I’m pretty sure that the common denominator between those of us who are undiagnosed ADHD adults is our love of coffee. Sure, there are a few of you out there who know it tastes like burnt, bitter beans. But for most of us, those beans create a magical brew that allows our brains to function. So what if we need to add a quarter cup of sugar and a half cup of milk to that cup of coffee? Our brains work! (Apologies to those of you who actually like the taste of coffee. I’m sure you also enjoy Brussel sprouts. Good for you.)
Coffee for me
Coffee became a mainstay of my diet shortly after my 3rd child was born. I was at a point in life where magic beans were the only hope I had of getting anything done. The number of messes my kids could make and the number of things that needed to be done was overwhelming. But the morning cup of coffee helped me focus. At the time, I had no clue I had symptoms of ADHD. I joked I had CIADD, Child Induced Attention Deficit Disorder. But 12 years later, I still get far more done with coffee than without it. Why? Let’s chat.
Stimulants, like caffeine, are the go-to prescription for those with ADHD. This is because the ADHD brain responds in a unique way to stimulants. It helps the pathways that we choose to focus on to work better, and it quiets all the other things in the brain. You can think of it as closing all the extra tabs that are open in your brain, allowing you to focus on the window you are working in, instead of jumping around every few minutes. It literally helps you get more done because your brain quits trying to randomly open other tabs.
Coffee as medicine
While medications help lots of people, there are also a lot of drawbacks and side effects to many of those medications. Lack of appetite alone can lead to malnourishment and many people report that they don’t feel like themselves on some ADHD medications. On the other hand, the drawbacks of a cup of coffee each day are far fewer and there may even be health benefits. Coffee also has the benefit of being something you can adjust for yourself. Is it a busy day and you need 2 cups? Are you feeling sensitive and only need a half cup? You can adjust this for yourself, unlike many medications.
Because of the benefits I have found with coffee, I have encouraged my ADHD kids to use coffee in their own lives.
Coffee helps with focus
I have one ADHD child who moves “at their own pace.” I mean they are slow. Not mentally slow, I mean they do everything slowly from eating to brushing their teeth. I think it is because their brain is just not fully participating in what they are supposed to be doing. They have 500 tabs open and are thinking about other things.
Do you have a child whose personal mascot would either be a turtle or a sloth? When my turtle child was about 11, we joined a co-op and had to get moving in the morning. I started giving that child a cup of coffee to help get them moving. It did help! So, we gradually introduced a daily cup of coffee before doing school work. It helped our school day go so much better! It was actually after this we got the ADHD diagnosis, and then things really clicked. We had stumbled into treating their ADHD with that cup of coffee.
So, when another of my kids got an ADHD diagnosis, we again went with using caffeine as a way to get them focused for school work. It helps, and I have no regrets. So, go ahead and judge me. I’ll be over here teaching my 12-year-old to make their own iced coffees. That way, they can choose how to manage their own ADHD symptoms and take control of how many tabs are open in their brain at once.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.