The difference between you and me isn’t always choice

Yes we all have the same 24 hours.

This doesn’t mean what I make happen during that time and what Tony Robbins can make happen should be compared.

Besides not having access to his resources, I don’t have the same gifts or ambitions.

In 243 years the USA has had 45 Presidents. Not everyone gets a shot at that job.

There’s a lot of pressure to hustle, ship it, endlessly pursue greater levels of excellence. I’m actually a fan of the last one.

But the more I get to know the variety of people in this world the more I meet people who are cool playing tambourine instead of being the lead singer. Know what I mean?

I was listening to an interview with Casey Affleck (famous actor) and the interviewer was piling on the praise, all of which Casey shot down.

He went on to explain he thought all award shows are bogus and here’s why.

He said (paraphrasing), an actor isn’t by themselves on a movie set. There’s a director and the other actors who create a space that bring things out in you.

Outside of that context the talent may not be accessible. It’s a fascinating perspective.

Some may be genuinely content with a more simple role in the community which is a beautiful and essential contribution.

Still there are those who must endure extra layers of resistance due to race, sex, sexual preference, gender identity, learning or physical disabilities, etc.

When the gatekeepers to opportunities and resources actively discriminate (consciously or otherwise), the ones needing them most often don’t get them.

It’s easy for some to look down on others and believe what differentiates them is as simple as choices.

I call BS, it’s a matter of “access” to the resources, opportunities and people you need to help bring out the best in you.

Why do I interrupt so much?

Conversations tend to have a rhythm.

Think of a jump rope with a person on either end.

You need to jump in or out of the rope’s 360° rotation without interfering with the rope.

You must keep hopping so the rope passes under your feet.

With ADHD you may have a hard time spotting the rhythm. If you do, slower processing speed often leaves you a few steps behind. Hence continuing on discussing a subject the group has moved on from.

This also explains a reason you and I interrupt so often. If you can’t time your entrance in exactly the right spot the rope will hit you and stop.

That’s what an interruption feels like. It disrupts the rhythm of the conversation and frustrates those involved.

I’ve learned to use simple hand gestures to alert others that I’d like to contribute. If they choose to let me in great, if not that’s fine too.

A tendency to interrupt stays with people and works against you. I’ve gotten better and continue to work on it.
 
 

High School and ADHD weren’t made for each other. BUT!

Adjustments can be made to improve the fit between the two so it’s less like walking through quicksand and more like an unpaved road.

Even I have a hard time imagining a fit so precise that a student with ADHD feels zero friction between their desire to learn in that setting and the system’s ability to fully meet that child where she’s at.

The system is simply not able or willing to be flexible enough. At this time that is.

But let’s not shake our finger at the system when it’s less than perfect. We must continuously strive for better, as a parent, educator and student.

Better strategies, better understanding, better communication and most important is to flush out the crappy thinking that stops you dead in your tracks before taking any action.

Each member of the student’s team is likely experiencing some degree of overwhelm over the level and amount of responsibility placed upon them for a successful school year.

As a parent, an educator and student. You make natural allies in this process because you each want similar things.
We’re all in this together and together is how we’ll succeed.

The opportunity cost of being focused

I don’t want to take meds for my ADHD, it kills my creativity. I saw the opposite with my son Aidan (17). Who when finally able to sit and concentrate long enough produced beautiful works of art.

Here, I thought, is evidence that belief is incorrect.

Which brings us to this summer. At the suggestion of his Dr., we elected to take my son Connor (14) off his ADHD meds for the summer.

He was behind in both height and weight. We hoped without the appetite suppression of the ADHD meds he might eat better and catch up.

That is in fact what happened, he grew 2 1/4 inches and has a more solid frame.

That’s not all, we saw a side of Connor we hadn’t seen before.

His smile was brighter and more often, he had a razor sharp whit that seemed to come out of no where.

Then a few days ago I encouraged him to start taking his meds again in preparation for the start of the school year.

I kid you not, it was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

His sparkle died, his affect flattened, his attitude was more, “Meh” and the humor stopped.

My wife and I noticed this concern with one another.

Connor has always been shy so we attributed his being quiet and more withdrawn in general to his shyness. He has been on his meds for years and usually through the summer (his choice) so the quiet Connor is the one we knew.

I can’t recall how many times we laughed out loud this summer at something he said. Encouraging him to allow his peers to see this amazing side of him.

Only for him to resume his meds and essentially lock that part of himself away.

We had a talk with Connor and shared our observations, as well as our concerns. Connor said even though he understood our concerns, he thought the increased ability to focus at school was important.

On weekends he’d skip his meds so he could be more himself.

Who wins in this scenario?

The teachers get a quiet, studious kid who isn’t “disruptive”. A kid whose creativity and unique perspective on the world isn’t in that classroom.

Sure, Connor can pay better attention in class. He still forgets to write down his assignments and forgets instructions. A work in progress.

I’m afraid he’s learning to become an accomplished, people pleasing drone. Instead of a child filled with the possibilities granted to him by an imagination on hiatus during the school year.

It breaks my heart and I’m still struggling with it.

Every child is clearly different. Aidan thrives on the meds and they’re an essential tool in his toolbox.

For Connor it seems he’s paying a high price for focus, the price may be the opportunity to express himself fully.

There is another way, I’m sure of it and I will find it.

Why an ADHD diagnosis doesn’t have to burn your biscuit

From one point of view it’s a list of criteria created by a group of Psychiatrists, in closed door meetings to describe the experience of people who are not part of those conversations.

These criteria are general and don’t appreciate individual nuance.

What a diagnosis does not account for is mindset, determination, resourcefulness, creativity and other amazing qualities.

Qualities that often defy the myopic view of what a person with that diagnosis can accomplish.

One of the best ways to put your creative mind to use is by finding the equivalent of emergency exits, trap doors, windows. Those unconventional ways of working around the challenges of your ADHD.

The conventional approach remains a desire to teach a student with ADHD how to find their way into the box their peers without ADHD are encouraged to fit into.

I’m not saying teachers do this but the system teachers are handcuffed into honoring certainly does.

I see small changes happening in some districts, spearheaded by true thought leaders. But the changes are excruciatingly slow.

Here’s one idea for dealing with this reality in the meantime.

Do your best to understand the inside the box rules that still drive much of the world.

This is important research and preparation for you.

Because the time will come when they want better results than they’ve been getting but can’t seem to think beyond the limits of the box they’ve cozied themselves into.

Then here you are. Someone who has committed herself to installing a bunch of escape doors and windows into the sides of the box.

So many windows and escape hatches that the walls of the box collapse.

Then watch the minds around you be blown by your creative and innovative thinking.

It’s ironic how a system so committed to honoring an antiquated box, will often come to folks like us when they finally realize they’re trapped by their own creation.

A diagnosis doesn’t need to be a declaration of permanent disability. When it can be a fire that forges the kind of creative thinking that moves society forward.

Do the work!

To be clear! My ADHD is as bad as it’s ever been. It has it’s gifts but for the most part it’s a huge pain in the ass.

Hey overly positive meme people, you can acknowledge both sides of the ADHD coin without sucking the positivity out of the conversation.

In fact, it’s an incredible disservice to do otherwise.

What if every time a child came to you asking for help you replied with, “Don’t sweat it. Your ADHD is a superpower and some day you’ll realize that.”

No! What she’ll realize is that her concerns are invisible to people who feel righteous in their denial under the guise of wanting to see disabilities in a positive light.

We aren’t asking to have sunshine blown up our assess. We’re asking to be seen as capable of more than a diagnosis suggests we are.

Now ADHD isn’t all bad, there are parts of it that are down right Amazing!

Yet the real challenges of it can weigh you down and take a lot of the joy out of life if you don’t act to mitigate their impact on your daily life.

The ability to be productive and accomplish what you want is the result of a growth mindset and relentless pursuit of strategies to help you work around your areas of challenge.

Not everyone will do the work though. Not everyone will experience what they’re truly capable of either.

Schools can do better with their ADHD students in one specific way

Schools can do better with their ADHD students in one specific way.

Get your school a translator.

When a school creates a bilingual program it hires a teacher that can speak English and the native language of the students in the program.

When it comes to students with ADHD, they have such a unique way of approaching the world that people who don’t think that way are clueless to it.

Teachers do their best with increasing demands and diminishing resources.

But imagine the power of having access to someone who knew what it was like to see the world through the eyes of someone with ADHD.

Someone who knew exactly where a teacher and student are not connecting and could help student and teacher get on the same page.

I know some schools train one of their staff to be the go to person for adhd or autism and many are quite good.

But an important issue remains, you don’t know what you don’t know which gets you into trouble when you meet a student that doesn’t fit what you’ve been taught. You know where I’m going with this.

Having someone on-site is convenient and often more cost effective which I completely understand and respect.

My focus is on increasing success for both teacher and student with ADHD by helping them “get” each other.

There will always be fundamental gaps in the ability of someone without ADHD to understand someone with it.

That goes for everyone.

Knowing this about yourself is a strength. It compels you to look beyond yourself for information and guidance.

Want to know how to tell if you’re bumping up against a blind spot or don’t understand things as well as you think?

It’s when you’re consistently not getting the results you want.

That’s when it’s time to contact me.

How hot can you handle it?

I originally shared a variation of this on social media but I’m going to expand upon it here, why, cause you’re my favorite in the whole wide world 😉 

​​Mindset may not rid you of the challenges of ADHD, but it has everything to do with for long long you keep going. 

How many things in life have you had to push through? I mean really work hard and sometimes end up with a result you don’t like. 

How’d you respond, “I’m never doing that again” or “That was a waste of time.”

Not really the cry of a resilient ADHD Warrior (someone with ADHD who keeps challenging themselves regardless of their difficulties).​​​​

It’s the cry of someone who values winning above learning.

Responding with, “Well that was an education” turns an undesirable outcome into part of the process of becoming better. It isn’t the end.

Case in point,​​​​​​ ​​yesterday
 was the hottest day I can remember since the MS was diagnosed in 2017.
​ 
My wife said it reached 100°F

​I spent most of the day in bed, trying to stay cool. Yes the A/C was on. 

​It became increasingly hard to move as my joints and muscles tightened. I’m guessing as the temperature increased. 

​Yes I drank plenty of water which had nothing to do with the symptoms anyway. 

​The pain in my legs was like fire and for a time I could neither feel or move my left arm. 

​I’m proud of myself for the self talk I managed during all this. 

​Once the sun set I began feeling better. As difficult as it was I kept coming back to the process, “Just another minute, just get through it, one breath at a time. It was like mindfulness on steroids.”

I wasn’t trying to win anything or beat anyone. I simply focused on enduring the overwhelm of the experience until I came out the other side. I couldn’t do much more to change the situation but I could choose my mindset throughout the storm.​​ 

​​Attitude is the secret weapon in managing ADHD as it determines your approach to seeking and using strategies that can help you live more fully. 

Your greatest tool is between your years but so few take the time to learn how to use it.

What do you have to lose?

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What’s in it for me?

A common question when presented with an opportunity. Here’s the issue.

Gaining something isn’t the always the ideal outcome of an opportunity.

Losing may be what you’re actually looking to experience.

For example, I meditate every day to reinforce my capacity for equanimity.

I also do it to shed any tendency to emotionally react to things.

When I became a parent I learned to let go of many things to stop driving myself crazy with self doubt and criticism.

I invite you to share things you had to let go of to be a more effective parent:

Knowing everything – our heads are loaded with opinions supercharged by emotion. When the emotion is stirred we vomit opinions all over our kids in the least effective way. Virtually guaranteeing we’ll be dismissed as irrational by our kids.

Drama – Worst case scenarios are useful for helping you to see how out of hand a worry driven imagination can become. But when used to try and instill fear, e.g. “If you stay on this path you’re gonna end up blah, blah, blah.”

These scenarios can seem unrealistic to a young kid with no point of reference to help them appreciate what you’re talking about.

What is a good teacher is natural consequences.

Rescuing – I set myself up for a huge fall when I believed I could protect my boys from pain and suffering.

You simply can’t protect your child from the human condition or naive, short sighted, often impulsive decisions kids make.

Your adult brain functions at a different level of emotional maturity (hopefully) and self discipline than your child.

You’ve achieved that in part due to simple biology. Which means, your child’s brain isn’t as developed as yours so don’t make the mistake of thinking your child can simply grow up, so to speak.

Being the Hero – I used to want to impress my boys and everyone else for that matter. That was my ego and insecurities talking.

Nowadays I want to model how much more fully you can experience life by just being human.

By letting go of the fear of taking risks and replacing it with a yearning for discovery and growth.

Show your kids how to learn and grow instead of demanding it.

I think you’ll like those results better.

How can ADHD lead to overeating?

 
This started with my frustration over my difficulty losing weight. No matter what I do I keep vacillating between eating well and overeating. 
 
As I made my morning smoothie I dumped the frozen fruit in the blender and said to myself, “Thank goodness they sell this in portioned sizes so I don’t overdo it.”
 
Then it hit me, “They were made into portions ahead of time so it was harder for me to overeat.” 
 
Of course meal planning is a helpful way to avoid overeating, but there’s more. 
 
I work with a lot of parents on homework strategies and my mind drew a comparison to “chunking” which is about breaking larger tasks into smaller manageable bites (sound familiar)? “Chunking” is also helpful when cleaning a home or work space. 
 
We tend to think of “chunking” as it relates to organization but not so much when it comes to eating.
 
Why is chunking particularly helpful for people with ADHD or ASD?
 
Why is “chunking” something we often need help with every time we need it?  
 
I’ll answer these questions in a bit.
 
I posted this question to one of the parent groups I belong to,“Does your child with ADHD or ASD have difficulty breaking down large assignments AND also tend to overeat at meals?
 
Some of the reply’s I received include:
 
  1. Yes. My daughter needs large assignments broken down into small tasks. When her medicine has wore off or she hasn’t taken it that day, she overeats.

  2. No because we’ve broken it down into smaller segments with regular activity breaks and praise. We also now have him make his lunches and have him grow and prep dinners and help doing menus so that he has more control thus eliminating the fights.
     
  3. Yes mine does. We have to tell him he has had enough food. He will whine and say he is still hungry this is after having seconds on food. I don’t think he is aware of what it means to be full.
     
  4.  My son has a hard time staying on task when it comes to big assignments. We have to break it down into smaller steps and I have to stay with him to make sure he stays on task as he finds it really hard to concentrate. When it comes to food he eats a LOT and he eats really fast. It’s almost like it’s a race for him.

So what’s this all mean? 

As parents we tend to focus so much on classroom success we forget to explore how executive function issues show up outside the classroom. 


When your brain thinks in an “all or nothing” way, which ADHD & ASD brains do. There are two ways to approach a large task, do all of it or none of it. 

Homework can appear overwhelming because, “I can’t do all that work, it’s too much. So I just won’t do it.”

The option of “chunking” seems elusive because a brain that struggles with that ability won’t seek it as a solution, it isn’t an easier path to the desired outcome. 

When your brain doesn’t chunk well it stays with what it knows, all or nothing

But when someone good at “chunking” helps me create a list or template I can use again and again, its like building a bridge over a steep valley so that two things are connected that previously may have felt miles apart.

Recipes chunk down the process of preparing a meal.
Lists and templates help break down larger projects into less overwhelming and manageable tasks. 

Portion control is about meal planning AND having a specific definition of what it means to be full. 

I used to eat until I felt full, like Thanksgiving full. Now I eat to feel not hungry, big difference. 

Kids with poor self-awareness may not be tuned into their hunger and eat until it hurts because that is a strong and clear signal that they’re no longer hungry.

All or nothing, starving or stuffed. 

So now that I realize my overeating is (at least in part), due to my extreme difficulty with “chunking” things down,

I’m going to ramp up the amount of support I seek in this area so I can experience better results. 
 
How is this helpful for you?