Category Archives: ADHD

No. I Won’t Outgrow My Neurodivergence

It wouldn’t be Neurodiversity Week without having to address the age old, damaging rhetoric.  It comes in many forms.  It could be well intentioned comfort words that hit like daggers in the ears of parents whose children have just received a diagnosis.  It could come from an annoying relative who thinks you are just making excuses.  It has even come from under educated professionals threatened by knowing less about how your body works than you do.    Wherever it comes from, it’s based on the outdated, debunked idea that ADHD, Dyslexia and other diagnoses are just for children.

I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult.  Around this time, the common language linked ADHD to poor parenting of naughty boys who just needed stricter rules and firmer boundaries.  You can imagine my fear of disclosure…not to mention lack of research around how ADHD manifests in women.  When I disclosed, I was always met with questions I had difficulty answering.  More often than not, I was met with confusion and disbelief.  You see, ADHD is something you outgrow (insert eye roll emoji here).

As my children became diagnosed, I was met with the new version of the old bias.  “He’s just a boy with a lot of energy.”  “She’s just a dreamer.”  And the old favourite, “He’ll grow out of it.  Just give him time.”  It was difficult enough coordinating the interventions, schooling needs and environmental changes that my children needed.  I also had to justify and debate what their father, school officials, medical professionals and me all agreed upon.  I get that you watched a really well put together YouTube video and read a blog.  I’m just going to stick with the professionals.

Running that gauntlet wasn’t fun.  But, it made me take some time to reflect on why this myth won’t go away.  As I look back on my own journey, my clients’ journeys and my children, I realise where the miscommunication comes from.  Let me be clear.  It is normal to be different.  It is normal to have variance in experience.  It is normal to be neurodivergent.  It is also a life experience that is rich and varied…just like being neurotypical.

Neuro-divergent People Mask

This is the big one, so let’s start here.  From the beginning of my memory, it has been pointed out that I am not quite right.  I should be more this or do less that.  I am not typical.  Now, just like typical people, I didn’t like to feel wrong.  So, what did I do?  I spent a large amount of time pretending like I’m ok.  I pretended like I understood.  I pretended like I didn’t understand.  I pretended to like things or speak a certain way.  Masking is living unauthentically.  It’s modifying behavior and neglecting needs for the benefit of others.  Parents of neurodivergent children will see this manifest when they get home from school.  The mask comes off and the feelings come out.  Partners will see this in their relationships as well.  As you get older, you get better at masking.  Therefore, the neurotypical population is not exposed to the large amount of effort it takes to appear normal enough.  This survival mechanism often results in depression and anxiety.  We aren’t meant to be unauthentic and be able to accept ourselves.

Medication Works for Many

I will preface this by saying that I am not trained to offer advice for or against medication.  That is not my point.  However, for many people, medication makes the neurotypical world accessible.  They are able to maintain the expected level of focus and concentration for getting the job done.  Many report taking meds as life changing.  If someone is medicated, and it is working, you don’t see the traits.  Catch them on a day where the meds ran out or they forgot to take them and you would report their behaviour as odd and unnerving.  Neurotypical don’t see who takes medication to be successful.

Coping Mechanisms Develop

Do you know that guy who is always bouncing his leg?  What about the person with a bazillion alarms on their watch reminding them to do something?  Have you met the woman with lists on how to write lists for her lists?  Or the person who sings information to remember it?  These are coping mechanisms.  Coaching is all about the coping mechanisms when working with neurodivergent people.  Spell check is convenient for people who might make a typo.  It is LIFE CHANGING for people with Dyslexia or Dyspraxia.  Many coping mechanisms are learned through active investigation.  Even more are developed through trying to make the world less difficult.  Neurotypical people don’t know why we do these things that make us quirky.  They may not even notice.

Neuro-divergent People Keep the Secret

I acknowledge that I am very lucky to be able to fly my ADHD flag with pride.  I work with people who have made accommodations for me.  It’s part of what I do for a living.  I also know that there were times when I kept the secret.  I hear this from clients all of the time. If I disclose, I won’t be promoted to leadership.  Everyone will treat me differently if it gets out.  Years of being mocked and misunderstood has taught us that the world is not kind when they don’t understand.  Many people are kind and accepting…but not everyone.  You never know who is going to be the next person to reject you.

My goal in this post is not to demonise neurotypical people.  Far from it.  People should not be held accountable for information they don’t have.  I would instead like to challenge the unconscious bias in the zeitgeist around neurodivergence.  I want to bring awareness to neurotypical people about how to show up in the best way.  I want to explain a general lack of education, to offer perspective to those who have, whether intentionally or not, been hurt by the dismissive rhetoric.  Most importantly, I want to make it a safe space to be authentic.

Gwen Jones, Educating Matters Expert

What Businesses Can Learn from Schools to Support Neuro-divergence/ Disability

Children with neuro-divergence are often well accommodated at school.  With the appropriate adaptations to the learning environment, students are able to thrive working within the confines of a neuro-typical world.

Unfortunately, many of these successful individuals go into the corporate world unsupported and struggle to succeed.  This could be due to not asking for help out of fear of discrimination or due to a lack of awareness of reasonable accommodations in the workplace.  Whatever the reason, this gap in support robs the corporate world from the benefits of having a successful neuro-divergent individual on their team.

The disconnect of support is often due to a lack of information.  What does the neuro-divergent brain need?  What is practical and reasonable within the workplace?  How does the organisation create an environment where needs can be addressed?

Blending what we already know works in schools with the evolved needs and strengths of a neuro-divergent adult will benefit both parties. As an example, let’s look at ADHD.  3-5% of people in the UK have been diagnosed with ADHD.  Simple support returns incredible results for employees and employers. Here are some top tips to get things started.

Talk Less, Engage More

The obvious area that needs to be supported around ADHD is to do with attention.  It is a misconception that this means a lack of attention.  The truth is that there is an overabundance of attention.  Teachers have mastered the art of giving key information and limiting the exposition.  The reason is that when the ADHD brain receives information, it immediately starts making connections in ways the neuro-typical brain does not.  Managers and colleagues who give the highlights, then check for understanding will benefit from natural ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking that happens when the brain is given space to thrive.

Assistive Technology Saves Projects’ Lives

In school, children with neuro-divergence are taught to rely on assistive technology to communicate information in a neuro-typical way.  It only makes sense to bring this into the professional world.  Spell check, voice to text, organisational software and more are tools specifically designed with the neuro-divergent brain in mind.  Many neuro-typical people have benefitted from them as well.  Becoming aware of and providing the most effective, research-based assistive technology will assist the brain that appears chaotic, to organise time and information to drive project success and keep to tight deadlines.

Notes Are Not Just for Music

One of the most common accommodations in schools for older students involves note taking.  Teachers provide copies of PowerPoints and notes before the class starts for review.  Some students have note taking buddies in class who provide a copy of well-structured notes.  Some classes are recorded for review later.  These interventions are simple, easy and effective.  They can also be easily translated into the work setting.  Small details are no longer missed.  More of the brain is engaged.  Time and money are saved whilst a team member feels supported and valued.

This Space Creates Success

In school, students do not bat an eye lid when they see their fellow students’ needs met in unique ways.  School is a space where everyone is given the chance to succeed.  Surely, the professional space should be as well.  Organisations who do not hide from supporting the needs of their team members create a culture that is inclusive, accepting and even champions those who are diverse.  When everyone feels supported, retention is high and employee engagement soars.

Educating Matters believe that education does not end at school.  It is a lifelong process for individuals and organisations that, when properly supported, is the key to innovation, better mental health and success.  Blending the knowledge and experience between the worlds of education and professionalism is the way forward, for the success of businesses and the individuals who make them prosper.

We have a wealth of resources and can tailor make sessions to:

  • Support the needs of neuro-divergent employees
  • Increase understanding for colleagues who are neuro-typical
  • Support parents of neuro-divergent children.

Here are a few sample webinar outlines:

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ADHD Support for Parents

Don’t Miss Out on Opportunities in ADHD Parenting

When I was asked to take part in ADHD PARENT’S PALOOZA I was elated.  Then, I felt overwhelm.  I was asked to speak on anything in regards to parenting and ADHD.  That narrowed it down….  Should I talk about homework?  Should I talk about diet?  Then, it hit me.  I am a relationship therapist.  I should talk about how to use the relationship between parent and child to stop meltdowns before they happen.

We often over medicalise the neuro-divergence behind ADHD.  Whether it be the child, parent or both with the diagnosis, we make it about the “traits”.  In an attempt to help our child navigate a neuro-typical world, we forget the most important thing.  We have a relationship with our child that is beyond intellect, beyond social skills and beyond what is quantifiable with scientific research.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am a total geek for the Science.  I am a firm believer in proven interventions that can be utilized for success for both ourselves and our children.  However, it is critical that we not turn our children into a problem that needs to be solved.  We lose so much of what makes them unique.

I took my moment in ADHD Palooza to talk about “Preemptive Parenting:  Managing Meltdowns Before They Happen”.  I remind parents to bring it back before the basics.  Parents need to remember that there are 2 people involved in a relationship.  Parents can learn to rely on their intuition to see what is happening in themselves to notice what is happening in their child.  Then, we can curiously question what is going on in them.

Does this mean meltdowns are a thing of the past?  Of course not.  Meltdowns serve a purpose and need to happen from time to time for our children to have a factory reset.  However, we can begin to take advantage of the opportunities our intuition gives to intervene before the meltdown happens and manage the emotions before they become overwhelming.

For a full week of FREE EXPERT TALKS on all things ADHD Parenting, follow this link.  24 of the world’s leading ADHD Parenting Experts are here to gift you their expertise for 1 week, JULY 27- AUGUST 1

REGISTER NOW.  DON’T MISS OUT!!

The Upside of ADHD

A diagnosis of ADHD can feel quite shattering for many parents. The process of diagnosis feels like a series of checklists and anecdotal reports that point out every struggle and short coming in a child’s academic career. So much focus is placed on the downside of neuro-divergence that parents can feel that their child is doomed to a life of struggle

It may surprise neuro-typical people to know that there are many benefits to having a brain that lives outside of the box. When people with ADHD learn to live as a part of the world around them, ADHD can become a superpower! Here are 5 benefits experienced by many people who are labeled ADHD.

Principal Problem-Solver

The ADHD brain is very good at making connections. Whilst neuro-typical thinking is often linear, ADHD thinking processes multiple connections at a time. It may seem to the untrained eye that there is a lack of focus. However, often what is happening is a series of experiments with infinite consequences. When a person is comfortable enough with themselves to allow this process to happen, amazing big ideas are often the result. If the status quo no longer works, someone with ADHD can find a new and inventive path to success!

Captain Creative

Children with ADHD, inattentive type, are often called day dreamers, flighty or airheaded. However, if you ever take a minute and ask them what they are thinking about instead, you will be captivated for hours. Fast forward to adulthood and you may find that the properly nurtured neuro-divergent has created a universe full of character, intrigue and wonder. Chefs like Jamie Oliver often attribute their creative ability with their success. Harnessing the power of that creativity should be a priority for parents.

Master Multi-Tasker

I know that there is a lot of noise at the moment that shows multitasking is not a good thing, but hear me out on this. Neuro-typical brains should not multitask because they aren’t designed that way. However, the ADHD brain not only survives, but thrives on multitasking. If you want a child with and ADHD brain to learn time tables, teach them a dance to go with it. Need to cook several courses at a time, no problem. The ADHD brain will have timings down to a science. Allow them to work in their zone and learning and output will exponentially increase.

Roaring Resilience

I once was asked how to teach children with ADHD resilience. I laughed and said, “That’s like asking me to teach John Legend to play scales on a piano.” The joy and sorrow of the ADHD brain is that it is willing to take risks. This means that there are many opportunities for success and failure. Whilst no one likes to struggle, the ADHD brain has a built in fail safe. By the time the failure is realised, the ADHD brain is already dissecting where things went awry and thought of 4 different ways to try it next time. When a person is confident, there are no barriers in life, only a series of obstacles to overcome. Life turns into an adventure course.

Heroic Hyper-Focus

This is one extremely misunderstood aspect of ADHD. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard an uneducated family member or coworker say, “They say he has ADHD, but he can play video games just fine.” When the ADHD brain becomes intrigued, it has to know every aspect of a subject. Details are looked at from all angles. Light speed laser focus is put into the obsession until the brain believes it is fully processed. Talk to Michael Phellps about swimming sometime. You will learn details you never knew connected to the sport.

 

There are many more ways that the ADHD brain can exceed all expectation. The trick is, teaching it to survive in a neuro-typical world without being ashamed of their unique perspective. Through nurturing and support, the ADHD brain will thrive with unabashed imagination. The key is helping children find how their superpower looks for them and then letting them fly.

 

By Gwen Jones our Special Educational Needs specialist. 

Get in touch if you want to know more about our range of SEN talks or support we can provide through 1:1 consultations.