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ADHD and ADHD Treatment: Does My Child Suffer from ADHD?

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. An estimated 11% (around 6.4 million) of children ages 4-17 in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011, and many continue to suffer from ADHD into adulthood. ADHD manifests in many negative ways involving school performance, friendships and behavior at home, but if diagnosed properly it is manageable through ADHD treatment.

There are three types of ADHD:

  • Inattentive ADHD (formerly known as ADD)
  • Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD
  • Combined ADHD

The Symptoms of ADHD

Symptoms of ADHD develop over a period of time and must persist for at least six months to the point of being disruptive or inappropriate for the individual’s developmental level. The broad symptoms are:

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity or restlessness
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Impulsivity

Any of these symptoms on their own, or in combination, may indicate ADHD. Impulsiveness and hyperactivity are often noticed first, but that may be because the child that is talkative or exhibits extrovert behavior is often noticed before the “inattentive daydreamer.” Indicators vary from child to child depending on the environment they are in—and what that environment demands of them.

Symptoms of ADHD are exhibited in most children or young adults at some point, so it is important to remember that just because a child may exhibit these symptoms from time to time does not mean that they have ADHD. Exhibiting these symptoms over an extended period of time is an indicator that they may suffer from ADHD, but there are other potential causes of this behaviour. 

Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD

Hyperactive children are always “on the go” and continuously talk. Sitting still or being quiet can be difficult. Those who suffer from this type of ADHD are internally restless, often feeling the need to keep busy and do many things at once.  Hyperactive symptoms are often present at an early age.

Impulsive children cannot control immediate actions or reactions. They often do not “think before they speak” and show emotions without restraint. Those who suffer from this type of ADHD often act without a consideration of consequences. As an impulsive young adult a person may choose to engage in activities that offer instant rewards, rather than spending time with a more difficult but rewarding task. 

Indicators of hyperactivity-impulsivity:

  • Feeling restless, fidgeting, squirming
  • Inability to sit still
  • Talking excessively and out of turn
  • Difficulty in playing quietly or engaging in quiet leisure activities

Inattentive ADHD

Children diagnosed with this type of ADHD have trouble focusing on any one task and may get bored with that task after only a few minutes, especially if it is new. They often have trouble organizing multiple steps or completing the job. These children have a significant problem paying attention and are regularly forgetful. They may process information more slowly and less accurately than other children. Children with this type are often better at socializing than those with Hyperactivity-Impulsiveness ADHD and may appear to be “quiet workers” which can make identifying the disorder difficult.

Indicators of inattention:

  • Inability to sustain attention on activities
  • Lacking attention to detail and making multiple mistakes
  • Becoming easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds
  • Inability to follow instructions
  • Does not finish tasks like chores or homework
  • Losing or forgetting things
  • Not appearing to listen when spoken to directly
  • Avoiding mental tasks that require concentration
  • Disorganized work habits

Labelling and Misdiagnosing ADHD

A child that suffers from ADHD may experience labelling as a result of his or her behaviour. For example, an impulsive child may be labeled a “discipline problem” or the “class clown”. A passive child may be described as “unmotivated,” “careless” or “spacey.” These labels can have a negative affect on a child’s self-image and self-worth.

Labelling a child with ADHD may also have a negative impact by covering up a different, more significant problem—such as drug abuse. There are symptoms common to a number of disorders and proper diagnosis is essential to a healthy future. 

ADHD Treatment

The goal is to teach the child how to manage ADHD in a healthy and positive way so that it does not carry forward into adulthood. Wilderness Therapy provides a calming setting in which to teach participants behaviours, values and good habits that can make ADHD more manageable and less destructive. Holistic nutrition, meditation and physical activity are all components to a wilderness therapy program and have all been shown to have positive effects on managing ADHD. Often times, when participants embrace these components they no longer exhibit the symptoms associated with the disorder.

For information on ADHD, and suggested ADHD Treatment, call Rites of Passage at (800)794-0980 to learn how our programs can help.

Why Wilderness Therapy is so Fast and Effective

Wilderness therapy differs drastically from traditional therapeutic methods. The intensity and challenges of a wilderness therapy program results in major changes in participants over a relatively short period of time.

How are these approaches different?

Traditional therapy typically happens in an office setting. After an initial consultation, therapy is continued with regularly scheduled appointments—generally 45 minutes to one hour. Therapy happens in an isolated context following a particular modality of treatment (cognitive behavioral therapy being just one type) prescribed to address anything from depression, family issues, or a number of other mental illnesses.

The core therapeutic tool used in wilderness therapy is nature, allowing staff to step back from the traditional position of authority and let the challenges of nature drive the program. Wilderness therapy is multifaceted in its approach. Generally combining a number of treatment modalities (CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy, experiential learning, holistic nutrition, mediation, etc), wilderness therapy is a more intensive type of treatment. The setting alone sets it apart from other kinds of treatment programs. Therapy happens in nature, and this alone can be challenging for some. Participants meet with therapists once a week, but the therapist generally spends 24 hours with the participants, which includes both individual time plus a group session. During these weekly sessions, participants are restocked with food and receive needed items and letters from home. Re-supply and therapy happen at the same time, allowing for a fresh perspective to meet the new challenges that will be faced in the upcoming week.

Why is wilderness therapy a more effective treatment?

Positive changes happen faster and more profoundly in this type of setting.

The peacefulness and the lack of stimulus that comes with nature provide the key location for participants to reflect and adapt. The complete removal from a former negative situation is one of the key factors in the effectiveness of these programs. Participants are out of their comfort zone, they are uncomfortable and they are forced to confront their issues. Because there are no distractions such as friends, school and technology, participants are more open to doing the work. They have also never been challenged to the extent that they are in wilderness therapy, and as a result participants are more accessible emotionally. They are raw, vulnerable and more willing to participate in individual and group therapy. Strong relationships are formed quickly, with both staff and peers, which promotes deeper and more meaningful self-reflection.

When participants return home they are much more likely to continue on the positive path that they developed in wilderness therapy. Aftercare may include community therapy sessions in a traditional setting, but there is no substitute to the profound effect that wilderness therapy has on its participants while they are in the program. In just a few short weeks a person’s entire character can be transformed.

Why ‘Rites of Passage’ & Wilderness Therapy Matter So Much

Long Term Drug Treatment Program In Washington State

‘Traditional societies know what we are rediscovering - marking the significant passages of our life brings focus to the journey ... and a realization that life is not one continuum but a series of meaningful steps.” - Stan Crow, 1939 - 2009

What is a “coming of age” moment, or a rite of passage?

A rite of passage is a ceremony, ritual or set of activities that marks the transition from one phase of life to another. It also encompasses the activities that help the process takes place. ‘Rite of passage’ may also refer to the process of change an individual goes through while moving from one stage or role in life to another. They define the roles and responsibilities that are to be taken on. A rite of passage formalizes the process of moving from childhood to adolescence to adulthood—in other words, growing up.

Why are rites of passage important?

A rite of passage is important because it is an event that marks a transition into a new phase of life. Habitual patterns do not change on their own. Something needs to happen to spark the change. Roles and responsibilities are not automatically defined. There has to be a marked event. This is why a rite of passage is especially important during the rehab stages of high-risk youth. 

In initiation rites, roles are defined and redefined and help carve out a place in the world for the individual. In contemporary North American life, the tradition of intentional rites of passage is all but lost, often leaving youth to initiate themselves. When youth are left without a conscious marking and exploration of life transitions, they have difficulty creating positive change and growth in their own lives, not to mention taking that positive change into the world around them. Providing rite of passage experiences strengthens individuals, families and communities as a whole. The individual learns what it means to be a responsible community member while exploring unique, personal gifts that can be used to serve themselves as well as others.

How is wilderness therapy a rite of passage?

Wilderness therapy is an intense program that aims to transition participants from adolescence into adulthood. It provides participants with challenges in a safe and appropriate way, facilitating an environment for someone to have that “self-discovery”. Parents cannot always provide the environment or the tools to facilitate a positive transition. Wilderness therapy allows for: the removal from one’s normal environment, stillness and quiet, self-reflection, physical activity and routine. In an unfamiliar environment, participants must become self-reliant. They can explore new ways to overcoming current and future obstacles. 

Participants leave wilderness therapy with:

  • Self-awareness
  • Maturity and self-reliance
  • A desire to engage in family and community life
  • The ability to manage stressful situations
  • The aspiration to make correct choices 

The most important take-away from wilderness therapy is that participants leave with a positive direction in life.  Individuals are better able to foster meaningful relationships with friends and family when they return home. Academic performance improves, physical and social activity becomes important and employment is taken seriously. Participants of a wilderness therapy program graduate with the ability to self manage their lives in a mature and responsible way.

Drug Rehab Treatment Clinic Alternative

Do Drug Rehab Clinics Actually Make Drugs Look ‘Cool?’

It is widely acknowledged that acceptance in peer groups is a powerful force during adolescence. These groups provide an important developmental point of reference through which adolescents gain insight into the world outside of their families. Peers are influential and inspiring—in both positive and negative directions. Success of the peer group approach in a rehabilitation setting depends on the context under which it is employed. Drug rehab clinics, while they seem effective, can have drawbacks as well.

Drawbacks of a Clinical Setting

One concern of a clinical rehab setting is that it surrounds addicts with other addicts.  In such a setting youth see their peers as other drug users. They can glamorize and validate the behaviour. There is a natural tendency to want to fit in and identify with peers—other addicts who share a similar experience. Upon completing a clinical program, most adolescents find themselves engaging in the same damaging activities. This is due to a combination of the peer dynamic reinforced in rehab as well as returning to familiar and destructive peer situations.

Advantages of Wilderness Therapy

The positive influences of peer dynamics in wilderness therapy are manifested in many ways. Under this approach, each person has a different issue and is thereby exposed to different challenges. What bonds participants is their accomplishment of challenging daily activities and their transition into self-reliant adulthood, not the problems that they each have.

An important part of a wilderness therapy program is the strategic conversation. Participants are only allowed to talk during group discussion or with their therapist/leader. Group discussion centers on predetermined topics that participants have had to reflect on during the day. This allows for honest and productive conversation that is not centered on someone’s problem. Instead, discussion will focus on self-realizations that everyone can learn from.

In some programs, once it is established a participant can be accountable to himself, he then becomes accountable to others as a peer mentor. A peer mentor is a positive contributor to the peer dynamic of wilderness therapy. Peer mentoring is exercised in varying degrees from behaviour modelling to direct peer interaction and involvement. 

Approaching the peer-dynamic in this way results in the re-structuring of both thought and behaviour patterns that are likely to carry forward upon returning to a normal living situation. Those who complete the program make better choices, are less co-dependent and actively choose a positive path for themselves.

For more information about the advantages of wilderness therapy over drug rehab clinics, contact Rites of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980.

When Tech Replaces Values, How Wilderness Therapy Can Help

We have all become reliant on technology in our daily lives, to some extent. For a troubled teen the reliance can be even more detrimental. Online persona often becomes more important to a teen than how she is perceived in her actual life. It is especially difficult for a teen to become “unplugged” from reality if she’s never been forced to unplug from the technology. For this reason, there are many benefits wilderness therapy can provide in this regard.

The effects of too much technology include:

  • Poor health and diet
  • Reduced physical fitness
  • Family values no longer important
  • Disconnected emotionally
  • Decreased personal interaction
  • Withdrawal from extracurricular activities
  • Depression
  • Poor academics
  • Development of a narcissistic personality
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Video game addiction

The overuse of technology can result in a variety of mental, physical and social problems.

A strong reliance on technology generally comes with the withdrawal from social interactions. Social skills are not developed and individuals can become self-involved and introverted. In the most serious cases, an overuse of technology can lead to a substance abuse problem or an addiction to gaming. An advantage to wilderness therapy in addressing these issues is that there is no technology in nature. Participants are made to engage in the behaviors that technology hinders, such as social interaction and physical activities. 

Wilderness Therapy is about re-prioritizing one’s values in life. Without the crutch of technology, participants are forced to address core issues. Importance is placed on having participants look at their overall direction in life and figure out how they want to proceed into the future. They leave being able to manage their technology use in a healthy and responsible way. 

Wilderness therapy begins by removing all of the negative items the child wouldn’t go thought before (cell phone, internet, social media). It then addresses problems in a way that a clinical setting cannot. When completely removed from familiar and habitual situations a person does not have the means to continue destructive behaviors. For instance, they cannot meet up with their friends online to chat and check a Facebook page. This type of program strips away the false ideological ideas of what is important in life, and what comes to the surface is a re-prioritization of values.

What do participants of wilderness therapy leave with?

  • Realization that family is the most important thing
  • Desire and ability to make good decisions
  • Fostered independence
  • Self-reliance
  • Social and team skills
  • Willingness to make big changes back home

Children and Young adults are not faced with the same challenges as their parents and grandparents. There are very different inputs than those of the past, and, in many cases, these inputs do not promote the family structure. No doubt technology enriches and makes our daily lives easier, but spending too much time with technology is actually doing more harm than good. Wilderness therapy facilitates the removal of a person’s dependence on technology and allows them to evaluate current values and goals.

Experiential Education: Learn by Doing in Wilderness Therapy Programs

Experiential education is one of the original philosophies behind wilderness therapy programs.  Experiential education is, most simply, learning through experience. It’s easy to see how wilderness therapy and experiential education go hand in hand, as wilderness therapy requires that participants engage on a very practical level. Also, positive results tend to happen at a faster rate. When participants in the program find themselves in the unfamiliar setting of the wilderness, without the comforts of home, it pushes them to confront and take responsibility for the issues that have bought them there.

For many, the wilderness setting is a new, and unfamiliar environment that is well out of the comfort zone. From a therapeutic approach, this is beneficial. Experiential education involves the concept of “perceived risk”, which refers to an individual’s perception that a certain activity or situation poses a potential danger or threat to them. For instance, a person may feel afraid to rock climb because it feels as if there is the potential to fall when in reality there are harnesses and secure nets in place for safety. The wilderness therapy environment provides guidance and safe boundaries for participants to overcome seemingly risky or frightening experiences, forcing them to confront fears and personal hang-ups in order to move past them.

Wilderness therapy fosters the setting where an individual can truly evolve.

Personal growth and development comes from putting oneself outside of what feels comfortable. Perspective is gained from unfamiliar situations and personal realizations are made. If someone is required to do something that they have never done before—to set up camp for the night or cook a meal for the whole group—and they accomplish the task, they in turn learn what they are capable of. In wilderness therapy, individuals learn by adapting, and in doing so learn something that can translate to their lives when they return home. If a person can learn to cope with the challenges that they face in wilderness therapy, it is likely that they can cope with the challenges they will face in daily life.

The benefits of experiential education in a wilderness therapy setting:

  • The wilderness setting supports reflection and critical personal analysis.
  • Individuals are required to take responsibility for themselves, make decisions and are held accountable for their actions.
  • Participants develop the ability to handle challenges when they go home.
  • Wilderness therapy stimulates mental and physical activity.
  • Relationships between participants and staff are nurtured and developed.
  • The process of experiential learning provides a foundation for future experiences.
  • Personal values are reflected upon.

Wilderness therapy programs provide a safe and regulated environment for participants to have an experience that can profoundly impact their lives. What is learned from the experience can be taken home and applied to day-to-day life so that an individual has the skills and tools to handle formerly challenging situations in a mature and positive way.

Rites of Passage Wilderness