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ADHD kids benefit from coaching
November 12th, 2010
05:19 PM ET

ADHD kids benefit from coaching

Tell students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to show up for an appointment to learn how to manage a calendar, and here's what's going to happen: They won't show up, they'll forget their calendar, or they won't follow through, says David Parker, a researcher at Wayne State University.

Instead, Parker and colleagues argue, college students with ADHD benefit from a more inclusive, personal model of learning how to manage their time and organize their lives.

These researchers found that college students got enormous benefits in scholastic life from a "coaching" model designed by the Edge Foundation, an organization that helps young people with ADHD reach their potential in their academic and personal lives. They presented their results Friday at an international ADHD conference sponsored by the non-profit organization Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, known as  CHADD.

At eight universities and two community colleges, a total of 110 undergraduates participated in the study, which lasted from fall 2009 to spring 2010. They were randomly assigned to either the coaching program or the "comparison" group, which did not receive this intervention. Everyone in the study had the same access to the other services that their universities offered.

The coaching in the study targeted eight central areas of students' lives: scheduling, goal setting, confidence building, organizing, focusing, prioritizing, and persisting at tasks. Students engaged in weekly 30-minute phone calls with their coaches - in some cases, in person or via Skype when available - in addition to e-mail and text check-ins when needed. They had no more than two weeks off of the program during the study.

Coaches helped students plot a course for the goals that they set for themselves, Robert Tudisco, executive director of Edge Foundation, said.

One important limitation of the study is that researchers did not track which students were taking medication, or which students were receiving other kinds of therapy beyond coaching. That means that it's unknown whether medication or therapy contributed to the benefit seen in students in the Edge program.

Results will appear in the Journal of Postsecondary Education later this year, said researcher Sharon Field of Wayne State University.

Coaching made a significant difference in students' organization, time management skills, and their ability to assume control of things like studying, Field said. Students reported less stress and a greater sense of calm as a result of the coaching.

"Overwhelmingly we heard, from student after student, that coaching helps students to live what they considered more 'balanced' lives," she said.

Students took the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI) test, which measures learning strategies and related skills, before and after the coaching program. Those in the coaching program gained more than 180 points on the second try, while the comparison group's gains were much more modest. Coached students especially made strides in the area of "self-regulation," which measures time-management and concentration.

Making such coaching accessible to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds is a priority going forward, Tudisco said. For the study, participants received coaching free of charge. Going forward, the Edge Foundation is working toward underwriting the cost of the program, which is normally $400 per month for unlimited access to the coach.

In a separate session of the conference, Michael Posner, professor emeritus at the University of Oregon and National Medal of Science recipient, discussed his research on novel ADHD treatments also. He studies the brain's networks of attention, and spoke about interventions that can help those networks. For example, computer-based exercises may help attention, as may meditation.

Joanna Fowler, another National Medal of Science recipient, looks at the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. She noted that drugs such as cocaine that people abuse raise dopamine levels in the reward center of the brain. Ritalin is similar. This work may lead to a greater understanding of ADHD and treatments as well.


soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. fuyuko

    Everyone benefits from a coach. Coaching has been proven to help people stay fit, and keep weight off... So I do not see any reason people with ADHD wouldn't also benefit.

    November 12, 2010 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Brian Connole

    If this could help my kid that would be awesome!

    November 13, 2010 at 00:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • confussedd

      Your kid should grow up, join the Marine Corps and enjoy the coach they assign him, he would learn more than any college or coach could teach him and get paid.

      November 14, 2010 at 07:44 | Report abuse |
  3. Stacey

    I wish I would've had that in school! Actually, I still need it! Sign me up!

    November 13, 2010 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Candace Sahm

      Hi Stacey,

      I am an ADHD/Life coach. I just finished attending the CHADD Conference. I would be happy to talk with you about coaching. Please email me at coach@candacesahm.com.

      Be well!,

      Candace

      November 14, 2010 at 08:50 | Report abuse |
    • Eugenia

      I agree, I was lucky to go to a Catholic High School that gave me a tutor and taught me not only what I was studying but about life skills.

      November 14, 2010 at 18:38 | Report abuse |
  4. ADHDBrain

    While I do agree that most everyone would benefit from a coach, I think what they are driving at is that they have found that their method of coaching provides a significant bridge for those with ADHD.

    Why that is important is that many things that "normal" people would benefit from are less then effective for those that have a different neurological/chemical makeup. While attending a class on time management might be effective for someone without ADHD it is much less effective to near negligible for those with.

    I deal with ADHD professionally and personally. I'm happy to read that more resources are being shown to have positive results.

    November 13, 2010 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jre74134

      Ditto! I think that had there been support structures in place like this when I was in college (5 of the most miserable years of my life) I probably could have done MUCH better and would more likely have finished. I'm tickled pink to see that people are starting to figure out that this isn't something that "goes away" or "wears off" as you get older. This is a neuro-chemical disorder (imbalance) in the brain. That doesn't just go away on its own. Some people are able to develop excellent coping and working skills on their own to work around it, but most of us don't. So something like this is a GREAT way to help us learn these skills. Few of us learn them on our own.

      November 13, 2010 at 07:45 | Report abuse |
  5. kdinla

    My 13-year-old, while extremely bright and in the gifted-and-talented program, failed 6th grade despite daily mandatory homework periods and having her assignments checked by a parent daily, and despite being followed by specialists and taking daily medications for her severe ADHD. My husband and I, at this point, honestly don't see how sending her to college would do any good because if she performs this badly with our daily support, how could she possibly pass when she's completely on her own, or even with our help when her professors won't post all homework daily on a school website as the school does now? Maybe this will be the answer. I hope so.

    November 13, 2010 at 06:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • yoyo

      I have ADHD and I didn't even have half the support that your daughter had but I never failed any grades. I came from a single parent family that could NOT afford to hire "specialists" to follow me around all day or enforce mandatory homework periods. Plus, my stressed out single dad would lash out and scream at me that I was an "idiot" and "worthless". Yet I still fared better than your 13 year old. I think there's something else going on with your daughter. I bet it's NOT ADHD or it could be something in addition to ADHD. There's NO WAY anyone could possibly fail the 6th grade if they had specialists following her around, consistent medications, attentive parents, and daily mandatory homework periods. Every parent wants to believe that their kid is gifted even if it's not true. It sounds like your daughter is mentally slow and you're in denial or it's possible that she's bright but has an undiagnosed learning disability that's holding her back. Or maybe academics just isn't her cup of tea and she has creative or artistic talents outside of school.

      November 13, 2010 at 16:21 | Report abuse |
  6. scishome

    As an adult recently diagnosed with ADHD and hoping to one day go back to school this is something I would be very interested in. What I wonder also is if this could be modified for adults in the workplace. I have a very detail oriented job and find myself "zoning out" and having horrible time management and organization skills. I just started meds so I am hoping that will help, but I'd love to learn some other skills along with the medication. My brother is 12 and has severe ADHD. He was held back last year and I think this would be awesome for him. Like the poster above's daughter, he is in the gifted programs and very intelligent. Aced his tests and did homework, but forgot to turn in the homework. Always looking for ideas to help himm hopefully this will.

    November 13, 2010 at 09:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • FloridaSNMom

      Some kids with ADHD require meds to focus, at least for a little while, if not on a long term basis. But meds, while it will treat symptoms will not teach adaptation techniques required to be successful off the meds and as adults. It's *always* better to treat with therapy as well as meds. Occupational therapy or an ADHD coach can teach skills to manage symptoms better without the reliance on meds as the child gets older or becomes an adult and fewer Dr's are willing to prescribe them. There are things that can help, ways to manage the impulsiveness, the lack of focus, the disorganization, but most children with ADHD will not learn these on their own.
      To the girl who managed on your own with a single father, etc, you are one of the lucky ones and to be applauded for your efforts to handle this on your own. But, ADHD is a 'spectrum' disorder, not everyone has it to the same degree. It could be your symptoms were milder than this other child's, or you're right and there could be other issues going on, there are several things ADHD is co-morbid with. In other words, just because you managed successfully on your own doesn't mean that this child is capable of it. Every child should be evaluated and treated as an individual.

      November 14, 2010 at 20:11 | Report abuse |
  7. kirk horton

    While I think ADHD is overly diagnosed, and as a former elementary school principal, I am quite aware that attention difficulties are just the tip of the iceberg. ADHD children can't filter out distractions, finish tasks on-time, use their memory optimally, etc. A pill doesn't teach these skills.

    My wife and I opted to use cognitive training with behavioral coaching for our son, Alex. We used Play Attention (www.playattention.com) and ADHD Nanny (www.adhdnanny.com). We've been very successful with these approaches. We also changed our parenting skills with great success.

    It's just important to know that medicine teaches nothing. Parents and teachers must actively participate to help change a child's life.

    November 13, 2010 at 10:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • confussedd

      You are smart. More and more principals and teachers are in the former category because the big prize is district administrator, consultant, textbook company executive or just plain retired.

      November 14, 2010 at 07:42 | Report abuse |
  8. Dr Bill Toth

    In other words, a behavioral condition responds to behavioral conditioning OR If you want to be successful DO what succesful people DO. Live with Intention, DrBillToth.com/blog

    November 13, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Coaster

      That was an idiotic remark. Perhaps if it were expanded upon it wouldn't sound that way, but put as bluntly as it was, you sound pretty ignorant. Do what successful people do? LIke Van Gogh? Should we cut off an ear and send it to our lovers to prove we care? Like Einstein, and fail 4th grade? Or like many many many successful celebrities, and do all sorts of drugs? Or maybe you mean like politicians, and lie? Successful people FAIL A LOT along the way. They cheat, and lie, and play dirty tricks to get there. I'm sure that isn't what you meant. Is it?

      Perhaps what you meant to say was that people who are successful in learning with ADHD have learned to use it to their advantage.

      November 13, 2010 at 19:17 | Report abuse |
  9. kristy

    I kinda agree with this article and then i do not. Adhd is dianosed every 60 seconds in this country . Even the smartest kids in america have some sort of intellectual problem.The coaching may work but in other sense it may not work. Other learn by sight some learn by sound it depends on the child and how he or she learns.

    With Einstein he learn by sight but he was slow at the learning process it took him quite some time to get down on paper what he wanted to do the thinking part was not there but the imagination was . That is how i see it with children with adhd . They have thoughts that are hard to express like Einstein did but they are able to do it . It takes them a longer time then others but the intellectual process comes out they are more highly focused then any other kid or adult.

    They work harder to do there work then any other kid or adult. The comment said in the article they never show up to appointments is Bull crap. Kids and adults with adhd do show up reminders with string or post it notes do help and do the trick. coaching is not nessary in many cases but it helps to be reminded of what needs to be done.

    This resercher thinks people with adhd are retarded and that is not true there is nothing wrong with their thinking they are just highly modivated then other kids and adults.I would say they are successful lkearners and they learn as much as they need to process to get to a point they they can learn as much as they want before they get over loaded and burn out . But like Van Gogh and Einstein they did suffer with adhd but they were thinkers they knew what they wanted to think out it just took them longer to process then others of their ages and abilities .

    There is no such thing as normal define normal in this day and age and you tell me the fact on how kids and adults act with thinking and shedules with adhd. Just liek autism being dianosed with adhd is common because dr's do not know what causes the cause of adhd. But no child with adhd and no adult that suffers with this cause is dumb there is no such thing.

    They are smarter then you think the famous artists and famous people we know to love suffer with adhd and intellectual problems.

    November 13, 2010 at 19:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. JJ_California

    This is why we have a Disablity office on every College Campus.
    Sad they can not try and be a Coach.

    November 13, 2010 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Maureen

    Positive encouragement gets results, with improving oneself as a goal, can develop early resilience of character. Coaches need to continuously offer organizing tools for self improvement and a supportive set of systems to improve ones life.

    November 13, 2010 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Dave

    ADHD isn't a problem with the kid. They're just bored. Always the adult is the one who is complaining. The adults are the ones who have the actual problem. Think outside the box if you want to help these kids. Don't assume you can drug them and do anything other than suit your own needs by turning off their spark of life. Why make someone be less than who they are because YOU have a problem teaching them?

    The first thing you can do is forgive, every time they "mess up" in your eyes. Explain what was wrong but avoid any negativity in doing so. No child comes equipped with a complete understanding of social skills, etiquette, patience, or an internal drive to learn. If you don't recognize that, you've failed the first lesson of being a teacher. Why are the kids here? They are in school to build these traits (among others), otherwise you wouldn't be necessary. If you've done your job correctly the environment you present in class will be safe for the kids and free from bullying. Education of social etiquette and how/why people should be nice have to be an ever present part of your classroom, and constantly reinforced by your own actions. Don't be a hypocrite. Teach responsibly. With everything you do – approach it with the mindset that you're playing a game or in some way trying to have fun. This can be done with every subject matter. So the student gets bored easily or has a tendency to lose focus? Figure it out. He/she's a smart kid and you are boring them with your class. When the problem is made out to be the child it can't help but go wrong because you are putting enormous pressure on them to suppress/change their own personality. Do some thinking about your own role and what you can do to be a better role model. Kids who don't like to learn don't like it because school made them not like to learn. Pressure. Exposure to bullying. Teachers who don't listen or effectively are intolerant of kids who they think make their jobs "harder." All on top of family problems and growing up in general. Parents listen up, too. You can do a lot to instill an interest in learning that will last many years past public schooling. Both parents and teachers must enforce the social point of view that education is worth more than just getting you a job as an adult. If American culture does not respect education then change the culture. You have the influence and quite honestly it's your job. Reward the kids that everyone thinks are nerds for being smart. Make that okay. Intellect isn't respected anymore like it should be. That seems rampant in this country now. Teachers are at the front line for fostering respect for their own profession. If you don't do it then who will?

    November 14, 2010 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ruth

      Yes, in fact, there *is* something that's wrong with the kid, even if they can't identify it yet. As a kid who grew up with untreated ADHD, I really wish the adults in my life had worked to get a diagnosis for me instead of just labeling me difficult or forgetful or different. Yes, I was different, and the difficulties the difference and the bad coping strategies I developed have caused me huge problems in life. I only wish I'd been more irritating to adults as a child–then maybe they would have done something drastic and actually helpful.

      November 14, 2010 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
  13. swimmer23

    LEGALIZE CANNABIS in 2012!!! It's a proven treatment for ADHD.

    November 14, 2010 at 02:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. jmg

    This is great, but I have to wonder how well the effects last after coaching is done. These kids will graduate and then what? The odds of them coming up with $400 a month on an entry level job while trying to pay the other bills including students loans isn't likely, but if the coaching is needed to maintain the gains, they are probably going to get fired because they won't be able to handle the job.

    November 14, 2010 at 04:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. confussedd

    Everyone could use a coach. High paid executives get a secretary to run things for them. Rich people get personal assistants, maids and butlers. All college students should have a coach. All people should have one at their disposal but how economical and realistic is it. The Honest fact is you have to learn to do things on your own expecially when you are an adult. Giving everyone a personal babysitter is not an answer it is a crutch.

    November 14, 2010 at 07:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill Anderson

      To "confussedd", I've read a few of your posts, and it always amazes me when a person has such strong opinions, but can't stand by them with their own name, and instead provides some silly user name, such as "confussedd". Keep posting and giving opinions, but have the courage to use your name, instead of using a 'crutch' such as a silly username.

      November 14, 2010 at 17:40 | Report abuse |
  16. ginger

    I wish this was available to all kids in public school w/ ADHD ( at least to be made available where the parents could pay for a portion of it)

    November 14, 2010 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. someoneelse

    ADHD kids do very well in army/navy/whatever cadets too. We need to stop telling people they can do anything. They can't. Actually, considering the average person isn't really that talented, there are 50% even less so. I could never be an artist, or a long distance marathon runner, etc as my body/mindset just isn't made for them. Because I learned this early, I am doing what I AM good at and enjoy it. The sooner we stop believing everyone is equal the better off everyone will be. Now, be careful, I believe everyone should be treated with equal rights. I'm not talking about that.

    November 14, 2010 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • writtenwordsjdb

      You find mindset a feasible excuse not to become a marathon runner? I would like to point out the fact that health has nothing to do with ADHD. ADHD, the doctor's solution to an unruly poorly raised child (though admittedly, there are some actual cases out there) will not hinder a child from functioning properly. These military things are good for them because it enforces discipline. This discipline can be given to them through themselves or others and they would function fine with any other occupation. And to state that people can't do something is total b.s. I don't mean that in the happy-go-lucky way that "oh people can do anything, yay!" But people really can do anything with their mind set on it. Watch youtube sometime.

      November 15, 2010 at 11:06 | Report abuse |
  18. lineman

    It used to be that kids had "coaches" from the time they were born to the time they left home, they were called parents. Now the kids are left off in daycare and their "coaches" are part time paid babysitters. Its no surprise that ADHD and autism is such a growing problem. One-on-one is a recommended therapy and it used to take place within the home. The problem is that one-on-one daycare is just too expensive for most. Society would benefit greatly if American industry would make provisions for mothers to stay home untill their kids are in school and for mothers to work hours so they can be home after school. It won't happen though because cheap labor is the holy grail of American business and inceasing labor costs, however minutly, is unacceptable.

    November 14, 2010 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • FloridaSNMom

      As the parent of an autistic child with a diagnosis of ADHD as well, I have to say, shame on you lineman. My children have always had a stay at home parent, (in this case a stay-at-home Dad) always had one-on-one time, very few babysitters, no daycare, and recently no public school either. We have one autistic child with ADHD and one typical child. Both raised the same. Autism is NOT caused by lack of care or lack of attention. Neither is ADHD. I agree ADHD may be over diagnosed, usually at the *school's* urging, not the parents. Raising a child with a disability is hard enough without people judging you and looking down on you without having any clue what your day is really like. I suggest you do more research into conditions before you judge others. We've researched and performed our own therapy for our son when the school and insurance wouldn't do it as they were supposed to do. This included sensory integration, fine motor skills, eye contact, social skills, behavioral therapy, increasing vocabulary (2.5 year speech and language delay), life skills, and impulse control/anger management. We've done our research, we've worked hard to improve our son's quality of life and move him towards independence and self-sufficiency. People who just assume we are 'bad parents' when our son has a meltdown in a crowded store, or after someone makes a comment about us being bad parents just aggravate the whole situation and make our lives that much more difficult. Please keep this in mind next time you see a child 'acting out' in public. Sometimes it's bad parenting, but sometimes it's a disabled child who doesn't "look" disabled, unless you are familiar with the disorder and know what to look *for*.

      November 14, 2010 at 20:23 | Report abuse |
  19. mechatronics

    ADHD...What a crock.

    November 14, 2010 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Robert Tudisco

    I am the Executive Director of the Edge Foundation and was quoted in the article. We are very excited about the results of this study. It clearly shows the impact that coaching has had on students with ADHD and also defines what coaching is. Coaching is definitely not a crutch, it is a means of empowering students to understand themselves enough to gravitate toward their strengths and navigate around their weaknesses. The goal of coaching is not to handhold or babysit these students but to have them develop ways that they can provide structure support and accountability on their own. For more information about coaching, Edge or the research study, click on http://www.edgefoundation.org .

    November 15, 2010 at 01:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. W Manning

    ADHD is real and while some drugs may help, it is challenge for both the parent and the child, and the school. These kids have high IQ's but do not respond to the normal reward stimulus. Left to free rein, life can be a struggle. But once out of high school and an adult, college can be very stressful as it does not have the confines of time and most often not the rigid schedule. But like ALL kids after high school graduation, it is time for parents to back off.

    This coaching program is excellent. While it recognizes the issue at hand, it offers that over the shoulder help that these college kids have grown weary of from parents and teachers throughout their life. It treats them like an adult yet continues to emphasize what it takes to keep them and their lives on track. ADHD does not go away and can continue to thwart their adult life, not only in academics and career, but marriage too. We chose not to medicate our son as we were afraid of side effects. He graduated from college last year after a 6 year struggle, alas to no jobs, and now is happily entrenched in grad school. Coping with ADHD, for both parent and child, is about acceptance of the issues at hand, and learning how to meet the everyday demands of the world around us. It is not an excuse, but a guideline for time management and follow through.

    November 15, 2010 at 07:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. writtenwordsjdb

    I'm pretty sure that "coach" sound a lot like the "parenting" kids are missing these days. Substitute the soda, sweets, video games and coddling and maybe you'd see the results you're looking for with these coaches. The over-diagnosed ADHD to excuse bad parenting is constantly being overplayed. This is B.S. Simply put. Raise your kids, be their coach, don't hire someone else to do it.

    November 15, 2010 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Jennifer

    More and more research is indicating that the brain can be changed, even in those with ADHD. I've been reading what Brain Balance – http://bra­inbalancec­enters.com – has to say about changing the brain. They contend certain exercises, activities, and behavioral modifications tailored to the individual can help rewire missed connections in the brain, leading to a reduction of symptoms for those with ADHD and even autism. If ADHD is a brain disease then why not start there? It's worth a read. It's brain based NOT drug based.

    November 15, 2010 at 15:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Roya

    ADHD has been around for ever, the only thing that has changed is the name!
    I am an ADHD coach who participated in the Edge study. There is no doubt in my mind that these students who were coached progressed in all aspects of their lives.
    I also specialize in parent coaching and parent education and I believe that parents play a big role in helping and improving their child's well being, however, I would not say that bad parenting is a cause for a kid being diagnosed with ADHD!
    After all what is good parenting for one could be a bad parenting for another one. No parent is perfect and no parenting method is perfect either. Each family is a differnet world and there are a lot of external factors involved too.We just have to try to be "good enough" parents!

    December 30, 2010 at 00:45 | Report abuse | Reply
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