Activism, even ADHD Activism, is often a thing you do, not a thing you talk about. But here I am, talking about it. Last year, my activism blossomed. I threw away “conventional wisdom,” and decided that I’m sticking with what works (seems obvious!) I will be ME, and that means I am no longer willing to follow the road most traveled, even though many ADHD coaches do, believe it or not. These are wonderful people, involved in ADHD Activism themselves, and furthering the world’s understanding of ADHD. But they still talk of ADHD as a deficit or a disorder. They talk of “managing,” “controlling,” and “fixing.”
Still others embrace the Gift of ADHD but they still adhere to the same tired behavioral interventions that have been around for decades. Even the highest paid, most famous of the ADHD professional tribe don’t go the distance, in my opinion.
At least they don’t go as far as I go with my clients.
ADHD Activism and Advocacy must involve pioneering techniques
Coaches are not scientists. Our techniques do not need to be based on what others think. We can combine reality and science with intuition and experience. We don’t need to follow a particular method. We who have been involved with families for decades should be able to come up with our own techniques, have our own “light bulb moments,” and do WHAT WORKS, not what others are doing.
Honestly, I don’t even understand an ADHD coach or activist that closely adheres to a particular behavioral or parenting philosophy. I would wonder if that person actually HAS ADHD, or if they’ve just become an ADHD coach because they like people with ADHD. That’s nice, as far as it goes, but for my kids, I would want someone who knows the ins and outs of ADHD like no one else. I want the daredevil, the cliff jumper, the dragon rider. I want all that PLUS they must have compassion and a love of families. A love for YOUR family.
So I want you to know who I am and where I stand. And it’s fair for you to ask this of other ADHD professionals: “What is your view of ADHD and how will you help my child?”
Here’s where I stand, Here’s who I am
First off, I want to share this song with you. Listen to the words. Every time I watch this video, I get chills and want to cry. This is what I wish I could have articulated when I was growing up with ADHD. I wish I had had the courage to sit with my parents and explain who I am and then have them tell me they would do everything to help me find my way. But so many people were telling me that I needed to do things differently, that I needed to change, that I couldn’t imagine that my feelings and thoughts would be understood. So I stayed quiet.
I think every ADHD child – some more than others – wonders, “What is wrong with me?” and longs to be heard and to hear the comforting words that there is nothing wrong. And that brings me to my first belief:
*1. There is nothing wrong with your child and there is nothing wrong with ADHD.
Your child has a different way of processing information, generating information, and interacting with the world. There’s nothing wrong with that. What’s missing is the training they need to fit in with the majority of society. That’s where coaching comes in. Coaching should be a skills-based approach, not changing behaviors, but teaching ADDITIONAL behaviors, so that kids’ lives are easier, so that they have more choices.
In fact, your child is a great leader in the making, a creative genius, and a compassionate member of society. These are qualities that are rarely discussed with regards to ADHD (except maybe the creative genius part). I have seen this time and time again in my 30+ years working with ADHD kids. There is a core goodness and strength that, left ignored or unseen, creates a restless spirit in our children. For some, this restless spirit is a catalyst; for others it is a trauma. Either way, ADHD kids need as much adult support as possible to realize their potential.
*2. Schools take a cookie cutter approach to learning. ADHD kids don’t have cookie cutter brains.
Often, the assumption is that ADHD kids hold back the other students. In fact, as a former teacher and school counselor, I can tell you that if we taught our classes as if everyone had ADHD, everyone would have more fun, get more done, and feel better about themselves and their abilities.
*3. ADHD kids, along with the kids that are always in detention, are the only kids in school that are told to change.
The first problem with this is that it presumes that ADHD is bad. The second problem is that this assumes that teachers can’t think of anything better to do with the ADHD kids than try to change them.
*4. Medication is neither good nor bad. It is a treatment but it is not a stand-alone treatment.
I’ve seen medication work and I’ve seen it not work. I was on meds for 17 years and they worked great. And then they didn’t. They just stopped working.
You can tell if the meds are working if your child feels like a BETTER VERSION of himself or herself. When medication works, it’s a great feeling. You don’t feel high or more peaceful, you feel WHOLE, like the missing jigsaw piece has been found.
But medication is only part of a treatment plan. I think of your treatment plan as your safety net. If you only use medication, that’s not much of a safety net. Plus medication doesn’t teach skills or listen to you or answer your questions. You want to discover which modalities work for your child and then use as many as possible. Each is a string in the safety net. You want a strong net? You need to pull in more help.
For example, I take Wellbutrin, I have a business coach, I check in regularly with accountability partners, I have one person besides my coach that I check in with almost daily, just to stay on track in my business and health. Massage works great for me, so do essential oils. Exercise is a must and eating lots of protein and drinking lots of water help too. That’s a treatment plan. That’s a safety net. I am covered for any problem that might arise. That’s what families need too.
*5. Adults MUST attend to kids emotional needs before we can get them to focus and do their tasks, chores, and assignments.
Look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Nobody can give us the attention we expect if they haven’t had their needs met at each level in order. It just won’t work. Please keep this in mind and share it with your family. ADHD kids have to feel emotionally anchored to advance up the pyramid.
*6. No matter who we are or how great our reputation, if we keep thinking of ADHD as a negative, or if we use negative metaphors to describe ADHD, we are oppressing our child/student/patient/client/friend/spouse.
A couple of weeks ago, there was an infographic making the rounds on Facebook. It did a good job of explaining ADHD but the metaphor used was a ICEBERG. As in, “We only think we know all of the problems that accompany ADHD, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.” All were good points but did they have to use an iceberg? Is there really no positive image that could have been used? We cannot continue to perpetuate negativity and expect our kids to thrive.
ADHD people need to be surrounded by people who believe in possibility, are optimistic, and have some faith in the kindness of life/God/the Universe. It is the difference between night and day for people with ADHD.
No more icebergs. Let’s use something beautiful, like a lotus flower, that grows in mud but emerges in beauty. Or a caterpillar, that needs to be tightly sheltered in order to emerge as a butterfly. Or an orchid, that needs special soil and light and nutrients in order to shine.
*7. Looking for what “causes” or “cures” ADHD casts ADHD as a problem, as something to be avoided.
As of this writing, the latest news is that eating licorice during pregnancy could be responsible for “ADHD-like behaviors.” This is ridiculous. And… if it were true, I’d say eat tons of licorice!!!!!!! ADHD is wonderful! There are actually mega-corporations that are asking technology companies to create apps and programs that will teach people to think like people with ADHD. This is true.
If you are overwhelmed by your child’s ADHD, please know that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can ask for help (not from your friends, but from professionals). The difference between ADHD misery and ADHD excitement is getting help for your family.
If we were ever able to “cure” ADHD, we would lose so many dreamers, so many creators, so many leaders, so many hearts. Your child’s ADHD is a gift to the world – it’s important that it be nurtured in a way that is personally tailored for him/her, and that is congruent with the values you want to impart to him/her. Under-treated kids become under-achieving adults.
*8. Therapy is not a good modality to use for ADHD. Yes, I mean it.
There’s nothing wrong with therapy. Therapy is awesome. It’s just not useful for ADHD. First of all, when your child goes to therapy, it makes him or her the “designated patient.” Progress is measured by whether and how much the child changes. This actually decreases the likelihood of progress being made because, in effect, the situation has created another issue: adding another layer of “you don’t do things the way the rest of us do” to an already shaky self-esteem.
*9. Using a psychotherapy model for treating ADHD does not work. It just doesn’t.
For the ADHD brain to grow and adopt new behaviors and habits, a once a week, “talk therapy” session is not enough. What are you supposed to do the rest of the week? The ADHD brain, like all brains, becomes habituated to certain neural patterns (the way the brain reacts to events, activities or people). We know that in order to rewire the patterns (to effect lasting change) we need to have consistent and regular interaction, giving brains practice with this new outlook that we want the brain to adopt.
If you look around the internet, you will find that most ADHD coaches spend LESS time with their clients than is necessary to effect long-term change. What ends up happening is that the patient/client/family becomes dependent on the practitioner. They come to believe that they can’t change without their coach because they lose momentum in the interim between appointments.
Alternatively, in my opinion, my job is to make myself obsolete. My job is to build momentum and consistency, and boost parenting and life skills so much that I’m not needed (or rarely needed). I do this by encouraging frequent contact, especially in the beginning, not by DIScouraging it or not providing it at all.
To coach, parent, teach, or BE an ADHD child or teen, we need to do things differently. We need to adapt to the child, not have the child fit our mold. Parents and teachers, as leaders of their “domains,” become the change agents that set the tone for the blossoming of the beautiful and unique ADHD “lotus.”
So, here’s where I stand and here’s who I am.
I will always choose what’s best for the family and the child. It’s how I serve my people – with honesty, compassion, loyalty, love, and a ton of laughter.
Where do you stand? Scroll down and share your thoughts in the Comments section below. I love hearing from you!
Copyright 2017 Yafa Luria/Margit Crane All Rights Reserved
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