October ADHD Awareness Month.

So, it’s ADHD awareness month.
Do we know what we are being aware of?

Our awareness of what ADHD is, and who it affects has changed greatly in the past 10 years. You may have friends or relatives that are affected by ADHD, but not aware of it. So like I wrote in one of my previous blogs it’s not just in kids… right?

In this months blog we explore five common myths that might increase ADHD awareness for the better.

BLOG.

ADHD is just in kids… Am I right?
This is perhaps one of the greatest misunderstandings regarding ADHD. Many people think that once kids leave school they “grow out of their ADHD.”
Many people also discontinue their medications at this time.
In fact this big transition from school to tertiary education (TAFE or University) or entering the workplace often causes more challenges for a person with ADHD. Many teens with ADHD struggle with this transition .This can be difficult as they need to create their own structure for planning and organisation. Issues such as impulsivity or challenges in planning and organisation can be extremely overwhelming and be a barrier to success both in the short and long term.
In about 30% of cases ADHD is a condition that stretches across the lifespan. That is one in three people don’t grow out of it.

Myth two

ADHD is just about kids being “hyper.”
While hyperactivity is one of the three commonly understood core symptoms of ADHD there are another two of equal importance. Think ADHD and most people think of the “10 year old school boy, jumping on the desk at school”. But there is much more to it than that. Children challenged with Hyperactivity are the ones that get noticed. There are two other “core symptoms” of ADHD, one being Impulsivity and the other, Inattention.
Inattention seems to be the symptom that is most overlooked. This is because the inattentive child will go ” under the radar ” in a classroom situation. An inattentive child or adult will most likely appear as someone that is quite dreamy, often caught in their own thoughts. They often struggle to be in touch with what is happening around them. Impulsivity can also impair the path to success. This can be seen as “talking too much or talking out of turn”. Often impulsivity is displayed when making poor choices, risky behaviours, saying the wrong, or insensitive things, not being able to wait turns, butting in on conversations, not listening fully before responding, making rushed decisions and careless mistakes in reading and writing, maths, to name a few. It can especially impact on social situations.

Myth 3.
People that think they are ADHD should just try harder to be more organised
Living with ADHD and treating it is not as simple as just trying harder. This would be like telling someone who needs to wear glasses or contact lenses just to squint harder so they can see better. ..

Myth 4.
ADHD isn’t a real thing, you can’t measure it. It’s probably just bad parenting.
There was a time when I may have thought this also… before I read the research.
It’s official and it’s in the DSMV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual #5-it is the “Gold standard ” diagnostic tool for Diagnosticians/Physicians. If it’s in there, it’s diagnosable and it does indeed exist.
ADHD has been recognised as a legitimate diagnosis by many major Medical, Psychological and Educational organisations, with current research to support it.
ADHD is biologically based . Current research in neuroscience explains it as an imbalance of chemical messages along the brain nerve tissue pathways (the medical term being neuro transmitters). Innovations in brain imaging techniques also supports the evidence that the brains of people with ADHD respond differently to brains that are not impacted with ADHD.

Myth 5

ADHD doesn’t appear in really smart people. Smart people can organise themselves.

Many people with ADHD have a higher than average intelligence quota. These people have great passion and have great attention and focus for some areas, but they have difficulty regulating their lives in other areas. Absent mindedness ( think absent minded Professor ), losing their keys, not noticing clutter, disorganisation particularly related to paper/paperwork, trouble regulating their emotions, all can be part of executive function challenges. Thomas E Brown Ph.D recently wrote a book that reflected this point exactly, “Smart but Stuck: Emotions in Teens and Adults with ADHD. ” (2014). Additionally, he recently conducted a study of 157 adults with ADHD, all having above average intelligence quota 120 or above. Of this group, all had challenges with working memory, a key executive function skill.

So, bearing in mind it is ADHD Awareness month, it may be a good time to notice who among ourselves and our loved ones could use that awareness in a positive way. There is no shame in the uniqueness that ADHD can afford individuals. There are challenges but also great strengths in this way of being. You can’t adapt to something you don’t notice or acknowledge, so there is power in this awareness. “Now” is always a great time to start .

Are your goals SMART?

14989472410_a1aa0d8773_m copyStephen Hawking famously said “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all”

Goals can mean many things to many people. Goals can be very small or very large, short term or long term. Interestingly, Stephen Hawking stated his goal as being “simple” and yet it regarded the very largest thing that has ever been.  What perhaps made it simple is that he was able to focus on it.

This was from a man who faced many challenges, every minute of every day.

ADHD or Executive function issues often get in the way of us focusing on our plans, which get in the way of us completing tasks and in turn reaching our goals. Sometimes we don’t even get started, let alone finish.

Planning and goal setting gives us structure. It helps us to be organised. It is important for everyone to have structure, but it is crucial for ADHD/EF affected people to have it.

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Forgetfulness, disorganization, (no one really likes to admit to this one) distractions and largely blaming others or external factors are often the main reasons we don’t achieve what we set out to.

This is where good basic planning and goal setting can help. While usually routine for most, it can be an immense barrier for people experiencing ADHD/Executive Function (EF) challenges.  ADHD/EF coaching can provided the scaffolding of this process.

Whether it is studying for an exam, getting the kids out the door in the morning madness or being successful at work, planning and goal setting with Executive Function (EF) in mind can be key to success.

Challenges in EF can reduce or block our success.  Think of executive function as self management or self regulation. For example, when we feel highly stressed combined with feeling disorganized, we can easily feel overwhelmed and believe we are not able to think straight.

When our executive functions are working well, they can look like this:

  • We have good time management
  • We are not easily distracted
  • We have control over our emotions
  • We are organized
  • We are flexible
  • We remember to do tasks
  • We are able to start tasks and finish them
  • We prioritize well
  • We think clearly.

When our EF is not performing consistently, we may come across as:

  • Distractible
  • Emotional
  • Disorganized
  • Inflexible
  • Forgetful
  • Lazy
  • Vague
  • Scatty
  • Having poor judgment

It only takes one of these elements to be a disservice to who you are.

The EF affected person is not broken; they are just experiencing inconsistent levels of EF performance often due to a variety of influences including an underlying condition such as ADHD.

SMART Goals

Heard of SMART Goals?  It is an acronym for a method of breaking down the attributes of something you desire to achieve.

If your goal or task can be broken down to meet these criteria, your plan will be well informed. Motivation and your goals work hand in hand to present the opportunity for you to become the person you want to be.

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Realistic

Timely

At Connect ADHD we use SMART Goals within the structure of specific goal setting. We connect with the client and their  goals to understand what their goal is, why it is important, what supports are needed, and help the client uncover the resources needed and the steps to take to get it done.

We gain clarity, insight, design strategies, move towards activation and change.

The Coaching relationship also provides the “checking-in” structure to encourage accountability and help meet the client’s goals. While goal setting is a great habit to get into, it is not always enough.

Coaching has the benefit of looking at other factors at play, such as the environment, old habits and learned behaviour and the way we think.  Our coaching model incorporates these factors.  We also work to a process that works towards providing clarity for the client’s perspective, to gain insight into the potential to design strategies with the client’s strengths in mind, to motivate and activate towards real change.

ADHD is just in Kids…right?

MYTH : ADHD is just in Kids…right? Kids grow out of it.
This is a common misconception that ADHD is something that happens in only in childhood and that’s where it stays.
The symptoms of ADHD often occur and are “picked up” in school age children, but this is only part of the story. . I’ve even heard one mother say “Thankfully my child is finishing school next year so I won’t have to buy any more medication.”
Just because a child finishes school, does not mean that underlying cognitive processes that result in the symptoms of ADHD disappear.
While many children, predominantly boisterous boys, are diagnosed as 7 to 10 age year olds, there are many boys and girls and adults, (both male and female) that don’t have a diagnosis until much later, even into advanced adulthood. In fact, according to Dr Patricia Quinn (20110, in the US the average age for a male to be diagnosed is age 7, but the average woman diagnosed with ADHD is 37

What’s that you say? You don’t see many 33 year old women jumping on the desks at work, nor do you see them running away from their partners at the shopping centre? ADHD can manifest in other ways than that generally ascribed to or visible in the classroom.

Inattentive
It is not unusual for the ADHD client to actually be very quiet or overlooked in classrooms or group situations. This may occur if they are predominantly of the “Inattentive” subtype of ADHD. Typically they are the dreamy bookworm who is actually lost in their own thoughts. It may be a child or teen or adult who gets totally immersed in the computer and cannot check back into the real world without numerous reminders or even nagging and shouting just to grab their attention. People who have predominantly inattentive ADHD may struggle with the self-regulation ability to change manage their attention where it needs to be. This can include the ability to change focus from their current interesting task to other tasks.

Impulsivity
We have all encountered people that talk compulsively. I mean, you cannot get a word in edgewise, you are being polite, but the fact is, you aren’t really interested (as the topic is not relevant or a priority), you have other things you could or should be doing (perhaps you are at work, and a customer is monopolising your time by constantly speaking). It maybe that this talkative person is not reading your social cues , or appreciating your circumstances, and by doing so is talking impulsively and is unable to self –regulate their verbal behaviour.
Impulsivity may also be demonstrated when someone starts a task and regularly gets sidetracked from finishing the set task. This can happen with people that are neurotypical, but this can be a regular and damaging trait for someone with EF challenges.
Another common presentation of impulsivity can be “overspending” and frequent impulse buying. This behaviour can also have negative consequences on quality of life (financial impact and issues with excessive clutter).
So while “hyperactivity” is a well known result of ADHD and EF neurological landscape, it is also important to be aware the other key descriptors such as Impulsivity and Inattention. The first steps to solving any discomfort are awareness and acknowledgement.
Today is always the best day to start reducing stressful struggles and distractions. Understanding how our the ADHD like to work is the first step to help us make good plans and choices for successful outcomes of completing tasks and having successful interactions with others.
ref. /quinn,P. 2011. Part 1 ADHD in girls and women. Podcast. Academic Success Program Seminars. University of North Carolina. 7 December 2011 (Itunes U)

How to Defeat Trouble

How to Defeat TroubleHow to Defeat Trouble!

On our Facebook page, we included in our inaugural post a quote by Ann Landers when asked what she considered the most useful advice for all humanity, she responded:

“Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life, and when it comes, hold your head high.  Look it squarely in the eye, and say, “I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me”

Living with ADHD or executive function issues (whether you have it yourself, or living with a spouse, child, teen with it) can produce many more challenges on a daily basis, and be like a constant unwelcome entity in a relationship or home environment. The experience has been described as running on a spectrum from mildly problematic to unmanageable. (Melissa Orlov, 2010. ADHD Effect on Marriage).

This is where Coaching and Psycho education can help.

ADHD is not well understood, largely due to misinformation based on limited understanding of the current science and clinical practice associated with its treatment.  It is not just the domain of primary school boys climbing the walls, or hyperactive children eating too much sugar or “naughty” children who don’t receive discipline.

It is often, the little girl trapped  in space and time in a book, that guy that is life of the party (but the party doesn’t always end or end well), the Mum that can’t have friends or their children’s friends over because the home looks like an unholy mess and is silently ashamed.  Maybe it’s the work colleague with the motor mouth and giant ideas, the ideas that never get finished. The “I’m sorry I’m late friend, who couldn’t (a) find my keys, (b) charge my phone, (c) find my wallet. This is the friend who has all the worst luck in the world, regularly manages to get caught in bad traffic, or be driving behind slow trucks, old drivers. The friend who left the headlights on again and has a flat car  battery (again) . Sound familiar?

Clients and their Executive Function (EF) Coaches look these challenges squarely in the eye. EF Coaching works with them to disentangle and disempower these challenges while empowering the client. The coach and the client (and their families) work together to engage motivation and identify strengths. This focus leads to moving through avoidance, addressing the fear of defeat and towards activation to positive change.

Together the client and coach build on the client’s abilities and potential for positive change to defeat trouble, one step at a time.

 

until next time

Monica