, right? How many slices re there in a pie? Like eight slices […]. It's all-encompassing. So obviously you have diet is really important, right? What we put in really affects there's a gut-brain, there's the gut, brain, heart health, that is all connected. You have exercise that is really important. You have a support system. And a lot of the teenagers who I work with, have me as a coach, they have tutors, they have psychologists, they have counsellors like it takes a lot of support of being in a village. Even the parents have a village to help them support their child and the structure and routine in the house, figuring out your child's best practices, their tools. So of course supplements as well. Like it is not just one size fits all, it is a multidimensional approach to treating ADHD. And some of it has to be tweaked. It's, it's not okay, if we have all these things in place now and like, go right it's a lifestyle. It's a continual implementation.
What does ADHD look like in a teenager? [9:07] | Kelly explains the following. So here's how I liken it. So in the elementary years, really up to the fifth-grade parents wear their frontal lobe meeting we think for them, we plan for them, we keep them safe. We give them the foundations if I may, we plan their day. Here's what you do when you come home, here's your homework, right? We're going to sit down and work with you. We really structure your day, starting in the middle school in high school years as they come into 10, 11, 12, 13-year olds and above right double digits as I call it. First of all, their brains start coming into a different stage and it starts growing. But when they start getting into this next level Mental stage, there's a lot of different moving parts, right? So they're not handheld in the school anymore, they have to start navigating different teachers, different schedules, different styles of learning, they have to learn how to take notes, they have to learn how to study. And they're also going through adolescence, right. So you have the hormones, you have the body changes, you have the moods, you have the also social learning, finding their place in their social circles, which is a huge, huge, huge, huge part of adolescence, and just the, you know, the teenage years. So when you think about time management and planning and you're shifting that responsibility to them, it taps into that executive function part of your brain, where all of a sudden, there are five assignments behind, and they're shutting down, because they're not been, they're struggling with how to prioritise how to manage their time, and they're overwhelmed, and they're full of anxiety. So it really, really, really taps into that frontal lobe, because parents are slowly letting go, and it's now the teenager's responsibility to manage that and figure that out on their own, which is a challenge.
How ADHD differs in girls versus boys? [12:26] | Kelly explicates - I think the overarching problems and challenges are the same. I think it manifests itself differently in symptoms, I don't think girls are as defiant if I may, and they tend to daydream a little bit more, they might be a little bit more withdrawn. They're maybe a lot more highly, maybe a little bit more emotional, if I may. I'm talking about boys and my boys they don't show a lot of emotion. They own it. Like there's very little emotion going on in my home. And I just think that that's a difference between boys and girls. And I might get pushback from that but in my house has very little emotion but and so those are but the overarching like, you know staying on task and feeling shut down because of the procrastination and feeling overwhelmed and having that anxiety, time management and planning issues. Those are there but it manifests itself in what I just shared, like the non-stop talking and maybe even the reverse of that and becoming withdrawn and much more emotional if I may.
How do teenagers navigate through the challenges of living with ADHD? What are their coping mechanisms? [14:55] | Kelly mentions the following. Some of it, they have to figure out on their own. And it's going to be hard to say some of them have, some of them don't want help from their parents. And they get really behind in their school. And until they're in a really poor spot, then they like supercharge and tap into their hyper-focus. And then they get their work turned in some recognising that they need the help after a while, right. Some will defer to their parents after a while. But it's by default, like they at some point, they are going to have to own their own work. And they're going to have to realise that the big picture is about other failure classes, they might have to take a summer school, or they might have to repeat a grade, the hardest thing I think, in the teenage years on high school years is that until it actually resonates until you until the teenager is truly affected by it, there's very little movement. So you have to figure out their motivation, right, because they can go down a rabbit hole and truly not care. So finding that motivation, and helping them come out of it is very, very challenging. Yeah. And it has to be intrinsic like it has to come from them. Because parents can I mean, like, literally, as a coach, I can lead you, I can help you find your tools, I can help pour into all the accolades for you. But if you're not going to get off of our call, and put it into practice, like it has to come from within, they have to be self-motivated to want to help themselves. And some of that, unfortunately, won't come until they're truly on their own.
So how exactly are you helping them? What's your general principle? [18:44] | Kelly explains her approach as follows. The coaching processes vary based on the client. So there are some clients that some teens that are failing three grades, right. And so they need me to literally break down their week at a glance, right. And we break down their assignments. I've worked with teenagers, and figured out how they keep track, like their tools. They want to write everything in a Google slide. And then they have their post-it note for their day, right? Some are planners, some need timers like I helped find their best practice, right, their best form of environment, their best focus time, their best tools that they write, I help them understand how ADHD is getting in their way, as far as keeping them in this overwhelmed state. Right? I help them understand how to get motivated. And starting in just taking the first step and breaking things down and chunking their time I help them time manage their lives and one of the things that I'm really, really pouring into them right now. It's like, one of the best life skills that you can possibly have is learning how to manage your time. And that can be a huge meltdown shut down like, No, no, no, no, because time and ADHD is such a big challenge. And I might say, I don't know, one CEO, one video game producer, one NBA dude, or one like a gymnast who doesn't have multiple people, multiple tools that are keeping them productive, that are keeping them on task on their meetings, getting all their work done. Because you need multiple tools. And when you help them switch that mindset, right, and, and help them get out of their own way. And I tell them like you are getting in your own way right now by being stubborn. I say it lovingly, of course, right? Because they trust me because I've worked with them for so long, I can say that to them, I've earned their trust that I can speak the truth, you know, tough love, if I may, like you're getting in your own way, by your by being really difficult in your thinking. But when you realise that you can limit your distractions, when you have that self-control, and you limit your distractions, and your work is not going to take you five hours, but because you are not controlling your time and you're coming in and out of it, you're not managing it, right? Because when you manage your time, you have more of it for yourself. So I'm helping them build these skill sets and these life skills that will hopefully take them. I mean, I'm literally drilling it into them every week in a very loving way. Right that they can take with them. And I want my teens to really own their time so that they can have more of it. Because right now the majority of my teens are just strictly students. And they're working around the clock getting they're getting their work done. And it's sad to me like, I don't want that for them. Like that's not fun, right? Like, that's not fun. And finally, after six months of working with one of the girls, she finally is all caught up. And she has her weekends great. She's like a new teen. And I'm like, that's what I want for you like, life has to be a balance. You cannot just be all academic. It's really a
lot of life skills and I pour into the mental health and self-compassion and talk to the strengths. Like I'm a big, big encourager big advocate for that, Kadian, and because I know that there's a mental health crisis going on right now, that's going to far outweigh COVID.
How are teenagers living with ADHD coping with Covid-19? [23:03 | Kelly highlights the following. it's been really hard for these teens. You know, there's so much negative self-talk you've had, you have teens that when they were in school, they had B's and A's, right. And now you have these students who are who have been getting D's and F's, and because their lives in the past year and a half have been on screens, and they've been Groundhog Day for like 8-4 the same thing and their brains on these school systems, like the school platforms and, and because there are so many layers of it, it's not conducive for the ADHD brain because there are so many layers of it. And they're doing the work with the forgetting to hit submit and they're not, they're not getting credit for it, and they're shutting down and they're feeling so incredibly, incredibly bad about themselves and, and they're so hard on themselves. And so there's a tonne of anxiety, there's probably a tonne of negative self-talk that we don't even know about. Right. That's all in you know, to themselves. And yeah, so it is. It is it is. It is a pandemic, even in and of itself. Yeah, we need to get our kids back in school and it's happening. And then you deal with the whole social elements, some of them haven't seen their friends I haven't been able to. I mean, I'm so thankful for zoom. I'm thankful for FaceTime and thankful for discord and the fact that they can have that which has kept those relationships alive but if you have an extroverted child outside of ADHD that hasn't been able to be in a group setting and participating in sports and theatre and cheer and all these activities. I mean, it's devastating, devastating. I mean, they've learned some of the hardest life lessons in the past year. So in some ways, they will be like, Bring it on, because I've dealt with all of it. So it's, it's helped them, it's helped them be resolved and resilient when they never even wanted to write. But, you know, they've had to learn a lot of really, really difficult life lessons that even we didn't have to have to learn until this year as well. So we were all having to adapt to, you know, a shutdown that we've never experienced in our in my 50 something years.
What is a holistic approach to ADHD treatment? [26:06] | Kelly discusses the following. For me, I think it's non-meds. Not that I'm opposed to meds I'm speaking from how I've handled it personally with my son. It's mindfulness. Right? It's having a mindfulness practice, having that balance of practising breath, having quiet time, having the out of having a place to put the anger or the frustration, right, whether that's exercise, whether that's a punching bag, whether that's just breathing, literally, you know, because some of there's some anger at times, right? There's some frustration and, and you have to own that, like, that's you can't suppress that you can't say, Oh, you shouldn't be angry about that, or you shouldn't be frustrated. Like, that's, that's like saying, you shouldn't be breathing, like, those are emotions that are real, and you have to own that. So having the ability to give it a place to go, right, not at me, not, it's your sibling, not the dad like finding the out for it. Right. So having a really good practice for that. And obviously, it's positive self-talk. We do the diet, we do exercise. Obviously, a tonne of support and structure, the routine has always been exceptionally really, really what works, my parenting style with my son, how I speak with him, positive affirmations, my sons are very positive young men, and they're very confident that did not happen overnight. And so always being essentially mindful as a parent of how I speak with them. And what I've chosen to say, and not to say and how to approach a situation, and also how to help them. And those times when they're very when they're triggered.
How can you support a teenager living with ADHD? [28:11] | Kelly shares the following. One of the best things you can do is focus on all the things that are right, and good about your child and focus on their strengths. And it's so easy to focus on everything that's wrong, and nitpick and nag. And as a society, as humans, it's, we just tend to fall for the negative, right? We tend to say, Oh, you know, you didn't do that right? Or you didn't do it my way. Or I told you to do it this way. Or why did you forget to do that? You are contributing to all the negative messages that your children are hearing and interpreting and internalising. and that in turn is exasperating the negative self-talk. So even on the days and trust me, I've had days when it's been really hard to find the positives. I've been there, and I'm making it sound like it's been a cakewalk. It has not. It's been very, very challenging with my son. I'm not saying it's easy. But even on those days, I always, always find many things that are good and focus on the positives. Those who have ADHD thrive when they hear positives, they thrive with affirmation. They thrive when they know that you recognise something that they've done, even if it's they had a meltdown for three minutes less literally not kidding, right? Even if it's they came down and they came down five minutes earlier than what I expected or they got out of bed two minutes early, and thanks for getting on a bed and that I didn't have to call you again, right? It's something that easy, that simple. You want to acknowledge all the little small victories you don't want to overpraise, but you want to acknowledge small victories along the way that will speed them, that will reward them, that gives them that little dopamine, fix it because they need to know that you are acknowledging and you're noticing all the things that they are doing, and not focusing on every single thing that they're not that is a challenge for them.
Notable Quotes from Kelly Biltz, ADHD Teen Coach
"And it has to be intrinsic like it has to come from them. Because parents can I mean, like, literally, as a coach, I can lead you, I can help you find your tools, I can help pour into all the accolades for you. But if you're not going to get off of our call, and put it into practice, like it has to come from within, they have to be self-motivated to want to help themselves. And some of that, unfortunately, won't come until they're truly on their own." [16:33]
“I don't know, one CEO, one video game producer, one NBA dude, or one like a gymnast who doesn't have multiple people, multiple tools that are keeping them productive, that are keeping them on tasks on their meetings, getting all their work done. Because you need multiple tools. And when you help them switch that mindset, right, and, and help them get out of their own way.” [20:19]
“[…] When you manage your time, you have more of it for yourself.” [21:27]
“[…] I'm thankful for FaceTime and thankful for discord and the fact that they can have that which has kept those relationships alive but if you have an extroverted child outside of ADHD that hasn't been able to be in a group setting and participating in sports and theatre and cheer and all these activities. I mean, it's devastating.” [24:37]
“One of the best things you can do is focus on all the things that are right, and good about your child and focus on their strengths." [28:25]
“You want to acknowledge all the little small victories you don't want to overpraise, but you want to acknowledge small victories along the way that will speed them, that will reward them, that gives them that little dopamine, fix it because they need to know that you are acknowledging and you're noticing all the things that they are doing, and not focusing on every single thing that they're not that is a challenge for them.” [30:06]
CONNECT with Kelly Biltz, ADHD Teen Coach
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