If You Don’t Know The Basic Science Behind ADHD, You Need to Learn It

When I do an initial intake with a new client, one of the questions I ask is “What would you like to learn about your ADHD?”  It’s a pretty broad question, and most responses center around wanting to learn how to be more productive, or how to organize their lives.

At that point, I ask, “How much do you know about the brain science behind your ADHD?”

The majority say they don’t know anything, or very little. The word dopamine is bandied about a bit. And most surprisingly, when I ask if they would like to know more, most say, “I don’t really need to.”

Oh, but you do. You really, really do.

I’m not talking about becoming a neuropsychologist, or obtaining the knowledge that your psychiatrist has. But having a basic understanding of what physically makes your brain different, and how that impacts your life, is, in my opinion, essential. 

First, it is vital to understand that there are physical differences between the ADHD brain and the neurotypical brain. It is not being lazy, or dumb, or anything behavioral. Comprehending that concept opens up an entire world for those of you who have been chastising yourselves about not trying harder. Or just not getting over it.

Would you berate yourself because you haven’t tried harder to see better, if you are a glasses wearer? Of course not. And just because this is a brain related disorder does not make it any less physical.

Repeat that to yourself a few times.

Secondly, I’m not sure how one can make a well informed decision about symptom management if they don’t understand what is causing the symptoms to begin with.

Let’s take an example from my running life. Let’s say I have a pain in my knee. In order to decide how to handle that, (Rest? Ice? New running shoes? Surgery?) I need to understand what may have happened that resulted in this pain before I can decide what I need to do next.

With ADHD, having a working comprehension of what is causing symptoms can help us to make solid treatment decisions. Knowing that my brain has lower dopamine might lead me to use medication to offset that. Understanding that the areas of my brain that control my emotional responses are different than those belonging to neurotypicals might convince me to try meditation to help with regulating my responses.

Deciding on one’s symptom management without having a basic understanding of what is causing the symptoms is like wearing a bikini on a sunny day…in February. You just don’t have all the facts to make an informed decision.

Finally, having a basic working knowledge of how your brain is different enables you to set up your life in ways that support you.

Dopamine low? Let’s make things more fun to get us going! Executive functions negatively impacted? Maybe an accountability buddy or group can help keep us on track. Fight or flight activated quickly? Perhaps I need to let my significant other know this can happen.

I don’t mean to imply that the ADHD brain is wrong, or broken, or just not effective. Not at all. But it IS different. And providing yourself with that knowledge is a gift of self awareness, and part of the ADHD toolbox for living your best life.

The Pandemic DID Happen. And It’s Still Affecting Your ADHD Kid.

Today is February 29 – Leap Year Day. Since this is a once-every-four-years event, it is natural to look back to four years earlier, and think “what was I doing last Leap Year Day?”

But what we were doing is lost in the significance of what we were about to do. Because two weeks later, our worlds just shut down here in the United States. COVID-19 had come to our shores.

So while I can’t tell you how I spent February 29, 2020, I can tell you that on March 13, 2020, I taught in a classroom for the very last time. We celebrated Pi Day-my colleague and I opting out of serving pie, out of “an abundance of caution.” We left school, with the thought that we’d be back in a few weeks.

Crazy how wrong that was.

But why am I talking about this? Why dwell on what has been the worst collective event that many of us will ever experience? Why not just put it in the past, and move forward into the sunshine?

Because it did happen, even if we want to pretend it didn’t. And the impacts are still being felt among all children today. Even more so for ADHD kids. 

We all know there was substantial learning loss during the pandemic. Online education was something for which teachers weren’t prepared, to which students had difficulty relating (and frequent technological issues), and for which parents had no time-it’s pretty tough to do your job from home, while monitoring whether your kid is actually paying attention to the teacher on the screen. Additionally, many students were tasked with caring for younger siblings while their parents worked in the next room-so getting online wasn’t always possible. It is estimated that academically, students lost the equivalent of 35% of a school year during the pandemic.

However, the learning loss is just a part of this. Let’s talk about the loss in interactions, and the resulting social skills impacted. Not to mention the subsequent mental health challenges children and teens faced. And let’s not forget-people were sick. Very sick. People were dying. Many of our young people were dealing with the loss of loved ones, and the fear that others might be next. 

Familiar routines were upended-and that’s an understatement. Day care centers were closed, grandparents isolated, playdates not allowed. According to The Economist, “The pandemic’s indirect effects on small children could last a lifetime.”¹ Think about it-if a child is 9 now, this hit when they were 5, which is just when kids are learning to be people without their parents telling them how. If a child is 18, they were 14 then, exactly at that middle school point where kids are trying out independence with the safety net of their parents in the background. 

The impact on maturity is seen by teachers daily-and while not unexpected, it is certainly alarming.

And how did ADHD kids fare? In a meta-analysis of 18 studies performed across the globe published by the Journal of Attention Disorders, Emerging research suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately and adversely affected children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).”² This included decreases in motivation and focus, and increases in social isolation and emotional dysregulation. 

One study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing suggests that ADHD kids were less likely to participate in crafts projects and other non-screen activities at home (including homework) than their non-ADHD peers. According to the study, ADHD kids played video games 22.5% more than their neurotypical buddies, and participated in socializing via technology 40.7% less than their peers.³ 

So what does this mean for today? It means that all kids were impacted by the lack of socialization that took place during the pandemic. And all kids are behind, both academically and socially.

And it also means that the effect on ADHD kids was greater. And ADHD kids are already 25% behind in terms of their emotional development. So this puts them in an even more disadvantageous position.

We need to get our heads out of the sand. We need to understand that our ADHD children could be even more than the 2-3 years behind their peers that we already know about. We need to stop thinking about pushing children with ADHD to get to that neurotypical bar, and instead, meet them where they are at.

We need to support our kids. Because we love them. And if that means accepting that our 17 year old may in fact have the maturity of a 13 year old, and we need to be there for them a bit longer, then that’s what we need to do.

We don’t have to live in the past. But we do have to acknowledge its impact on the present. And the future.

¹”The pandemic’s indirect effects on small children could last a lifetime,” The Economist, December 15, 2022.

²Rogers, M., and MacLean, J., “ADHD Symptoms Increased During the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Attention Disorders, Vol. 27, Iss. 8, March 6, 2023.

³Kara, O.K., et al, “The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children with ADHD in terms of participation,support,and barriers at home.” Journal of Pediatric Nursing, March, 2023.

How To Stop Sending Hidden Negative Messages To Your Kid

Let’s start with the basic premise that you love your kid. Let’s also recognize that if you are raising a kid (or kids!) with ADHD and other challenges, parenting is hard. The frustrations and worries one has as a parent of a neurotypical kid is multiplied by 1000.

As loving parents, we try our best. We not only make sure that our kids have what they physically need, but we also work hard to nourish their self esteem. We praise them. We spend time with them. Some of us even volunteer on teams and in classes, to show them how much we care.

But…somehow, our kiddo still thinks they stink. And still has a completely messy room, and flips out when we ask them to start their homework, or get ready for hockey practice.

Why?? Why are they not getting the message that we are sending, that they are just the greatest?

I am going to quote one of my mentors, and the founder of the Chaos Free Family program (for which I am an affiliate), Mary Smith, and talk about “leaking negativity.” 

When we think about negative reinforcement, we tend to go to punishment, yelling, or even physical consequences. And so if we aren’t employing those tactics, we think we are not engaging in negative reinforcement, right?

Guess again.

There are other more subtle disciplinary tactics many parents employ that are pounding our kids with negative messages that impact your child’s self esteem, and, as you’ve probably seen, aren’t effective in changing your child’s behavior.

Here’s an example of “leaking negativity.” Your child played in their softball game. They had a decent game, although if they had practiced their skills with you between games, as you’d suggested, they might not have missed that ground ball in the second inning. So you tell them how great they played, praise them about all of their highlights-and then, in an effort to help them improve their level of play, you mention that if they’d only practiced more, they could’ve played even better.

“What’s wrong with that?” you say. “I just want to help my kiddo be the best they can be!”

Here’s the issue. Your positive message is followed by “this is what you did wrong.” Your child will come to expect that, so that the impact of the positive message is completely wiped out; in fact, when they hear praise, they are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. No matter how well you tell them that they performed, they will only hear what they did wrong, from you-not their coach, but the person who is supposed to be their biggest supporter.

It’s no wonder they dawdle when it’s time to get ready to go to the ballpark.

It’s important to recognize that many of the ways in which we discipline our kids are negative reinforcers. And that emphasis on negativity can snuff out the ability of the brain to recognize positive reinforcement, causing the reward circuit to weaken, and motivation to decrease.

And your kid’s self esteem to plummet.

So let’s watch out for “leaking negativity.” It’s a sneaky little devil-and our kids deserve to have it removed from their lives.


For more information on leaking negativity, positive reinforcement, and ways to help you have a Chaos Free Family, reach out to me here for a Discovery Call:  https://calendly.com/constellationadhdcoach/30min

ADHD Books That I Love!

As promised, here is a list of some of my favorite ADHD books, just in time for Prime Days on July 11 and 12. Here we go!

Your Brain’s Not BrokenTamara Rosier

If you are only going to buy one book from my recommendations, this would be the one I would say is a must. I have been fortunate enough to attend a few webinars held by Tamara Rosier, so I was excited to read her book-and it did not disappoint! Your Brain’s Not Broken has user-friendly explanations of ADHD brain differences, including examples. Additionally, the strategies presented, which take the emotional dysregulation ADHDers can experience fully into account, are explained so well that they can be put into action quickly and easily.

What I love about this book: I love everything about Your Brain’s Not Broken! First of all, the notion of motivation being determined by emotions is so thought provoking; it makes so much sense, but this is the first time I’m seeing it spelled out so clearly. Also, Rosier’s presentation of different clients, and her own ADHD, makes this book so relatable. I couldn’t put it down! https://amzn.to/3NF0YzH

ADHD 2.0 – Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey

Dr. Hallowell could be called one of the Grand Poobahs of ADHD research, treatment, and writing. ADHD 2.0 is an update to Hallowell’s original book, Driven to Distraction, which was (and still is) the ADHD bible. ADHD 2.0, in addition to explaining the brain science behind ADHD, also discusses different ways to enable ADHDers to thrive (such as exercise and connecting with others).

What I love about this book:  Dr. Hallowell’s approach is strengths based, meaning that rather than focus on what one has difficulty with, ADHDers are encouraged to lean on what they are great at. Dr. Hallowell is such a positive force in ADHD treatment, and that shines through in ADHD 2.0. https://amzn.to/44EculN

how to keep house while drowningKC Davis

This book, and the YouTube and TikTok videos that KC Davis has created, are legendary among ADHDers. Ms. Davis has developed Struggle Care, a very basic plan for keeping your house in some form of order, based on the (very true) concept that having a messy house is not a moral failure, it is simply a functional challenge. how to keep house while drowning has suggestions for housekeeping that take into account ADHD, depression, anxiety, postpartum…basically, life. You can use the 31 day plan that is presented, or just read through and choose what you’d like to work on.

What I love about this book:  Throughout how to keep house while drowning, one feels like you are sitting and schmoozing with a friend who is telling you that it’s all going to be okay, and that you’re being too hard on yourself. It’s a comforting little booklet. https://amzn.to/46EJfAY

Smart But ScatteredPeg Dawson and Richard Guare

Smart But Scattered is a great book for parents who are looking for practical advice on how to help their ADHD child work with their challenged executive functions. There is a terrific explanation of what the executive functions are, with examples. A section on general strategies to employ when dealing with your child follows. Finally, there are suggestions (with implementation plans) and examples relating to a variety of issues that any ADHD parent will recognize.

What I love about this book: The approach that is presented in Smart But Scattered towards working with your ADHD child is on point. Dawson and Guare tell parents to “modify tasks to match your child’s capacity to exert effort,” and “begin by changing things outside the child before…strategies that require the child to change.” In other words, work with your child, not against them. Doesn’t sound terribly profound…but it is. https://amzn.to/3O4zUuR

All Dogs Have ADHD – Kathy Hoopmann

All Dogs Have ADHD is a picture book full of dogs doing, well, dog things. But what makes this book special is that the pictures tell the story of ADHD. So, a dog jumping into a lake is “diving straight into a situation without thinking about the consequences.” You get the idea. This book is great for kids who have ADHD, and also those who don’t, but spend time around ADHDers. The photographs are beautiful, and the pups are adorable.

What I love about this book: Parents often want to sugarcoat for their kids. All Dogs Have ADHD doesn’t do that-while the book does end on a very positive note, the positives and negatives are given equal time. Also…dogs. Need I say more?? (PS-there is a companion book, All Cats Are On The Autism Spectrum) https://amzn.to/46RhntE

I could go on and on..but I’ll save some of my faves for another post down the road. Happy Reading!!

Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate, and have an affiliate relationship with Amazon.

Must Have Products for ADHDers!

With Prime Day just around the corner (July 11 and 12), I thought I’d share my favorite products and books for ADHDers! This week – all the things.

Mr. Pen Highlighters

Why highlighters for ADHDers? Several reasons. First, it might be a way to fidget/let out energy. Second, color makes everything more fun, which in turn can give us that dopamine boost we crave. Using highlighters as a study tool to sort text, or when going through your to-do list and calendar, can help to keep you focused. https://amzn.to/435x2m2

Textured Tactile Adhesive Sensory Strips

These strips are about the size of a band-aid, and can stick to the underside of a desk, a phone case-wherever you want. They are very soothing to rub, and can satisfy that fidget urge when you are stuck on a Zoom call and you can’t get up and pace around. https://amzn.to/3r8JGDm

The Time Timer

ADHDers struggle with “time blindness,” which means that telling your child “be ready in 15 minutes” is bound to end in frustration for both of you. Enter the Time Timer, which shows time passing-the smaller the red slice, the less time is left. Get the 60 minute version, to have more flexibility. The Time Timer comes in many different colors-I just happen to like this tie dye model.  https://amzn.to/3XuD12x

Mr. Pen Dry Erase Pocket Sleeves

I learned about these when I was teaching. These pocket sleeves are great for morning/evening routines, checklists, chore lists – anything that requires the same steps each time. Make the list, pop it into the pocket, and use a dry erase marker to check off items. No need to rewrite the list!  https://amzn.to/3CStJng

Post-it Notes!

I use Post-It notes for so many things. One use that I have found to be super helpful is to jot down anything that pops into my head, and stick it to the counter, desk, sink…wherever I am. I can add it to my calendar or Todoist app later on, but using Post-Its for those sneaky little things that you remember in the middle of the action keeps you from then forgetting they exist. Perfect for the ADHD working memory challenge!  https://amzn.to/3pt7f9p

hOmelabs Sunrise Clock

Getting your ADHD kiddo out of bed in the morning can be a real challenge. Research has shown that the use of sunrise alarm clocks, also known as dawn simulation clocks, can improve sleep quality, as well as make waking up a more natural process. This particular clock also has the ability to have nature sounds play during the “sunrise,” and has a simulated sunset as well. The colored lights are always fun for the kiddos!  https://amzn.to/3rbmGUp

Uppower Essential Oil Diffuser

Radha Lavender Essential Oil

Speaking of sleeping, I swear by this diffuser and lavender essential oil. All it takes is one deep inhale and I am halfway to Slumber Town. Lavender is known to be calming, so breathing it in during the night keeps me soothed, and asleep. The diffuser has different color settings, so it can double as a night light; it also can be set on intermittent or full blast.  https://amzn.to/3pw5wQO  https://amzn.to/435x2m2

Next week…the best of ADHD books and movies. Happy Shopping!

Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate, and have an affiliate relationship with Amazon.

Try These Ideas To Work On Your Child’s Executive Functions This Summer!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve heard from lots of parents who, upon reaching the end of the school year, want to see a different experience for their child-and for themselves-next year.

And chances are, they would like to see their child improve their executive functions.

The executive functions-there are several, although different researchers have different ideas on how many-are the parts of the brain that allow intentions to turn into actions. They can be divided into the “thinking functions,” such as time management and organization, and the “doing functions,” including task initiation and emotional control.

In ADHDers, the executive functions are impaired (although not necessarily all of them, or to the same degree). Additionally, research has shown that ADHD kiddos can be 2-3 years behind their neurotypical peers developmentally, which translates into a lag in the development of the executive functions.

Simply put, when it comes to the executive functions, your ADHD child struggles.

And not only does your kid feel that they are behind, or panic not knowing where or how to start their assignment, they also have to deal with the many-and I mean many-negative messages they get from teachers, coaches, other kids, siblings, and relatives, about their inability to just DO THE THING.

As a parent, I’ll raise my hand here, and say that I, too, said things like “You’re so much smarter than this,” or “Why do I have to tell you a million times??”

It can be downright upsetting.

But, there are ways to both help strengthen those pesky executive functions, and/or to accustom your child to various strategies that can support his weaker skills. And you don’t have to wait for homework or book reports! Here are a few:

1 – Assign chores.  Being given household jobs is a great way for your child  to feel that you trust them to be responsible, and that they are contributing to the upkeep of your home. However, for our ADHD friends, chores should be structured in a particular way. 

  • Saying “clean your room” really isn’t specific enough. Break the chore down to smaller tasks, and depending on your child’s age, consider giving them responsibility for some of the subtasks first, rather than the whole thing. 
  • Also, how often do you think this should take place? It is better to have small daily tasks than one large weekly job.
  • Set a time of day to accomplish these tasks, with an alarm (not you) announcing the time. This should take place BEFORE fun activities that are tough to pull away from.
  • Use this time to do a chore or two yourself. This is called “body doubling,” and seeing you also working can keep your child on track. 
  • Finally, profusely thank your child for helping with the household responsibilities. Consider rewards (small things, like a trip to the ice cream parlor, or a slurpee)-we all get paid for our jobs, why shouldn’t your child??

2 – Work together to plan a trip or outing. Deciding on a place to go, and then working together to identify, prioritize, and execute different tasks is a great way to not only practice using executive function skills, but to enable you and your child to see where the gaps are, and what kind of support might be helpful. For example, if one of the tasks is to map out the trip on Google Maps, and your child has forgotten to do it, setting a reminder might help-and might stick in your child’s brain as a way to remember tasks.

3 – Keep a family calendar. Time blindness is very common for ADHDers (kids and adults). Putting events and responsibilities on a calendar makes it easier for your ADHD kiddo to see time. It will also help with transitions, as the events of the day are readily available.

4 – Allow for unstructured time – WITHOUT electronics. When your child has free time to play ball, read, draw, run around the woods-whatever they like to do-they are flexing their executive function muscles. Putting together Legos takes attention, organization, working memory, and emotional control. Pretending requires flexibility, attention, and non-verbal working memory. And the best thing about play is that, for the most part, you are not involved. They are strengthening their EF skills, and having fun, all on their own.

5 – Play board games. Family board game nights are so much fun! And without even realizing it, your child will be getting executive function training. Following directions, waiting their turn, developing a game plan-all of these involve the executive functions. And it’s such a wonderful way to spend time together.

This is just a sampling of activities that will help your child to put their executive functions to work, and learn what kind of support is helpful, all at a low pressure time of year. Give one or two a try!

Chaos Free Family ADHD Coaching Program Now Available!

It can be so heartbreaking to watch your child struggle with their ADHD. ADHD challenges can translate into difficulties with schoolwork, homework, and sports teams. And there is nothing worse than finding out your child is the one who doesn’t get invited to parties, or to playdates-because they are THAT kid.

I raised a child with ADHD. And looking back, there were so many things I wish I’d known. I wish I’d known more about ADHD, about what makes my kid tick. And about how to talk to him, how to help him to deal with the challenges he faced-and how to be sure that he always, always knew that I loved him, even when I was irritated or frustrated.

Things have changed in the 25 years since my son was diagnosed with ADHD. There is more awareness, more resources, and hopefully, less stigma. And as a coach, one of my goals, whether working with adults, teens, or young kids, is for my clients to have all of the information and guidance they need to live a rewarding, successful life. 

And now…I’m able to offer families just that. A fabulous resource that will enable you to have peace at home, and for your child to grow and thrive, WITH their ADHD.

I am THRILLED to announce that I have become an affiliate of the Chaos Free Family ADHD Coaching Program! This program takes a two pronged approach to coaching ADHD families. Prong #1 is education-an eight week class via concise, easy to follow videos that you can watch on YOUR schedule! This class is exactly what the doctor ordered-yup, parent education is part of the treatment of ADHD in children, per the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Prong #2 is coaching, with several different options, from group coaching to private sessions. Whatever works for you! During your coaching sessions with me, I will be able to answer questions that you have about the videos, your child, and the different strategies that you will be learning.

After completing this class, you will be well on your way to approaching issues with a parent coaching mindset-and you will feel like you can finally exhale!

I have to say-I wish this program had been around when my son was diagnosed. Let’s get together and chat about how much more peaceful your family life can be-and how happy your child can be. 

Chaos Free Family is a product of Chaos Free ADHD

Strategies To Lean On During The Stimulant Shortage

If you have not been hit by the shortages of stimulant medication, consider yourself lucky. Maybe even blessed.

On various forums and FB groups, I’m seeing posts from people who haven’t had their medication in weeks, or months. People calling around to different pharmacies, and in doing so, feeling like (and sometimes being treated like) a drug seeker. 

And no one knows when this will end.

While some ADHDers have switched medications to one that is, at least currently, not in short supply, that doesn’t work for everyone. Some medications just aren’t the right medication for everyone; add to that the insurance barrier, and you have people who are truly not living their best lives right now-and even worse than that.

Here are some strategies that, while totally not replacing your medication, can mitigate some of the loss in focus, regulation, and organization that you might be feeling.

1 – Recognize that your life is being impacted. Because of society’s often dismissive attitude towards ADHD, it’s easy to fall into the “I shouldn’t need this medication to function anyway.” ADHD is a result of neurological and brain chemistry differences that cause issues with task management, time management, attention, and emotional regulation. It is not a choice. These challenges are mitigated by medication, just like vision issues are mitigated by glasses.

2 – Lean hard on lists, calendars, Post It notes, reminders. Even if these have not worked in the past, at this point they are what you have. If you need to write a giant list of your morning routine to post on your bathroom mirror, do it. If you need Alexa to ping you every 10 minutes to make sure you’re on task, do it. Using a calendar, task management system, and bullet journal? That’s fine. What might seem like overkill when you’re medicated is actually a failsafe system during this emergency.

3 – Automate as much as you can. This is actually a great strategy even when you can get your medication. Auto refill on meds (yours, family, pets), auto pay on bills, anything that can become something that you don’t have to remember is a good thing.

4 – Make sure you are getting the right food and sleep. Having protein at breakfast is crucial! It’s brain food! Your ADHD brain might crave sugar, but that will cause a crash that you will have a hard time bouncing back from without your meds. Also, getting the right amount of sleep for you is super important. You might have a difficult time falling asleep; think about what might help you to have more success (sleep routine, putting screens away earlier, reading before bed…just a few suggestions!)

5 – Exercise! Studies have shown that exercise is an important part of an ADHD treatment plan, whether medication is involved or not. Going for a walk, jumping jacks, yoga, a YouTube exercise video, dancing to music in your kitchen-anything that gets you moving is going to provide dopamine to your system. I cannot stress enough how important this is.

6 – Try body doubling. Body doubling is working on something while someone else is also working. You do not need to interact, or be working on the same project or assignment. For example, I can be paying my bills, while you fold the laundry. This strategy is very effective in eliminating procrastination and increasing on-task behavior. If you don’t have someone you can body double with, you can use a body doubling website (Focusmate.com is a good one), and be set up with someone with whom to work in tandem.

7 – Lean on your support system shamelessly. If you have an understanding spouse, parent, friend, ask them if they can help you out during this crisis. They might be able to insert some accountability into your task plan (a text asking if you’ve done something), to help keep you on track (and If you don’t have an understanding person in your life, well, that’s a topic for another blog post).

8 – Realize that you will not be able to attend to everything at the same level as you did while you were medicated. Decide where your focus should be. If it’s work, then let the housecleaning slide. If it’s taking care of your kids, then maybe order in for a while instead of meal prepping. In other words, expend your energy wisely.

9 – Be extra cautious while driving. Research shows that adults with ADHD are more likely to have car accidents than adults without ADHD. While stimulant medication can mitigate some of the danger, when you can’t get your meds, you are at risk. Take a breath before you start the car to get centered. Put your phone in the trunk. Shut off the radio. If you have a passenger and their conversation is distracting you, ask them to stop talking-I think they’ll be less offended if you tell them it could save their lives.

10 – Keep up with your appointments with mental health professionals, and let them know if you are struggling. You might be able to try a different medication. Your therapist might be able to give you some ideas for dealing with the anxiety that this can cause. 

It can be very discouraging and frustrating to be unable to get your medication, something that enables you to live your best life. You might feel sad, angry, scared-these are all valid feelings when you don’t feel like you are in control. Don’t let anyone tell you that “it’s no big deal.” It IS a big deal-but by adopting some of the strategies above, you may be able to move through this crisis with a little more ease.

Why A Coach Might Recommend Therapy

Recently, I was invited to present to a group of therapists on ADHD coaching. The goal of the presentation was to introduce coaching to the therapists, describe the benefits, including the evidence to support the success of coaching as an intervention, and to delineate the differences, and crossover, between ADHD coaching and therapy.

I receive inquiries from potential clients that are hoping that coaching will help them to address their challenges related to ADHD; that is my hope as well. But sometimes, these potential clients are not “available for coaching.” And therapy, either while in coaching or prior to starting, would l enable them to move forward.

Having ADHD can cause one to doubt one’s abilities, sanity, and value. It can ramp up anxiety; it can, when challenges become too great, cause the ADHDer to sink into depression. 

While it would seem that addressing ADHD challenges would cause ones mood to lift, anxiety to lessen, and self esteem to rise, the past is still there. The feelings of being “less than” might dissipate; but having had those feelings before coaching can still get in the way, because they are ready to jump up when something doesn’t work.

For example, let’s say one of the strategies that a client and I discuss as a possibility is having a morning routine that includes taking time to eat breakfast, while sitting at a table with actual silverware and plates (by the way, a great way to start the day!). So, my client tries this out, finds they look forward to it, and so are more apt to get up on time. A win!

Until the day they oversleep.

And then, there is no time for this luxurious breakfast. There’s barely time to shower. And the entire time, the messages of the past pop up, sometimes in the voices of parents or teachers, ready to destroy the client’s self esteem and good feelings.

Now if this happens once in a while, it can be addressed in a coaching session. But if the client is struggling, these events of the past, and the subsequent emotions they evoke, can really get in the way.

Potential clients sometimes want the shortcut (really, who doesn’t?) They want the answer to how to deal, without addressing what has been before. However, shortcuts that ignore how a client shows up for support don’t work. And any responsible coach will tell you that.

Therapy addresses your past. Therapists help clients to explore what happened, how it impacted one’s emotions and self-talk, and how to deal with those pesky messages in the future. And when clients have dealt with their past, coaches are there-ready to walk side by side with clients, into the future.

Neurodiversity, From The Inside

In honor of Back To School, today’s blog post was actually written by my son. It was his Diversity Statement for his law school applications, written seven years ago (he has since attended law school and become an attorney). 

While I know it’s impossible for me to be objective, this essay is one of the most poignant pieces of writing I’ve read about ADHD. On the one hand, it hurts my heart to think about my son, a little boy, struggling with feeling so different, and being made to feel just…wrong. But on the other hand, I am so proud of him, of the person he is (and was all along), of how he has battled the struggles of ADHD, and continues to persevere. He is one of my heroes, and I feel blessed and lucky to be his mom.

Scattered among my old papers and school supplies are dozens of painstakingly crafted childhood dalliances–trail maps of fictional ski resorts drawn in my free time, hundreds of loose-leaf pages of notes and classwork from my academic career, the words therein corralled by extensive marginalia and doodles– reminders of the all the time I spent in my own little world.

Since my preschool days of apathetically watching my classmates entertain themselves by scouring the floor together collecting staples, I knew that I had a talent for getting enthralled in my own thoughts at the expense of the outside world.  When my kindergarten teacher excoriated me for being “rude little boy” and spacing out during math, or when my ninth grade history teacher scolded me daily for asking questions that had already been answered, I wondered why my peers had no trouble focusing in class, relating to others, or being “normal.”

Finally, I discovered the name of my affliction; ADHD.  But I was surprised to learn that this was more than just a daunting obstacle.  Certainly I would need to offset my focus problems with color-coded school binders, and by ensuring that my homework was complete before watching TV–and I have continued to employ similar strategies to this day.   My doodling habit, far from distracting my easily-misled mind, has become a means of stimulating creative thinking and focusing my scattershot thoughts on the task at hand.  Yet I have also found that ADHD causes me to selectively and intensely get absorbed in the things that actually interest me.

This “hyperfocus,” a component of ADHD, gives me the opportunity to turn things over in my mind in a unique way, and  has caused me to develop a unique perspective. So whether I was telling my friends about the Loch Ness monster in third grade, or finding nuances in situations for use in my sketch comedy class, I can draw conclusions that others might not, and use these seemingly quirky observations as a bridge to others, instead of the wall it once was.