The Little Engine that Could is an illustrated children's book that was first published in 1930 by Platt & Munk. The story is used to teach children the value of hard work and believing in one's self.  What we know intuitively about positive thinking and effort has been proven to be true by researcher Lisa Blackwell, PhD in a study of struggling New York City high school students (Blackwell, 2007).  Two matched groups participated in an 8-session workshop on study skills, time-management techniques, and memory strategies.  One of the student groups had an additional session on the brain and how the students could make their intelligence grow.  They were told that the brain is like a muscle; with challenge and effort, new neural connections are formed that make them smarter.  The students were amazed to learn that intellectual growth was possible and in their control.  As a result of this knowledge alone (when compared with the control group), math grades improved and teachers noticed a marked change in motivation.

The message?

- Believe in your child's (and your own) ability to grow.
- Communicate the fact that effort and challenge make us smarter by building the brain just like exercise builds muscle.
- Provide effort or "process" praise (praise for engagement, perseverance, use of strategies, improvement, etc.) rather than praise for ability, talent, or intelligence alone, which has been shown to be demotivating (more on that in the future...)

When our engines believe that they can tackle a tough climb,  they will get there!
On Thursday, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, proclaiming six more weeks of winter.  No surprise.  On February 2, we all knew we would have lots more cold weather in our near future...

But something much more significant is happening today.  Today we have one more full hour of sunlight than we had on December 21, the shortest day of the year.  And for people who have the winter doldrums, this is cause for celebration.  People with ADHD have a higher incidence of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) than the general population.  Even without a diagnosis of SAD, many people with ADHD report an increased ability to function and uplifted spirits when the days grow longer.

The best way to minimize the effects of SAD is to establish preventive habits before the days are at their shortest.  By the first day of school in September, the day is already two hours shorter than it was on the summer solstice.  Early autumn is the best time to make plans to minimize the effects of increasingly reduced sunlight.  Some suggestions include a good bedtime routine, more exercising, more time outdoors, a lightbox, recommended supplements, relaxation techniques, time with friends, or a mid-winter trip to the tropics!

But today, no matter where you live, we have the gift of an extra hour of sunlight.  Enjoy!
Yesterday, on the occasion of my birthday, I googled myself.  Not a bad idea for someone who is very private, but will offer her opinion freely on any subject whether invited or not.  I remember one particularly spirited virtual debate with a high school classmate during the presidential campaign of 2008: I wondered if that dialog made it to the internet's public record of my life. 

Not to worry.  My permanent Google record includes this website, a public thank you from a dear friend; a smattering of memberships, publications, and legal documents; notice of my 91-year old mother's recent demise; and reference to my alterego, the Marvel Comics Universe superhero, Dr. Valerie (Val) Cooper, special advisor on national security issues including metahuman affairs.  She is basically responsible for keeping track of the universe's mutants.

So I got a chuckle on my birthday as well as some nice memories.  My privacy remains intact.  It's useful to see how the world sees us through our internet presence.  Try it yourself, but first think of how you view yourself and how you would like to be seen by others, and then google yourself or look at your Facebook page objectively.  You may not be a superhero like me, but you should be you!
A great way to start the new year helping young people with ADHD is to listen to Edward Hallowell, MD speak about his experiences with ADHD.  As founder of the renowned Hallowell Centers in New York and Boston and one of the foremost experts in ADHD, Dr. Hallowell has long debunked ADHD as a disorder.  He feels strongly that when effectively managed, having ADHD can be an asset in one's life.  He not only speaks from his vast professional experience, he speaks from the heart...

On 1/11, I went to a screening of ADD and Loving It! in New York.  After the film, Dr. Hallowell and his staff fielded questions from the engaged audience.  Dr. Hallowell talked about his own ADHD and said that it would have been impossible for him to have written 18 books without his ability to hyperfocus and block everything else out -- a hallmark of ADHD.  He said that his three children have ADHD, and he was very heartened by something that his youngest said after school just days before the screening. 

His son's teacher had asked members of the class to name the three personal attributes of which they are most proud.  "Easy," he said.  "I'm most proud of my athletic skill, my intelligence, and my ADHD!"  

 To read more of Dr. Hallowell's positive perspective on life with ADHD, visit his blog at
Your success and happiness lie in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.
- Helen Keller