If I were diagnosed earlier, my life would have been much different.

I would not have had to put up with the abuse I endured growing up and after I left home. I was called lazy, stupid, and crazy and told that those with ADHD have lower intelligence than those with out it.

Nancy, diagnosed at age 55

I can remember sitting in a grad school seminar when the professor, referring to children with executive functioning skill challenges, said we need to remember “to lend our kids our frontal lobes.” What they meant was that for children struggling with executive functioning, as many children with ADHD do, we, as the parents, teachers, and other supporting professionals will often have to directly model and then support the development of these skills with our children and youth. This idea is one I return to frequently as both my daughter and the youth I support in private practice begin their return to on-campus, post-secondary learning. For some students, this month is marking the first return to in-person learning since March of 2020. While for others, this is the first time ever being on campus, as they began their post-secondary experience remotely. As the youth prepare for their transitions, this important idea of lending our frontal lobes has become very timely once again.

Over the past few weeks, I have found myself supporting a number of youth with their plans for in-person academic re-entry. While it is often assumed that students can’t wait to return to an on-campus experience, many are nervous. I have found myself “lending my kids our frontal lobes”. Ideas that may be helpful for other parents and professionals in the weeks ahead:

Schedules. Students are needing help with their concept of time. They are out of practice with transit schedules, many of which have changed during Covid as new routes are now in place. They need support with factoring in the time required to pass through screening checkpoints and learning how to use the apps needed to facilitate that process. There is also time budgeting to get from campus to part-time jobs. Another new experience for many of them. I have found myself helping many students set various alarms and reminders in order to help their days run as smoothly as possible.

Workload Management. Many students have not had in-person instruction at the post-secondary level. I have found myself reminding youths about how in-person learning will go. They are worried about note-taking skills and in-person groups. Many lectures have been recorded and students have been able to pause lectures and relisten to sections of the lecture in order to refine their notes. There is nervousness over losing that ability. Accessibility offices have required emails so new accommodations can be smoothly transitioned in. Students are feeling overwhelmed.

Organizing. Many students are asking for support to organize bags and supplies. Many students, especially in hands-on programs such as art, have never had to collect and bring in their art supplies. The organizing seems daunting. They have forgotten how to pack gym bags, and backpacks, while making sure they have transit passes, and masks. One student talked about sitting in her room unable to start gathering anything as it was all just too much and her brain simply fell apart. Together we went step by step through the organization process. I spoke out loud about my own organizational thinking, modeling how to work through an overwhelming process in pieces. The student’s nervousness decreased. Skills were modeled and belongings were organized in the process.

Anxiety. Students are excited. But, they are anxious. Some of my students have strong self-awareness skills and can recognize their anxiety while others speak more vaguely about their feelings. Regardless, the underlying issue is being anxious about being around people again. There are concerns about social skills, making friends, fitting in, and remaining healthy.
Each student has their own set of concerns but many don’t know what to do with their feelings. I have found myself helping them to identify what is making them anxious and talking through strategies to deal with their feelings. I have been reminding them about the power of the breath.  I have been helping them to develop simple, straightforward scripts they can use when they are feeling overwhelmed socially. For some, I have been helping them write emails or make calls to other professionals who have, in the past, been sources of therapeutic support for them.

Our youth have had a very challenging few years. This is a time in their lives when they should be branching out, and learning more about who they are as independent young adults. They should be working to individuate away from their families a little bit but many have not been able to. They are excited their world is starting to open up again. They are also overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, and not sure where to begin. So, for the rest of this school year, and I am certain for the start of the next one as well, I will be lending my frontal lobes to the youth in my life.

Written and submitted by X. Laudati, 14 years old from the USA!

Imagine having an itchy brain
Imagine having trouble focusing
Imagine forcing yourself to be dedicated to something
Imagine when you want something all you do is talk about it
Now just imagine you want everything to go your way
Imagine not sleeping through the night or not needing a lot of sleep

Imagine trying to focus while playing sports with ADHD
Imagine being able to play an entire soccer game without getting tired
Imagine doing something you immediately regret
Just imagine finishing your popcorn before the movie starts

Imagine having someone tell you to “STOP” multiple times
Imagine someone reminding you multiple times to do something
Imagine your name being called all the time but you don’t respond

Imagine how special it is to have ADHD Imagine having endless energy
Imagine having the drive to complete something
Imagine enjoying life and not stressing about stuff
Imagine focusing on the small stuff that gets left behind
Imagine taking risks and learning from them
I could never imagine my life without having ADHD

Alison Brazier, PhD

Alison Brazier is a mother, health scientist, and parent and family ADHD coach supporting families with neurodiversity.  She is the founder of Brilliant Not Broken Coaching and Consulting.

I still clearly remember the heartache I felt when my six-year-old son told me he felt like his life was breaking apart because his dad and I were constantly mad at him.  At the time, we had no idea he had ADHD, and it was several more years before he was diagnosed. 

Though we were just in the early days of our journey, we realized that day-to-day life with an ADHD child can present huge challenges for parents.  Mostly, this is due to a lack of understanding of how the ADHD brain works, and what kinds of supports a child needs to be successful.  In my parent and family coaching practice, I listen to parents describe households in crisis due to conflict and difficult behavior, lack of parenting agreement between spouses, and severely strained relationships between parent and child.  Parents are left wondering, “What is wrong with my child?  Why am I failing as a parent?”  In the most extreme circumstances, parents have even expressed the desire to give up on their children.  They feel that broken. 

Research has documented that parents of ADHD kids do experience more parenting stress than parents of children without a diagnosis (Theule et al., 2010).  In addition, there is evidence of increased marital conflict and increased rates of divorce. (Wymbs et al., 2008).  Parents of ADHD children were shown to be two times more likely to divorce before the child turns eight years old.

As I have learned through my work with clients, my son was not unusual; children and teens living with ADHD often feel misunderstood, ashamed, and have low self-esteem due to constant negative feedback and the feeling they can’t meet the expectations of parents and teachers.  These kids express considerable emotional concerns such as questioning whether their parents truly love them as much as non-ADHD siblings, whether they will have any future success due to their perceived lack of potential, and some even have moments of wondering if their life is worth living in the most severe cases.  The ADHD child can clearly feel broken too.

Research also bears this out.  For example, a UK study (2016) looked at the impact of ADHD on the health and well-being of ADHD children and their siblings.  Findings demonstrated ADHD was associated with a substantial reduction in quality of life, even in those being treated for their condition.  ADHD study participants showed reduced health, lower subjective well-being, less sleep, and an increase in bullying compared to non-ADHD peers.  Both ADHD participants and their siblings indicated they were significantly less happy with their family and with life overall.  These findings are consistent with previous research.

How do we change this troubling situation? 

I believe a key factor in helping parents and children to feel less distraught is the willingness of the parent to dive into a process of personal growth to arrive at full acceptance of the diagnosis and the child. As Jeff Foster says in his book Deep Acceptance (2012), “Suffering is always, always the invitation to deep acceptance.”

Pediatric neuropsychologist, Dr. Rita Eichenstein, believes acceptance is the fifth stage of a grieving process for parents who receive a diagnosis for an atypical child.  Dr. Eichenstein’s book, “Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children”, is aimed at helping parents of children diagnosed with ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, and other developmental differences to better understand and navigate their emotional challenges.  She believes parents go through a process of grief over the loss of their ideal child – the one they expected to have, without the diagnosis.  She models her explanation of five stages of grief developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross after the loss of a loved one:  These 5 stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance, with each stage involving different reactions to the diagnosis.

Not all parents go through all five stages, some go back and forth through the stages many times, and some get stuck in one stage and can’t move on.  For example, a parent can get stuck in denial and not be able to move past this.  According to Dr. Eichenstein, if there is a problem with parents “getting on the same page” it is most likely one parent stuck in denial. She says this is extremely common, and usually, the one in denial has less education about the diagnosis.

Why is acceptance so important? 

In the state of acceptance parents have truly embraced the child they have, and they have made peace with the life they now are living.  This doesn’t mean that life is not exhausting or that it is easy.  But acceptance moves the parent (and potentially the whole family) from a place of resisting what is and being able to envision a bright future even with this unexpected diagnosis.  As Dr. Eichenstein explains, “It means that suffering and joy can co-exist”.  For some parents, they can even see the gifts that the unexpected journey has brought for them or their family.  For me, it was the opportunity to become a parent and family ADHD coach, and work towards supporting neurodiverse families.

Acceptance is a process that develops over time.  It requires a commitment on the parent’s part to grow and learn, and to maintain an awareness and acknowledgment of their own feelings.  A parent’s willingness to gain sufficient knowledge and understanding about ADHD, and a desire to move out of survival mode and find a better way of living are also key factors.  Separating out the difference between what their ADHD child “can’t do”, for example, due to lagging skills or brain function, versus what they “won’t do”, more intentional behaviour they have control over, is a critical turning point. 

This distinction can open the door for compassion for the child as well as the parent.  If it is discovered the child is not willfully refusing to behave in certain ways, but instead, does not have the ability to meet a parent’s expectations, the household energy changes dramatically.  The focus then shifts from implementing consequences to supporting a child to develop the necessary skills.  As psychologist, Dr. Ross Greene, is well known for stating, “Kids do well if they can”.  

Our children are deeply influenced by our response to their neurodiversity.  If we deny, ignore, or can’t move out of our anger or depression about this unexpected parenting experience, we are demonstrating to our kids (consciously or unconsciously) that they are not ok, and having ADHD is a disability without hope.  In reality, ADHD is considered one of the most treatable psychiatric conditions.  We also know that those with ADHD not only have challenges, but their ADHD wiring can actually give them great strengths as well.  The task is to uncover them.

The other day I reminded my teenage son that he had forgotten to bring in the garbage cans from the street.  He responded with loud exasperation, “I just can’t do anything right!!”  I felt stress rising inside me in anticipation of an uncomfortable interaction.  But when I turned to look at him, he had a huge grin on his face, “I am totally kidding, Mom!”

He has now actually developed a sense of humour around those earlier, tougher times.  It made me think about how far we have come together from those days when he was young and feeling like his world was crumbling, and I felt like mine was too.  It was hard to imagine things getting better, but they have – immeasurably.  Deeply accepting my son’s ADHD, and his other neurodifferences has given me the freedom and ability to become the parent I want to be.  As a family, we have learned that having differences does not have to mean feeling broken.  It can be bumpy, but if we are willing to learn and grow, it can be brilliant. 

References:

Eichenstein, R. Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children. Penguin

Group, New York: 2015.

Foster, J.  Deepest Acceptance: Radical Awakening in Ordinary Life. Sounds True, Boulder, Colorado: 2012.

Peasgood T, Bhardwaj A, Biggs K, et al. The impact of ADHD on the health and well-being of ADHD children and their siblings. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2016; 25:1217:1231.

Theule, J, Wiener J, Tannock R, Jenkins, JM. Parenting stress in families of children with ADHD: a meta-analysis. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Published online 18 Nov 2010.

Wymbs BT, Pelham Jr. WE, Molina BSG, Gnagy EM, Wilson TK, Greenhouse JB. Rate and

predictors of divorce among parents of youth with ADHD. Journal of Consulting and Clinical

Psychology. 2008 October; 76(5): 735-744.

(I want to preface this article by saying that I am not against traditional medication if that is the right thing for you or your child with ADHD, but for my son, it so far has not been the right thing. This is an article about our experience using natural methods to support my son's ADHD brain).

My son has ADHD. He also has SPD. He is hyper and impulsive. His brain and his body are constantly moving. Emotionally, he is about 2 years behind his peers. When he was first diagnosed in early 2020, he was just over 6 years old, and even our pediatrician hesitated with the diagnosis. Our school had requested that we bring someone along to that pediatrician appointment, and I knew it would mean a discussion of medicating him. I had no doubt that that was what the school wanted. Sure enough, once the diagnosis came, the first thing asked by many was "what medication are you going to put him on?" The thought hadn't even crossed my mind. He was only 6, and I dare say most 6-year-old are impulsive and can't sit still at times. He needed adults who understood his brain difference and could teach him in an out-of-the-box way, not to be on some medication that could possibly worsen his difficulties with sleeping and other ADHD challenges. He tends to get 'hangry' if he hasn't eaten enough and I did not want to imagine what that might look like if he was taking a medication that could result in loss of appetite as a side effect. He also gets grumpy and has a harder time when he hasn't gotten enough sleep. I know my kiddo best, and I didn't want to feel forced to put him on traditional medications when I knew he just needed time. Time to grow into his ADHD, time to learn about how his brain works, to learn coping and calming strategies.  Lack of focus wasn't the issue. Neither was intelligence. It was his hyper activeness and impulsivity that was because it meant he wasn't able to sit in a chair at a desk all day. When he wasn't asked to sit all day and was allowed to have movement breaks, he was fine.

When his official diagnosis came, he had already been doing Occupational Therapy (OT) for 6 months. Originally referred to OT for help with written output, the OT soon saw that the reason for the struggles with written output came from a weak core. During their weekly sessions, they worked hard on sensory circuits, core strengthening activities, and writing with larger writing items on big surfaces (like using a whiteboard pen on a whiteboard or writing on a chalkboard at OT. At home he uses bingo dabber). He was calmer at the end of his sessions and was able to sit for 10 minutes and do table work with the OT, so I knew we must be on to something. OT was working and he was loving it, but his hyperactivity and impulsiveness were still high, and so on the advice of a friend of my mom's, I decided to give a Naturopath a call. I thought I would exhaust all my other options before going down the traditional medications route. We got started on a gluten-free diet, probiotics, multivitamins, and omega 3's. By the time we started on the gluten-free diet, it was about a week or so before lockdown, so it was hard to tell at that point if it was helping or not. I stayed the course though, and by the time school resumed for the month of June, I had seen an improvement in his gut health and his behaviour. Sleep remained our #1 issue. Both the quality of it and the quantity. The sleep issues affected the behaviour and stamina in a huge way, and I knew that eventually, we would need to look deeper into it and figure out a solution.

We went through the summer and early fall on the same regime as the spring and didn't add any other supplements until October. On the advice of the naturopath, we decided to add a daily zinc tablet to his regime, as well as vitamin d. The zinc was meant to help with the impulsivity and hyperactivity, and after having him take it for several months, I could tell the days he didn't take it, like weekends. He was way more impulsive. I was a little reluctant to give him melatonin, or any kind of thing to help him sleep, but he was really struggling to get good quality sleep, he was having really big emotions and meltdowns at bedtime, and it was affecting how he was in the day times also. We finally did add two sleep aides, and they have helped him to get both good quality and a good quantity of sleep. I plan to keep my son on this course of treatment for as long as possible. I read that impulsivity in his type of ADHD usually peaks by age 8 and he is already 7 1/2, so I am hopeful that things will continue to improve. Combined with a predictable and consistent schedule & routine, accommodations at school and home to allow his brain to not be on overload, and enough sensory and heavy work activities throughout the day, my son is doing just fine. He completes his work quickly and efficiently; both the work he does at school and the work he is given by his teacher to do at home -- and he can multitask while doing so -- he understands the material and enjoys doing it. I know that we may not be able to stay on this course forever. He is only 7 1/2, so the work isn't super complicated or hard yet. Although he is already better at math than I am! Right now, he is thriving on our current treatment plan, but there may come a day when he wants to give traditional medications a try. I want him to be old enough to understand all that that entails and to be able to make an informed decision for himself before making that decision, but if it's something he wants to do, we can certainly look into it.

This was submitted to #ADHDSpeaks for ADHD Awareness Month. This month’s we’re focusing on ADHD in women and girls as it often goes underrecognized and underdiagnosed. Thanks to Larissa, 17 from BC for their brave and important words!


Hi my name is Larissa,

I was diagnosed with ADHD at the young age of 7 and have been conquering the world ever since.

ADHD is a neurological disorder that effects over a million Canadian adults, and 1 out of 30 school aged children. ADHD tends to run in the family for example a lot of my family has it. I want people to know that mental illness and ADHD are not always visible. It is so important to know that ADHD can effect anyone, no matter age, gender, or race.

Without proper treatment, depending on the severity of ADHD, it can really effect a person’s ability to live a successful and fulfilling life.

I take medication for my ADHD, but not everyone does. Without my medication, I am unable to work, attend school, drive, complete daily tasks, and achieve my goals and dreams.

ADHD also has it’s positives though, as it does not affect a person’s intelligence. In fact it’s proven that we are some of the most creative, adventurous, outgoing, and resilient people.

I want everyone to know that ADHD is something you can’t control, and it’s not your fault. There’s gonna people in your life that won’t like you for your ADHD quirks, flaws, and hyperactivity. My advice, be you! Don’t change for anyone because there’s only one of you in this world. Find People in your life who will love you for who you are. End the stigma, show the world who you truly are.

I had always struggled with my ADHD, and I would say that as an adult with ADHD there are many more difficulties that are often overlooked. I struggle personally with executive dysfunction. The struggle is often with daily tasks that I see others experience seamlessly. I can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten my wallet, phone, or keys. 

The things that I find helpful now are lists most definitely. There are other resources I use such as my close friends or a family member that I trust that I can be accountable to. I find that I struggle with accountability as well. I find that when I have someone else being a part of what I am doing that it becomes easier to complete tasks than when I am forced to do it on my own as I know at that point that it won’t get done in time or sometimes at all. Then the guilt sets in! I feel guilty when I don’t complete a task on time or at all and I will think about it most of the time and it will take up a lot of space in my mind until I break down. Honestly, sometimes I wish I was neurotypical as that would at least allow me to complete things on time!

Coming from my mother having difficulty with me in high school as I didn’t acknowledge that I was different. I feel like I fought the rigidity of doing school like everyone else.  I was the daydreamer in school, and I still find peace when I zone out as an adult. Though I don’t think there is really anything wrong with zoning out, granted it probably wouldn’t make much sense to do in the middle of a business meeting… I think it helps somewhat reset my brain.

I know that I am very intelligent, I know this. I just really struggle with applying myself. I know what I must do, I just can’t get my body to move or engage myself enough in the task to get it done. I think therefore I enjoy delegating and being a manager because I have loved building a team and building people up rather than being responsible for manufacturing items or writing etc. I love being around people. I love being a leader. I know I am meant to be an entrepreneur.

I think there is definitely a need for the community around ADHD and I think groups are a great way to feel seen and accepted. I think there is something to be said for medication too, although I haven’t investigated this too much over the years as I struggle with stimulants. I think what works for each person varies and trial and error is an important part too. Don’t be too hard on yourself. 

If you have ADHD, you’re probably already familiar with the concept of executive dysfunction. While executive dysfunction is not exclusive to ADHD, most people with ADHD struggle with some level of executive dysfunction. Executive functioning allows an individual to control their actions with varying amounts of effort. Executive function is what allows us to overcome procrastination, to create a schedule and stick with it, and maintain interest in a task that may be difficult and not immediately rewarding. On the flip side, executive function also allows us to stop doing an activity that is rewarding (fun) in order to do a task that isn’t.

People with ADHD often struggle with impaired executive function: executive dysfunction. Something I wish the people around me understood is how genuinely difficult completing a seemingly simple task can be. As I write this, I have a month’s worth of schoolwork to catch up on and two exams in four days. I’ve been excited about writing this piece, but I haven’t had the energy to force myself to write until now, the day it is due. In the time that I was supposed to have been doing all of these things, what did I do? I spent an hour making a schedule detailing when I should be writing, studying, or relaxing that I successfully ignored for the entire month of May. I tried to shame myself into completing some schoolwork. I tried to appeal to my reward-hungry brain by thinking about how interesting it would be to write this article, and how disappointed I would be in myself if I didn’t finish it on time. I read thousands of pages of fantasy novels. I tried the Pomodoro method (twenty minutes on, five minutes off). I researched male pattern baldness for several days, even though I have no leg in that race. I just thought it was interesting. I tried studying alone, in the same room as someone else, with music, in silence. Evidently, none of my strategies worked, or this piece of writing would be much better quality and have much more direction than it does. Now, I’m desperately trying to finish this article in the middle of studying for exams, and I’m buzzing with nervous energy that can best be described as a hive of bees swarming in my brain.

When I try to tell my friends without ADHD about this, they say “oh, everyone has issues with procrastination. Everyone has difficulty sticking to a schedule.” This might be true, but I can’t help but think that my case is a little more than procrastination. Most people I know usually don’t have to ask for an extension for almost every paper they turn in. Most people don’t read several fantasy novels in the span of six days instead of their textbooks, at the cost of their sleep, diet, and hygiene. Most people I know are able to prioritize and dedicate a healthy amount of time to the priorities they’ve set. Though I’ve been diagnosed for three years and dutifully take my medication every day, I seem to have made very little progress on this front. Often, when I try to talk about my issues with executive dysfunction, people like to tell me I’m just lazy. I hate that more than anything else, because it devalues all of the effort I put into completing a task. It’s not that I think about studying and decide to blow it off, it’s that I think about studying and the thought of sitting down for an hour and reading notes physically paralyzes me.

Now, to be honest with you, I really don’t have any tips on how to hack executive dysfunction. I can’t say I’ve found one strategy that’s worked for me over a long period of time. What has worked for me, however, is accepting that sometimes my brain won’t do what I want it to do. Forgiving myself for missed opportunities. Congratulating myself for turning in a paper that is a day late, even if I get a 5% deduction, because I finished the paper and that’s worth something! Shaming myself into working has never been effective, it only makes me want to avoid doing the work more. If you struggle with executive dysfunction it can be very hard to acknowledge your own hard work, because often the amount you put out doesn’t seem to align with the effort you put in. Working your hardest every day is exhausting! It’s okay to take a break, and it’s okay to be less productive than your neurotypical peers. Sometimes you just need to sit down and play video games for 8 hours straight.

Earlier this year I decided to support a friend of mine by giving his new podcast, Holy Sh*t I Have ADHD!, a listen. I knew very little about ADHD or what being neurodivergent was and really just wanted to see what a friend was up to, so I pressed play on episode 1.

After listening to about half of the first episode, I got distracted by thinking about how much I was relating to everything they were talking about. I lifted my jaw up off the floor and decided to write myself a little note so that I could remember to bring it up to my therapist later that week. My therapists response to my statement of “I think I might have ADHD” was “Oh yeah, I can see that.”

At that point she helped me start a process of diagnosing me through questions, doctors appointments, more questions, blood tests and then a few more questions. After a lot of waiting, being on waiting lists and remaining on hold, I received my official diagnosis for ADHD at the age of 43.

It’s still pretty fresh for me and I’ve been spending the time since then trying to wrap my head around what it means to me and what I want to do with this new information about my brain.

Through a lot of mourning for the past and trying so hard to stay hopeful for the future, I decided to work through it as an art project.

I work as a professional photographer and thought a great way to learn more about ADHD would be to create an on-going portrait project where I can talk with other people that are experiencing ADHD themselves. I wanted to highlight adults that have been diagnosed as neurodivergent and start a discussion that may inspire others to have a closer look at their mental health.

With ADHD being the most under recognized, yet most treatable mental health disorders in Canada it feels like an important discussion to have. Going through over a year of pandemic restrictions seems to have given people scenarios that allow them to find ways to understand themselves and their loved ones, better.

Through this effort I have met so many amazing people with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives on what being neurodivergent means to them.

The conversations that have taken place because of this project are invaluable to my growth and understanding of myself and how my brain works. The openness of others has been so vulnerable and refreshing. Having an instant connection with people that really, truly understand the moments that I’ve struggled through all these years. Each person and conversation has been so important to my forgiveness and attitude towards myself. Having thoughtful dialog about therapy and medication options makes everything a little easier to face.

Taking the stigma out of something that so many people experience is a great way to allow people to be themselves and not feel shame for it. Sharing not only my journey as I discover what ADHD or neurodiversity means to me, but creating a platform where others have been open about how they navigate a neurotypical world with a neurodivergent brain.

The community that exists around ADHD has been the biggest surprise for me during the first few months of my discovery.

Knowing that there are so many people out there eager to help, support and share their thoughts on what it’s been like for them is our way of trying to take away the stigma that surrounds neurodiversity. As I continue to explore my path forward I hope to open a dialog that allows for more understanding of what it means to have ADHD or be neurodivergent as opposed to neurotypical.

I’m interested in continuing this portrait project and I am currently looking for more people to photograph. Adults living in British Columbia that have been diagnosed with ADHD and would love to spend an hour talking about it while we walk around your neighbourhood, please get in touch via email: ryanwalterwagner@gmail.com

WEBSITEwww.ryanwalterwagner.com

INSTAGRAM@ryanwalterwagner

DHD Portraits by Ryan

Jake
This past December Jake was diagnosed with ADHD after some encouragement from people close to him and a little bit of self reflection.

We had a really thorough conversation where we discussed medications and other treatments. We talked about looking at our pasts and wishing we could’ve done a few things differently had we only known that our brains were working the way they are. It was really comforting to speak to another person that could really understand the way my brain seems to work and the frustrations that come along with it.

Jakes openness towards discussing ADHD was another one of those instant connections that is constantly revealing itself in this amazing community of people with ADHD.

Robbie
Last November Robbie was diagnosed with Adult ADHD and has since started a podcast (Holy Sh*t I Have ADHD) with her friend Jordan Lane, which discusses the effects and struggles of people that have been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult.

Dominic
My conversation with Dominic was one of the most uplifting yet. Our conversation leaned towards the amazement of discovering yourself. Being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult can be an incredible moment in your life that allows you to understand the struggle that looms inside our brains and never seems to quiet down. Dominic’s ability to take responsibility was very inspiring for me and allowed me another angle to look at ADHD with an encouraging spin.

Heidi
Growing up, Heidi says she always felt there was something a bit different about her and after some introspective work between her and her partner (at the time), she was diagnosed with ADHD in her late 20’s.

We spoke openly about how being neurodivergent has effected our past and how it’s a great thing to be able to explain, finally, why certain things have effected our lives.

One thing that really stood out to me as we wandered around her neighbourhood, was how she spoke about ‘relief’ in finally being diagnosed and having an explanation. The relief wasn’t so much about setting herself at ease, but to be able to equip her family and loved ones with information that could help them understand as well. I really thought that was a beautiful statement into how wonderful of a person she is.

Santina
My conversation with Santina was full of so much insight and information that helped me really take some bigger steps towards understating ADHD and how to navigate it in a Neurotypical world.

Part of this project for me is understanding how others have navigated their diagnosis and I thought Santina had some amazing things to contribute to my own understanding.

“What would I say about ADHD? It’s the disorder of opposites, no wonder we looked like we were spinning a mile a minute or spaced out when we were younger, and still as adults, it’s just harder to see for some. It’s pretty amazing to see so many people finding the right way to articulate their symptoms, to have a voice for their medical well being now with the accessibility of large forums. Neuro Diverse folk are the change this world really needs to listen to and provide space to nurture that craft we all have inside of us.”

Sean
Sean and I met each other in 1997 and have ran in similar circles since then. Hearing him talk about struggles he’s dealt with really opened up another part of me and my journey to understanding ADHD. He had been diagnosed at an early age with ADD and was offered medications that were over-prescribed in the era of ‘hyper kids’. After turning 19 he had deeper looks into his mental health and his journey took a lot of turns before he found himself in a more understanding place.

As he spoke with ease describing simple, everyday things that roam around in his brain, my own fears seemed to lessen. Having people speak with me about their own experiences that match my own so closely has been a way to drag the fear that I feel over an ADHD diagnosis out of my mind. Knowing that a lot of struggles of feeling out of place and distracted are felt by others have brought a more positive outlook into my life. I’m not quite there yet, but speaking openly with old friends like Sean sure is helping.

Amity
After suspicions during her childhood, Amity was finally diagnosed with Adult ADHD in her 30’s. Since then her journey has been one of growth as she learned to find ways to understand how her brain works. I had a tremendously encouraging and uplifting conversation with Amity as we discussed both positives and negatives to being diagnosed with ADHD.

Our talk left me feeling a lot more encouraged with my recent diagnosis. This project has been an outstanding way for me to understand my own brain as I have so many conversations about all the unique and diverse ways people with ADHD navigate their own lives.

Micaela
Four years ago Micaela was diagnosed with Adult ADHD. Since then she has completed her degree and is working as a music therapist. We spent some time walking around Burnaby and talking about the effects of adult ADHD. Michaela has a terrific outlook and shared many positive outcomes with me.

Preschool Children  

Learning to read is a complex process where a child must establish sound-symbol relationships and then learn how to connect those sounds into words, following the language’s complex and often inconsistent rules. So, the fact that most children learn how to read by the age of 6 or 7 is an impressive accomplishment!

For children with ADHD, the process of learning how to read can be more complex. While not all children with ADHD experience difficulties learning how to read, it is estimated that up to 50 percent of children with ADHD may struggle with the process of learning how to read, reading with fluency and reading comprehension. Learning to read requires attention and executive coordination. This means your child has to hold onto the letter sounds, string the sounds together and make meaning from the individual sounds to read the word – and then they have to do the same thing again with multiple words to read a sentence. Keeping so much active in working memory at once can be exhausting, especially if it is difficult for your child to maintain their attention.

 Fortunately, learning to read is a skill that can be mastered. There are plenty of strategies that can help, including focusing on phonics, word and sound play, and sight words.

Tips for reading success in Preschool.

  1. Establish a love of reading. Read to your child so they can experience the joy of a great story or learn more about something they love. Reading to your child strengthens their listening skills and engages their imagination. You can encourage them to visualize the events in the story and predict what happens next. This will help your child stay focused and engaged, and it’s a great way to spend time together.
  2. Develop pre-reading skills. Rhyming is an essential pre-reading skill as your child has to hear the last sound in the word to find a matching rhyming word. Dr. Suess or other fun rhyming books (like my favourite, Llama Llama Red Pyjama by Anna Dewdney) are a great way to have fun and work on rhyming.
  3. Use movement. Play the game Jump on It by spreading a few letters written on cue cards on the floor. Call out the letter name or the sound the letter makes and ask your child to jump on it! You can play the same game with sight words too.
  4. Use decodable readers. Series such as Bob Books are an excellent tool for learning how to read. They are phonics-focused and help your child develop and build their skills. Have your child read regularly and for short bursts at a time when they are not too tired. Be sure to praise their efforts for staying focused on their reading – you might consider a chart in their bedroom or on the fridge where they can place a big colourful checkmark for each book they complete.
  5. Engage your child’s teachers. Your child’s teacher is an important member of your child’s team. Communicate with the teacher about how you can best to support and reinforce the reading program taught at school.

By working with your child to establish a solid foundation for reading, their energy can be devoted to understanding and interpreting what they read. This is increasingly relevant as your child moves into the higher grades.

Reading Comprehension In School Aged Children

Being able to read and understand increasingly complex exceedingly important for successful student learning in the later years. Deficits in reading comprehension can have a profound effect on achievement, self esteem, and confidence.  In the early years, children focus on learning to read text fluently. However, as children get older, there is a greater need to understand text because of the emphasis on math problem solving, science, and social studies.  For many school aged children with ADHD, reading and understanding text, especially non fiction text,  is a challenge because of the sustained attention needed to focus on text that is often challenging for children with ADHD.

            When reading text there are a number of cognitive processes involved including,

There are strategies that will help children with ADHD develop their reading skills and contribute to their achievement and engagement in reading activities both a home and at school.

With time and patience, children with ADHD can become proficient readers. Making reading a positive part of your daily routine will increase the likelihood that children will engage in reading voluntarily, positively impacting success in school and beyond.

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