Child Development Central

Practical, evidence-based information for parents and professionals.

Reframing ADHD

Compassionate ADHD care starts with fully understanding executive function.


For each area of executive functioning in your child, there is a reality: Does my child have these executive function skills, or don't they? Be curious, looking for patterns. As best you can, look objectively at your child's abilities in comparison to their peers.  Attributing ADHD traits to willfulness or assuming they will simply be outgrown increases your own stress, strains relationships, and may frustrate your child. It also doesn't usefully address the underlying problem.

Children with ADHD are as bewildered as the adults in their lives as to why things that are so easy for other kids come so hard to them. Like everyone else in the world they would like to be happy, at ease, and successful. They may begin to wonder, what's wrong with me?

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They often need an intense short-term safety net, a realignment of demands and commitments balanced with lots of structure to make sure they learn and keep up at home and at school. And then they benefit from a coherent, long-term plan to develop their abilities and coping strategies.

Understanding a child with ADHD, and optimally supporting and helping her, means understanding how executive functions relate to ADHD. In order to offer compassionate support, build confidence, and create a plan for the future, the first step parents take is to sort out the reality of underlying issues present in ADHD, including all the varied implications of executive function. By holding onto these basic facts, you can appropriately challenge your children to grow while building for long term success.

- Excerpted from "The Family ADHD Solution" by Mark Bertin M.D. Copyright © 2011 by the author and reprinted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

Mark Bertin, M.D.,is a developmental behavioral pediatrician, an assistant professor of pediatrics at New York Medical College, and the author of The Family ADHD Solution.

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