David Versus ADHD

With the help of an ADHD coach, 16-year-old David Webber turned his plummeting grades around and improved his school life.

David Versus ADHD

Jodi: David wouldn't get up from his chair until his homework was done. I asked him to take 10-minute breaks every 30 minutes, so he could stretch or grab a snack. He got a dollar for each day he took breaks during homework time.

David: I would lose focus when I'd work straight through. Sometimes, I'd forget to put my finished work in my bag, or I wouldn't finish at all.

Jodi: The large goals were As and Bs on his final report card, but it was the bite-sized goals along the way that helped him achieve those grades. David was great about checking in with me. When he didn't take breaks, he'd tell me so, and we'd discuss whether that choice had been good for him. By his sophomore year, he decided he didn't need the reward system any more.

David: I wasn't always able to motivate myself without Jodi's help. A few times, I tried to make her think everything was OK—even though it wasn't. I wanted to succeed, but I didn't want to work hard enough to achieve success.

Jodi: In his freshman year, David did well with his interim grades, but he wound up with Cs or Ds for final grades. I asked him to explain it, and he said, "You know how I said everything was fine? Well, I forgot to turn in something." David let things slide and then covered it up. He can be charming, and I believed him when he said he had everything under control. And maybe he thought he did. But his parents told me otherwise. I said, "David, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you need to get back to the plan."

I had David ask his teachers for a grade sheet that charted what he had turned in and what was missing. This tool allowed us to catch his slipups quickly. I didn't blame him for slipups, but told him to see them as learning experiences.

Ginger: David had his ups and downs. He'd work hard, then he'd let things slide. He'd go back to the contracts he'd agreed to with Jodi, and he'd do well again. David didn't understand that he would probably have to use the skills he was learning throughout his life.

Nancy: When I began tutoring David, we ate up a lot of time looking around for the assignment or materials and then figuring out what the teacher wanted him to do. As the year went on, he spent less time shuffling through papers, and we spent less time figuring out what he had to do. He was more on top of things. By the second year, David would be ready to start when I arrived.

Jodi: David's parents could have micromanaged their son's academic career, but they saw his need for independence. David is self-motivated. When a family comes to meet with me, the student has to want to be coached. I was surprised and heartened by David's enthusiasm for school.

David learned to follow the plan without me, so we stopped working together during the winter of his sophomore year. He checks in with me from time to time, when he has a lapse or needs to tweak the plan.

David: My parents were on my back from the middle of seventh grade to the middle of ninth grade. They looked over my assignments, made me stick to their plan, checked my homework. It became annoying, and we had a couple of big fights over it. Jodi stressed independence, and I knew that's what I wanted, but I wasn't able to achieve it right away.

Ginger: Today, David is the point person with his teachers. Martin and I go in with him to talk with the guidance counselor, but David talks with teachers. They see that he wants to help himself.

David: Two weeks before school starts, I e-mail my teachers, tell them about my 504 Plan, and ask them for help. If I don't hear back, I talk with them at the start of school. Teachers are impressed when kids ask for help. This year, I'm taking classes I want to take, including physics and advanced placement classes—in English and U.S. history.

Ginger: I admire David for what he has accomplished. It's hard to fix something about yourself when it isn't your fault.

David: I'm not perfect. I occasionally avoid things I don't want to do, although I have more self-control, thanks to the coaching and medication. And I haven't fought with my parents about schoolwork for a long time. It's important for me to have a good relationship with my parents. Like any kid, I get annoyed at them sometimes. But I know they are always there for me.

Patricia Berry is a freelance writer based in Montclair, New Jersey. She has written for many top consumer magazines.

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