Medication and Executive Function

ADHD, Ritalin, and Executive Functions

This week there was an opinion piece in the New York Times (January 29, 2012) “Ritalin Gone Wrong” by Alan Sroufe, PhD.

This article set off a flurry of concerns among professionals and parents, pushing the hot-button topic of medicating children for ADHD. The very next day the New York Times ran a rebuttal point of view and my inbox held a response by Edward Hallowell, MD, a best-selling author on ADHD and an expert on attention deficit disorder.

Pills for executive functionStepping aside from the long term value of medications, I found it interesting that both authors seemed to be agreeing that medication doesn’t “fix” having ADHD. No one I know believes that it does. Its purpose is to enable the brain of an ADHD person to “pause” long enough to control impulsive behavior. That pause makes it possible for them to make wise behavior choices, make good time management decisions, focus, and reach goals, IF they have some guidance.

When you blow away all of the smoke, what you end up with is people talking about executive functions. I know from my work teaching Seeing My Time, that some of my clients do indeed need medication. They find it very helpful, if not critical in maintaining balanced lives.

However, in terms of truly changing behavior and thus their lives, people need to be educated about their executive functions. They must be taught specific external strategies along with the use of external tools to compensate for what their ADHD brain lacks. That is whole point of Teaching Seeing My Time. It is honest help for students and adults who are struggling, especially those with ADHD. It doesn’t “fix” them either, but improved self-awareness and understanding brings about the hope for real improvement in their lives.

Being able to help these folks, whether on medication or not, is one of the joys of my work.

About the Author Marydee Sklar

Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program®. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.

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