We were out of cereal so I hit my teacher

Sometimes your kid with ADHD acts out aggressively and you have no idea why.

You think about the situation s/he was in and can’t figure out what the trigger was, right?

Consider that the trigger occurred earlier, before this situation even arose.

S/he was looking forward to their favorite cereal and was disappointed to find you were fresh out. 

Your already anxious child who believes a good day happens when everything goes right now believes the day started off poorly so the day is ruined.  

Now your child is simmering from the trigger event of disappointment but holding it together pretty well.

But s/he’s fretting and slowly escalating.

Then your child enters a situation (e.g. social) that puts a strain on their executive functions until they become unable to process, become overwhelmed and go into fight or flight.

If you have your child tell you the story of their day you may stumble across the trigger.

Why won’t my child with ADHD learn from their mistakes?

You have a child living with ADHD who has difficulty learning from their mistakes, yes?

Does that same child struggle to learn from successes?
A child resistant to doing something they’ve done successfully in the past like it was the first time.

So what the heck is going on here, huh? It’s called the Zeigarnik Effect (Your guess is as good as mine on the pronunciation).

It refers to a phenomenon of human memory in which tasks considered completed are forgotten more easily. Whereas uncompleted tasks tend to stay in the mind and create tension.

I knew one young man who developed sleep problems and it turned out he was fixated on the sound of a dripping faucet. “It’s not supposed to do that,” and in his anxious mind the house wasn’t safe until everything was as it should be. They fixed the faucet.

It’s hard to learn from mistakes you can’t remember making isn’t it? In your child’s mind it’s done, over, they don’t want to talk about it. Their brain knows exactly what to do with that info – DUMP!

Same with successes. It was hard enough to do it this time and they hope they never have to do it again – DUMP!

Now to add insult to injury. Folks with ADHD frequently have a working memory problem. In that they have difficulty recalling what they already understand and know how to do. This includes info on what they don’t want to do again and what they want to duplicate.

In my case I have extremely poor working memory. I need help remembering what I know by being asked questions. The question is like executing a Google search in my brain. Very helpful.

A straight forward solution is in order here so here’s one to get you started – journaling. Keeping a log works too. A simple recording of completed tasks/accomplishments (wins) and unresolved issues (not yets).

If its in writing it’s easier to track and recall because it’s out of your brain which is unreliable.

When it comes to recording unresolved issues, we aren’t calling them “problems”, “bad things”, crises or anything of the sort.

Those are emotional projections upon the event 
that cloud judgment, 
trigger fight or flight 
and kick your resourcefulness square in the cajones.

Let’s work to neutralize the feelings of catastrophe by calling them “unresolved issues”.

With them listed you can plan their resolution one at a time.

Taking action to solve the problem does wonders for reducing anxiety. Give it a go.

Helping people with ADHD believe in their ability to change

One mistake many parents and professionals make is assuming people with ADHD are interested in changing to improve their lives.

It isn’t that they don’t want to change, it’s that they often don’t believe they’re able to create the necessary changes required to make the effort worth it.

We’re talking about a community of people who often has difficulty finishing what they start, have difficulty getting started at all, struggle with creating an action plan let alone executing on one.

People with life long difficulties in these areas can end up with such brutal self-talk they believe themselves to be stupid, incompetent, worthless etc.

The first thing to establish with any person living with ADHD you’ve been entrusted to help – is their mindset.

1. Is change something they want?

2. Do they believe they are capable of making the change(s) they want?

3. If things were more like they wanted them to be, what would be different?

4. What one thing could they do to begin making that change?

5. What do they need to believe about themselves in order to take that first action?

6. Do they agree to act as if what they believed what was stated in #5 is true?

7. Do they agree to take the new action and report back?

How they respond to this exercise will tell you a lot about how flexible their thinking is, their level of self-doubt etc.

Again, the objective is to introduce the possibility that change remains accessible and achievable but isn’t attainable until the individual believes it is. Mindset before Skillset.

Please stop teaching the creativity out of students with ADHD

Linear thinking is not a friend of many people living with ADHD. They are circuitous thinkers who approach problem solving as an adventure versus a task.

Many teachers recognize this aptitude but are limited in their ability to support it’s growth as a matter of course. It’s because they’re mandated by the ivory tower administration to stick to linear approaches to learning.

It’s understandable these students come to believe creative thinking is a bother and a waste of time because it isn’t rewarded or encouraged.

My sons are very visually artistic (I am not). They draw and paint beautifully and I encourage them to do it for themselves. It stimulates that part of their spirit that loves to play, explore and make things that don’t require following a linear set of rules.

Our brains need creative outlets in order to stay engaged with the spontaneity and wonder of life. The opposite extreme is a numbness stemming from the boredom of a monotonous life.

Disruptive kids could be your best teachers as they’re often agitated by boredom. Finding out what will help them be more engaged can often improve the experience for everyone, including the teacher.

Yes I know some schools are working to change this and I give them credit and extend my utmost gratitude for them doing so.

May their example pave the way to a new normal, even if the path isn’t a straight one.

Earning the trust you want others to have in you

I’ll be giving a presentation to a group of teachers in another state this morning.

My goal is to equip them to work more effectively with their students struggling with ADHD and ASD.

While going through my morning routine I listened to a podcast that featured an audio clip from a presentation by Brene Brown. Her work has had a huge impact on mine.

The subject Brene discussed was trust, and how trust is formed in small moments where you felt seen and cared for by another person.

I want to add another important feature for building trust, consistency. When someone shows caring, respect or valuing you, it’s easier to trust that this person is who they show up as.

How’s the trust in your relationships?

Many years ago I sat in on an IEP meeting during which I tried to explain to staff that the young boy I was working with didn’t trust the teachers because of inconsistency in promises made versus promises kept.

His own case manager said, “Well people are inconsistent.” Needless to say things got worse at school and he was eventually sent to another school where thank goodness there was more consistency and he thrived.

It’s hard enough going through life with ADHD, or anything else that makes you have to work 10x harder for the same results.

But then to have to worry about whether you’ll be left hanging during your most vulnerable moments. That can be terrifying.

But to have someone in your life you can trust to be there when you need them, that can make the difference between giving up and staying at it.

Time to make ME time a larger priority

Do you regularly drive your car until the gas tank is empty then wonder why the heck it won’t go?

Then why do you do that with your body?

I’ve had this conversation twice this morning. Self-care MUST be made a priority and not treated as an afterthought.

I know it’s difficult when you’re up to your neck with obligations yet the fact remains that a burned out you is a pretty useless you.

For people with chronic pain or other energy sapping conditions self-care (e.g. rest, exercise, massage, etc) needs to be treated as equal to the importance of pain medication.

You know very well what happens when you skip your self-care and how many days it takes to get your groove back.

A sick body doesn’t have the resilience of an otherwise healthy one so you simply can’t slack off when it comes to taking care of yourself.

Don’t have the time to do all the self-care you’d like? Then start with something. Make it a regular habit then add a second thing.

This may require learning to say NO more often to create the time you need. I can help you if this is an issue for you.

Bottom line, take care of you as a priority because a car without gas is like a pizza without pineapple, it’s just no good.

I’m not differently abled

It isn’t healthy to go through life believing you only have strengths. You must acknowledge your areas of challenge as well. If you don’t, two things end up happening.

1. You avoid activities where you may need help.
2. You stick to activities within your skill set at the expense of learning something new.

We do a great disservice to those with challenges like ADHD and ASD when we use RAH RAH language like, “Autism isn’t a disability its a different ability.”

NEWSFLASH! It’s both, and that’s okay.

It isn’t an either or proposition when talking about disabilities. It’s an “and” conversation.

I have ADHD and Asperger’s, I have many strengths I attribute to these conditions AND there are aspects of both that are quite disabling, such as difficulty reading nonverbal cues.

You aren’t propping up the negative side of these conditions by acknowledging they exist. It isn’t automatically disempowering unless you believe the downside of disability shuts you out from life.

It doesn’t have to. In fact, the more intimately aware you are of your challenges the more precisely you can accommodate them.

Accommodate them so you have greater access to opportunities to use your strengths. That’s a more mindful and confident way to approach living with any kind of chronic challenge.

When the words for emotion elude those with ADHD

We refer to the collection of unique quirks and qualities in another human as their “personality.”

In our vast egocentrism as a species I can’t seem to find a word for the equivalent in pets.

Each of our 11 (yes 11) pets has a distinct way about them that differentiates them from others. Yet! The only word I have to describe it is their “personality”!

For one species to project its sense of identity upon another is so devaluing to the relationship. It misses a lot in favor of the world view of the person. Ya with me?

Now imagine someone with ADHD or ASD who is having an intense experience but doesn’t have the word to describe what they’re thinking or feeling.

If you can’t name it how can you describe it? How can you see it clearly, understand it or appreciate it?

If tears could only be described in reference to sadness because we lacked a word for happiness, so much of the human experience would be muddied and go unshared.

Our experience of life is shaped as much by the words we have as the words we don’t.

Thoughts?

How do you start to trust yourself again?

 
TRUST! Is the foundation of all relationships, yes?
 
But when you experience either a single or cumulative traumatic events in which trust is broken, you can struggle to find it again.
 
Though you may be focused on the actions of others as the reason it’s difficult for you to trust. The most important person you must learn to trust again is yourself.
 
Have you lost trust in your ability to judge who is safe and who isn’t?
 
Do you lack trust in your ability to keep yourself safe?
 
Whatever the reason it’s paramount that you begin with yourself.
 
The fact that you are still here, especially if the trauma was long ago says a great deal about you. It says there’s a part of you that knows it can get better.
 
If you didn’t believe that on some level you would’ve given up long ago.
 
If the trauma occurred due to years of being bullied, there are enough people to blame to fill a classroom.
 
Their role in the trauma is clear and forgiving them is an important step.
 
Forgiving yourself for what you “should’ve been” or what you “should’ve done” can be harder.
 
Unless, you show yourself a level of compassion that allows you to accept that at the moment(s) of trauma, you didn’t have the knowledge or skills to know what to do with what happened to you.
 
If you did, it wouldn’t have hurt you so deeply for so long.
 
What can you do now?
 
Allow the adult you to have a talk with the younger you.
 
The adult you can teach the younger you everything you know now about what the future holds for you. How you’ve managed to keep going, what you’ve been able to accomplish, the new people you’ve met.
 
All of the ways it’s gotten better.
 
It doesn’t mean there isn’t still a lot of work to do.
 
But it’s hard to step into the unknown of healing hurt if you don’t trust in your ability to do the work, go the distance and emerge stronger and wiser on the other side.
 

Want to make the world better?

 
Want to make the world a better place?
 
The best way is to refine yourself.
 
Remove from your thinking the beliefs and habits that trip you up everytime you’re presented with an opportunity to move forward.
 
The forward path is the path of a leader.
 
Not a leader in that you will be required to live an extroverted existence and rally your following to your cause.
 
You’re a leader in that improving yourself requires you to discover and implement strategies for getting through the hard stuff that stops most people in their tracks.
 
Once you find your way through you unlock a noticeable confidence and resilience others will see in you simply by how you conduct yourself.
 
They will watch you, learn from you and find the courage in themselves in part because of you.
 
Imagine how many lives could be changed simply by doing the work of getting out of your own way.
 
Start by learning to manage your ADHD or anything else that could use a makeover. We got this, let’s get to it.