OCTOBER 17, 2019 BY EXAMINER MEDIA
You lose your keys almost every other day! You did the homework but forgot to hand it in - again! You started doing the laundry, but the phone rang and …. hours later, the laundry is still sitting there! You are securing new clients, but you’re not getting paid because you can’t get the paperwork done! You’ve got 5 creative projects started but you don’t know what to do first! Your kid can spend hours building a complicated Legos set but has a meltdown over a short homework assignment! You are busy all day, but you have accomplished nothing! You don’t like big parties because you just can’t follow the small talk.
That’s the ADHD – it is not an excuse, it’s an explanation.
What is it?
There are many ways to define ADHD. It could be called a challenge of executive function since the brain is inefficient in planning, organizing, remembering and self-regulating. These executive functions including impulse control and managing emotional reactions are controlled by the prefrontal cortex which is weaker in ADHDers. So, the ADHD brain is more emotional, wired for interest, lives in the now. Dr. Ned Hallowell, a leading authority on ADHD, says it’s like having a turbocharged race-car brain with bicycle breaks. Approximately 11% of children are now diagnosed with ADHD, 3 – 5% of teens and 4.4% of adults, according to the CDC. The numbers for teens and adults will increase since most don’t grow out of ADHD and are diagnosed later.
What is the impact?
Most importantly, there is not “one” version of ADHD; it manifests in different ways for each person and changes over time. For many, because they process differently than the standard rules required in schools and workplaces, they see more failure than success. There is a shortage of attention because the brain can’t tolerate being bored and will do anything for stimulation. Impulsivity (action without foresight) is what gets them into trouble as well as always questioning authority, questioning the rules, and frequently changing jobs. For most, the working memory is weak which causes the forgetfulness. Think of working memory as a 2x2” Post It stuck to your forehead for everything you need to remember now. For someone with ADHD, that Post It is the size of a small postage stamp with room for just one or two things to remember now.
What are the Superpowers?
Yes, superpowers! An ADHD brain is not defective nor is it slow or incapable of focusing. In fact, the brain goes much faster than other brains and is constantly taking in lots of different stimuli. Since the brain is wired for interest and can hyper focus this is when the magic can happen. People with ADHD are: imaginative, creative, spontaneous, young at heart, non-conformists, highly observant, excellent at brainstorming, authentic, unique, excellent in crisis due to their hyper focus, have quirky humor, embrace change, highly intuitive. Think about ER doctors, entrepreneurs, reporters, scientists, fire fighters, electricians, comedians, nurses - all positions that require thinking outside the box. These are filled with ADHDers!
What to do about it?
Have patience, give lots of love and be curious. Due to the now/not now brain, the lack of hindsight and foresight means mistakes will happen over and over. Assignments forgotten, laundry piling up, a promise not kept. It is not on purpose, please don’t get mad. Get curious. Think about the obstacles that prevented success. Help get to the “why” and build from there. In addition to medication, the solution for many is to work with a trained ADHD coach who will partner to help the person (child or adult) learn to confidently manage their attention, distractions and impulsivity. Most importantly, by reducing frustration and stress, and working from a positive strengths-based approach, a trained ADHD coach helps the person get to their true “who.”
What are some resources?
There are so many websites, podcasts and books that offer a wealth of insight, strategies and tools about living with ADHD. A few of my favorites are: Understood.org, Additudemag.com, Dr. Hallowell’s website and podcast: Distraction. Peter Shenkman’s podcast: Faster Than Normal, CHADD.org, ADD.org, The Child Mind Institute. Driven to Distraction by Hallowell, Square Peg by Tod Rose.
Don’t squash the ADHD mind, embrace it!
Emily Rubin Persons has become a trained ADHD coach and professional organizer. While researching and learning about ADHD for her son, she saw the great need for compassionate coaching to help others build skills to have a more balanced and successful life.