Panelists teach SJS parents about ADHD in children


Fareen Dhuka

Evan Weinberger, who was diagnosed with ADHD, sets his wallet on fire to demonstrate his constant need for new events to take place. Weinberger was one of three panelists who spoke to parents about ADHD in adolescents.

Fareen Dhuka, Online Section Editor

One morning, while Evan Weinberger was out of town, police raided his apartment after an alarm went off inside. It wasn’t his security alarm that caused a sound with the same decibel level as a 747 aircraft — it was his morning alarm clock that he forgot to disengage.

Weinberger, one of three panelists who spoke to SJS parents on Nov. 6, was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age. As a result of his condition, Weinberger bought the Sonic Boom, a special alarm clock typically used by those with impaired hearing.

“It is a common misconception that kids with ADHD have selective hearing [when] actually, they hear everything,” Weinberger said. “The problem is [they’re] overstimulated, and it’s really hard to hone in on the stimulus that needs [their] focus.”

Weinberger informed parents about ADHD, overstimulation from technology and stress in children as president of Staying Ahead of the Game, an academic coaching company that offers unique services to students, including those with learning differences. Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Alain Katic spoke about early symptoms used to diagnose ADHD, while Clinical Psychologist Kymn Harrison discussed how brain structure relates to attention span and distractions.

According to Katic, although ADHD is the most common psychiatric disorder in children — about five to 10 percent of the population can potentially have it, there is no one test to diagnose it. Instead, a checklist with 18 symptoms — nine inattentive and nine hyper/impulsive — is used to determine whether or not a patient has the disorder. In order to meet criteria for an ADHD diagnosis, Katic says they must have at least six or more symptoms across the categories.

“These symptoms occur across environments,” Katic said. “It’s not that they’re simply having trouble at school; they’re having similar issues — although there may be a slight variation — at home.”

It can be difficult to diagnose children with more subtle symptoms. According to Katic, they are often able to keep up with school and their workload until they suddenly begin to struggle.

“It’s not as if their symptoms simply show themselves at that point — it’s really something that has been there all along,” he said. “In essence, the demands have outrun their abilities.”

Harrison also said that many kids and teens, both with and without ADHD, have difficulty staying organized, managing emotions and keeping up with school work.

The human brain is designed to multitask, but there are limits to this capability. Certain activities including studying are best accomplished when focusing on one thing at a time. This has become increasingly difficult due to multiple distractions such as cell phones, pop-up screens and other forms of instant communication. Harrison explained that even apps such as Snapchat and Instagram are constantly requiring the instant attention of teens, as their names suggest, yet these aren’t the only factors causing stress.

“One of the things we see contributing to the issues of stress is the need for perfectionism in our kids and teens it’s so out of control,” she said.

Skills used by the brain to assimilate complex and multiple layers of thought are called executive functions, and, according to Harrison, they develop at varying paces during the school years. These functions can be disrupted by intellectual overload, emotional issues such as depression or anxiety and excessive electronic usage.

Nine Executive Functions

  1. Time management
  2. Initiating
  3. Planning and organizing
  4. Thinking/problem solving
  5. Working memory/cognitive flexibility
  6. Organization of materials
  7. Shifting from task to task
  8. Emotion regulation
  9. Behavior regulation

Parents at the panel asked the speakers questions after their presentations, and many were pleased with the School’s involvement in the well-being of its students.

“These people are part of the [Wellness Team] that we’ve been with, and I really can’t speak highly enough, not just about the program tonight but about St. John’s at every level and how they support kids who have learning differences,” one parent said.

The panel members also recommended ways for concerned individuals to seek help, whether by reaching out to a professional consultant or finding alternative ways to destress. Weinberger added that routines can aid in their overall consistency in day to day activities.

“One of the things I try to tell kids is that balance in life is always the best path,” he said. “Try to change the routine of your day-to-day activities, and of course, don’t be afraid to ask for help.”