Teens with ADD: Transitioning to Adulthood

How to help your teenager with ADD make a smooth transition to an adulthood with greater responsibility,

Transition to Adulthood, Part 2

And don't forget about Mom and Dad. You may have forgotten that they can be your best resource. Tell your parents that you want to participate in your IEP meetings; ask them to teach you how to budget money, shop for groceries, and do laundry. As you acquire these skills, you won't need to depend on your parents as much, and they will certainly send you in the right direction.

Already in college and feeling a little lost? Don't rely on your academic advisor or the office of disabilities alone. Find a local therapist or a coach who specializes in working with students with ADD. The strategies you come up with together will be tailored to meet the demands of your current life.

4. Follow your heart to the right job or career

The old saying "follow your heart and the money will follow" is, for most people, a matter of career satisfaction. For ADDers, it is usually a matter of career survival. A strong personal interest in an activity or subject is critical to both focus and motivation. There is no such thing as the perfect ADD-friendly job or career. The right career for you is the one that you are passionate about. Discovering your passions needs to be your focus during this period of your life. If you need help identifying your areas of interest, vocational testing and career counseling can be very helpful.

5. Take care of your brain by taking care of your body

Remember all the advice your mother gave you about the benefits of exercise, sleep, and proper nutrition? Well, it turns out that she was right. A healthy lifestyle makes a significant difference in attention, concentration, memory, irritability, and mood control - all of which are directly affected by ADD.

  • Exercise: Regular, sustained aerobic exercise is the most effective natural way to raise levels of dopamine and the other brain neurotransmitters that improve your mood and ability to focus.
  • Sleep: More than 70 percent of ADD adults over age 30 report problems falling asleep and staying asleep - another good reason to develop a healthy sleep routine now. Go to bed at the same time each night and try to get at least eight hours of sleep to avoid aggravating your ADD symptoms.
  • Nutrition: Inadequate nutrition, including low blood-sugar levels caused by skipping meals, impairs concentration and other aspects of functioning that are already affected by ADD.

A note of caution: Adults with untreated ADD are at greater risk for substance abuse and addiction than adults without ADD. Studies indicate that the rate of substance abuse among the untreated adult ADD population is roughly twice as high as in the non-ADD population. The levels of abuse in the treated ADD population and the non-ADD population, however, are about the same. Remember that the perceived "benefits" of self-medicating with recreational drugs never come close to the benefits provided by medication used in the course of proper medical care.

6. On the river of life, be a boat - not a log

People with ADD tend to live in the here and now, caught up in whatever captures their interest at a given point in time. Having a vision for the future and an understanding that your life's course is the result of your own actions is critical. Now is the time to start thinking about the life you want to lead down the road. Planning doesn't come naturally to any of us, so no one expects you to have a detailed, 10-year plan in place by high school graduation. But you'll find that planning for the future, even by establishing short-term goals, is worth the effort. Setting goals will ideally lead to a long-term plan - and to living a fulfilling life and accomplishing the things we want to accomplish.

It doesn't matter if you change your mind later about some of your plans, or even change the direction you want to go in. In fact, you should expect to have some shifts in interests along the way. Think about it this way: As you plunge into the river of life, be a boat, not a log. As a log, all you can do is float where the current takes you. As a boat, you can drift if you want to, but you have the ability to direct your course when you know where you want to go.

Here's the key for ADDers: Our passions often help us set and achieve our goals. Understanding what interests you, what you love, and what you value in life, may provide the direction and the motivation necessary to commit to a goal and stay focused on it until you achieve it. Take time to think about what you really enjoy, set your sights, and, above all, believe in yourself.

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