How Speech Therapy Can Help Adults with ADHD

Living with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as an adult can present challenges in your day-to-day life. From juggling work responsibilities to managing relationships and staying organized, ADHD can make some aspects of life more complex. But you’re not alone. Many adults face similar hurdles, and there are ways you can learn to manage your symptoms and thrive. 

Understanding ADHD and exploring strategies for success can lead to a more fulfilling and balanced life. Let’s dive into what ADHD looks like in adults and how you can empower yourself with helpful tools and support, such as speech therapy.

What is ADHD? 

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects many adults. The behaviors and traits associated with ADHD are typically the result of the brain developing differently during key stages before birth or as a young child. ADHD begins in childhood and can continue into the teen years and adulthood.

In adults, ADHD can look like a persistent pattern of hyperactivity, difficulty focusing, and impulsive behavior. These symptoms can affect many aspects of daily life, including your job, relationships, and daily tasks. 

It’s important to note that ADHD also comes with many strengths. People with ADHD report that qualities such as hyperfocus, resilience, creativity, high energy, and strong conversational skills benefit them at school, at work, and in social situations.

What are the symptoms of ADHD in adults?

Some people with ADHD struggle with inattention. Other people mainly deal with symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity. Some people have both. Let’s take a look at some of the ADHD symptoms that fall under each category. 

Symptoms of inattention in adults:

  • Difficulty focusing on details, or making seemingly careless mistakes at work

  • Struggling to stay focused on lengthy tasks like preparing reports or reviewing documents

  • Difficulty listening closely when someone speaks to you

  • Challenges with following directions and completing tasks at work

  • Difficulty organizing tasks, managing your time, and staying on schedule

  • Being easily distracted, either by your thoughts or by things around you, making it hard to focus

  • Forgetting to pay bills, keep appointments, or return phone calls or messages

Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity in adults:

  • Feeling restless or needing to constantly move (can’t sit still for long periods)

  • Fidgeting with hands or feet

  • Talking a lot and having difficulty doing quiet activities

  • Impulsively answering questions before they are fully asked

  • Impatience when waiting for your turn, such as when standing in line

  • Intruding on conversations or interrupting others while they speak

How is ADHD diagnosed in adults?

Understanding the signs and symptoms of ADHD is crucial for the right diagnosis and treatment. But ADHD in adults can be hard to recognize, even if it’s significantly impacting a person’s daily life. People with ADHD may have a hard time getting organized, keeping a job, or remembering appointments. They may struggle with daily tasks such as waking up in the morning, preparing for work, and staying productive. Although they may have the skills and knowledge to excel at school or on the job, these adults may have a history of challenges in these areas. They may not realize these challenges are due to ADHD. 

ADHD is diagnosed through a comprehensive assessment by a healthcare professional such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.  Sometimes, a person may not be diagnosed until adulthood because their condition was not recognized earlier. Perhaps their symptoms were mild, or they managed well until the increased demands of adulthood, such as in college or the workplace.

How can speech therapy help adults with ADHD?

It’s never too late to seek a diagnosis and treatment for ADHD and any related mental health conditions. The right treatment can improve day-to-day life for adults and their families. Treatment options may include medications, cognitive-behavioral therapy, lifestyle changes, and speech therapy.

Speech-language pathologists (also known as speech therapists) support adults with ADHD by treating cognitive-communication or executive function issues that arise from attention problems.  

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, executive function is a term used to describe a group of cognitive processes that are interrelated. That means they work together to help us plan, organize, make decisions, perform tasks, control our emotions, and communicate with others.

It’s important to understand the unique ways your ADHD brain works so you can figure out which strategies to use in your daily life. 

Put shortly, executive function skills are how we think about, process, and control our behaviors. They include our ability to:

  • Manage our time

  • Pay attention

  • Regulate our emotions and behaviors

  • Plan, organize, and prioritize tasks

  • Stay focused and follow projects through to completion

  • Empathize and understand different points of view

  • Solve problems

  • Multitask

  • Have a strong working memory

Speech therapists can screen, assess, and treat people with executive function deficits. Therapy typically includes a combination of approaches. The speech therapist can directly treat the executive function problem, while also teaching the person strategies to help them succeed in their home, work, and community. The goals of speech therapy are tailored to the individual needs of each person.

It’s important to understand the unique ways your ADHD brain works so you can figure out which strategies and tools can help you in your daily life. Those strategies might include breaking big projects into smaller chunks, following written directions, making changes in your home environment, and using visual aids. Your speech therapist can introduce you to a variety of strategies, guide you in determining which ones help the most, and then help you make them part of your daily life. With the right support and a plan, you can thrive with ADHD!

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