HADD's mission is to make life better for people affected by ADHD. We are an organisation in Ireland made up of volunteers- parents of children with ADHD, individuals with ADHD and professionals. We are dedicated to providing as much up-to-date information, resources and networking opportunities to individuals with ADHD, parents of children with ADHD and the professionals who serve them.
A mum-of-two has spoken of her anguish as her seven-year-old has been out of mainstream school for 20 weeks. Naomi Shelton, 33, said young Kade Moneypenny was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in May 2018.
The mum from Calverton, Nottinghamshire, told how "he has always been the class clown and so alarm bells started ringing but after his diagnosis he started getting excluded from school left right and centre."
After Kade went back to Manor Park Primary School in September, Miss Shelton said he had a "melt down" which resulted in a teacher getting kicked in the head, Kade was then permanently excluded, Nottinghamshire Live reports.
His mum says the situation has caused her stress and she has been off work sick. After Kade was reportedly told he could no longer attend the school, Miss Shelton had to take 12 weeks off work to home school him.
The healthcare assistant argues her son needs a specialist school and more than two hours a day of education. She said: "It has had a huge impact on our family. This happened in September and he was out of school for weeks before the local authority then said he could have two hours tuition a day.
"His schooling is now two hours at different times each day at a secondary school. Firstly this is not suitable for his needs but secondly, how am I supposed to bring back normality to my family when I can't work regular hours. The stress this has caused has been horrible. I am having to rely on family members to help out and my work is suffering, not to mention Kade is suffering.
"Kade has now been out of school for half of the school year. He has no friends, he is not getting a proper education and it could be months before the council are able to find him a long-term alternative. The system is broken and my child's education is suffering. He needs a specialist school or more than two hours a day in education."
The plan was started in December and can take up to 20 weeks to be completed. Miss Shelton added: "I feel like a tug of war rope. I have to be in so many places at once and I am struggling. His current set-up is just not suitable, he can't learn on just two hours a day and being at a secondary school is totally inappropriate. I have just been left worrying about it for so long now."
Laurence Jones, service director for commissioning and resources at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “While we would not comment on individual cases in any detail, I can confirm that we are currently considering an EHC Plan for this child.
“This is a 20 week statutory process and is in line with the SEND Code of Practice so that we can collate information from education, health and social care professionals, which forms the basis of the plan and provision. The county council keeps a very close eye on cases where children have part-time timetables and we insist that these are as time- limited as possible and there must be a clear plan for a return to full time learning.”
Mirror Online has contacted Manor Park Primary School for comment.
Why do so many people with ADHD struggle to find relief from their symptoms? From taking away interventions too soon to trying therapy before medication, here are six common obstacles to successful treatment — and how to avoid them.
The media generally portrays attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) as a controversial diagnosis. Some doubters question whether it is a real disorder, despite the fact that ADHD has been acknowledged by medical researchers since 1902, and it was first found to be responsive to stimulants in 1936. It has been treated with medication by professionals ever since. Why, then, do so many with ADHD struggle to find relief from their symptoms? Here are six common obstacles to successful treatment:
1. Therapy Rarely Works Without ADHD Medication
Many of my patients ask, “Do I have to take medication? Can’t we try counselling first?” When clients are initially diagnosed, many want to begin with a less invasive approach (coaching, counselling, or tutoring) before deploying the “big gun” of medication. It’s a terrific idea, except that it is almost always wrong.
ADHD is a neurological disorder. It doesn’t just go away, and it has strong genetic origins. Some people learn to cope better naturally over time, but medication is a powerful tool that can immediately reduce ADHD symptoms in most people. Counselling should begin after medication has been successfully introduced. Imagine being told to “try squinting for three months, before we take the step of writing you a prescription for eyeglasses.” If you need glasses to see, why struggle and fail before receiving the tool you need?
If inattention and impulsivity are first reduced by medication, the individual with ADHD can better apply the coping skills she will learn from counselling. She will be able to slow down and problem-solve. Doing counselling first risks that the client will give up on it based on her inability to remember to use what she learns with the therapist. Sometimes, granting the client’s wishes is not helpful.
2. Most Clinicians Don’t Understand ADHD
Many patients say, “The doctor asked why I keep doing impulsive things. How would I know?” Imagine being asked to explain the behaviour that sent you to the doctor in the first place. Those diagnosed with ADHD are impulsive for a reason; it is how they are wired. Repeating the painful experience of unsuccessfully explaining symptoms will not forge a therapeutic bond, but it might convince the patient that treatment is a waste of time.
Clinicians shouldn’t ask a person with ADHD why he isn’t more organized and better prepared. ADHD is not a choice.
3. Learned Helplessness Is a Real Psychological Phenomenon
“Why do I have to go to the tutor? Tutoring never really helps me.” A client may erroneously conclude that tutoring isn’t going to work, based on her failure to have benefited from it when her ADHD was unmediated. Psychologist Martin Seligman, Ph.D., author of Learned Helplessness, studied the impact of repeated failure experiences on future coping efforts. He found that after enough trials in which an electric shock could not be successfully avoided, subjects stopped making efforts to avoid the shock altogether. Seligman concluded that when escape behaviours prove ineffective, the escape efforts disappear, a process he termed “learned helplessness.”
Consider the experience of trying your hardest, only to repeatedly fail. Now pour on a generous helping of “Why don’t you just try harder?” It is easy to see why a patient would just give up. Resist drawing the conclusion that trying won’t help. Find a specialist with experience in treating ADHD to avoid being given useless advice.
4. Society Removes ADHD Interventions When the Patient Improves
“Why did they take the accommodation away, just when it started to help me?” In public schools, the short answer is money. Administrators, and some teachers, mistake tools vital to continued progress for training wheels on a bicycle: “You have brought your grades up significantly this semester, now that we have provided you with eyeglasses for your myopia. Now, let’s see if you can manage without them and do just as well.”
Why people think you will “grow out of” a heritable neurological condition escapes me. Many people with ADHD learn to compensate for it over time. It does not just disappear. You learn how to psychologically “squint,” if the ADHD symptoms are mild. As with near-sightedness, the need for eyeglasses persists. Success means that one should continue the intervention that brought the success.
5. Many People Stop Treatment Too Early
Many clients have told me: “Come to think of it, I did do better when I was medicated as a kid. I refused to take medication after I hit junior high. Do you think that has anything to do with why I keep flunking out of college; wrecking my car; drinking too much; making bad choices in relationships; performing inconsistently at work?”
I wish I had a dollar for every adult I treated for ADHD who had been diagnosed and successfully treated as a child, but who stopped taking his medication as a young adult. When they struggle and return for help as adults, they usually fail to connect the symptoms with their having prematurely stopped treatment.
6. Parents Fail to Recognize (and Treat) Their Own Symptoms
Many parents say: “We did try medication with our child, but it didn’t work. Why do you think it will work now?” As an ADHD specialist, I routinely identified and treated the parent with ADHD, especially if he or she would be administering the medication to her child. Too many parents tell me, “We gave him the meds during the first two weeks, and things got a little better. After the third week, we forgot to give it sometimes, and the teacher started complaining that it wasn’t working anymore. I called the doctor, who increased the dosage. Then a mom told me that my son looked like a zombie in class, so I took him off those terrible drugs. Did I make a mistake?”
Clinicians often fail to take into account that ADHD symptoms are likely to be inconsistent. If stimulants are not carefully titrated, under systematic observation, the optimal dosage may never be found. Even worse, if medication is given erratically, the optimal dosage may be overshot, particularly if medication is increased in big jumps.
A key reason to initially identify and treat parents with ADHD before treating their symptomatic children (even though this approach is almost universally rejected by parents) is to avoid reports of diminished effectiveness due to the fact that the parents with ADHD were inconsistent in administering their children’s medication. A parent who prefers to begin treating the child before herself isn’t making a wise choice.
The tendency to increase the dosage of a stimulant too quickly is often aggravated by the limits placed by managed care on both the amount of time spent by the prescribing doctor and the frequency of appointments. An overmedicated kid may look like a zombie, but the correct response is to lower the dosage, not to stop treatment. Clinicians need to dose stimulants smoothly and slowly up to an optimal, not just an improved, level of performance.
Steven Tenenbaum, Ph.D., is a former psychologist who ran the Attention Deficit Clinic in St. Louis for more than 20 years. He has been diagnosed with ADHD and raised two children with the disorder.
Asked what they know about attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, many people will likely tell you that it mostly affects children, and mostly boys. However, recent research has shown that neither of these perceptions is entirely true.
There is a striking difference in the sex of children diagnosed with ADHD, with boys more likely to be diagnosed than girls (the ratios can be as high as 9:1 in some studies). However, these studies are of children who have an established diagnosis of ADHD, and such estimates are affected by referral patterns (for example, parents may be more likely to take their sons in for an ADHD assessment), so they may not reflect the true sex ratio.
Indeed, when we estimate the occurrence of ADHD in the population as a whole, rather than just in children at clinics, we find that a lot more girls meet diagnostic criteria than is reflected in the estimates from clinics. The same equalising trend between the sexes is visible when looking at adults with a diagnosis of ADHD. Taken together, this suggests that there are a substantial number of girls with ADHD going undiagnosed in childhood, with potentially serious implications for the effects of their untreated symptoms in childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
Why are girls less likely to be diagnosed?
One reason that fewer girls are diagnosed with ADHD is that girls may be more likely to have the inattentive-type ADHD symptoms, rather than the hyperactive and impulsive symptoms that are more common in boys. The issue is that while inattention and an inability to focus will cause problems for a child, such symptoms may be less disruptive and noticeable for parents or teachers, which means that these children’s ADHD may go unrecognised.
If a male stereotype is seen as the norm, potentially only the girls with the most severe, or most “male-like”, symptoms that manifest as disruptive behaviour will be identified. We cannot definitively say that affected girls are not getting referred to clinics, but if they are, and if the symptoms of their ADHD are somewhat different to those seen in boys, they may well receive alternative diagnoses, such as anxiety or depression, instead.
In our study, published in the European Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, we aimed to identify which symptoms were the best predictors of an ADHD diagnosis and the likelihood of receiving medication, and whether these differed between boys and girls.
We used a large population dataset, the Child and Adolescent Twin Study from Sweden, which could be linked with Swedish registries holding information on individuals who had received a diagnosis of ADHD and been prescribed stimulant medication for ADHD. This means that we were able to link population data with clinical data, without needing to look only in clinics, where ADHD patients are more frequently boys.
True to our expectations, what we found was that hyperactivity, impulsivity and behaviour problems in girls were stronger predictors of clinical diagnosis and being prescribed medication than in boys.
This suggests that these sorts of behaviours are more likely to lead to clinical recognition of ADHD among girls. It supports the idea that unless girls with ADHD display more of these disruptive behaviours associated with the stereotypical image of the condition, they may be more likely to be missed. This highlights potential issues with the male-centric nature of the current ADHD diagnostic criteria and current clinical practice.
When we looked at the presentation of ADHD in the population, we found that the inattentive presentation was most common across both sexes. But among those that had been clinically diagnosed, a combination of both inattentive and hyperactive or impulsive symptoms was most common. What this again points to is that people with primarily inattentive symptoms may be less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as children.
We also found that a greater percentage of girls than boys presented with predominately inattentive symptoms at the whole population level. Since children with inattentive symptoms are sometimes overlooked, this could partially explain why the ratio of boys to girls diagnosed with ADHD is higher than the estimated ratio for ADHD occurrence in the population as a whole.
Identifying undiagnosed ADHD
ADHD is associated with a wide-range of functional impairments, educational and occupational difficulties, family and social relationship problems, and problematic substance use. When it goes unrecognised, opportunities to provide treatment are lost, which can lead to worse long-term outcomes. As such, it is important to ensure that girls with ADHD are identified and treated in childhood.
It is clear that we need to work towards a better understanding of how ADHD manifests in girls as, while less visible or disruptive, inattentive symptoms can be very impairing, potentially over an entire lifespan. Given that the diagnostic criteria are primarily based on studies in boys, we need more studies to look at ADHD in girls, to develop better instruments to assess and diagnose it that are more sensitive to the way it affects females.
A practical and positive course, delivered by a professional team, for parents of children aged 5-12 diagnosed with ADHD.
Using ideas and footage from the Parents Plus programme, it offers parents the opportunity to meet and support each other in enhancing their relationship with their child, preventing and dealing with the behavioural difficulties which so often accompany ADHD.
Commencing Wed evening 13th February for 6 weeks
VENUE: Carmichael Centre, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7
COST: €100.00 for HADD members €120.00 for non-members
LARGE REDUCTION IN FEES FOR COUPLES WHO WISH TO ATTEND
The TV presenter revealed that he discovered the diagnosis after being arrested on suspicion of drink driving in March 2018.
“I’ve got ADHD. I don’t mind talking about that,” he said, adding: “I never knew that until afterwards. I was so thoroughly examined and diagnosed, I found stuff out about me I hadn’t addressed for years.”
He stated that his diagnosis “made sense” as it has "a lot of links to alcohol-dependency”.
McPartlin, who has just returned to the side of presenting partner Declan Donnelly for the audition stages of ITV series Britain’s Got Talent, continued: “There’s a lot of characteristics that held me in good stead working in live television. Richard Bacon said the same.
“In my job, having what they call ‘popcorn thinking’ is good because it means you can jump from one thing to another. Professionally, it’s brilliant. Personally, I’m all over the place.”
McPartlin took a break from presenting while he treated his addiction to alcohol and painkillers in rehab.
Over the weekend, Donnelly announced McPartlin’s return to crowds at the London Palladium, saying: “We’ve got the judges back, the golden buzzer is back, and someone else is back. My co-host for the series, would you please welcome... Mr Ant McPartlin.”
“Our research shows that ADHD is much more than a neurodevelopmental disorder, it’s a significant public health issue,” says Dr Barkley. “In evaluating the health consequences of ADHD over time, we found that ADHD adversely affects every aspect of quality of life and longevity. This is due to the inherent deficiencies in self-regulation associated with ADHD that lead to poor self-care and impulsive, high-risk behaviour. The findings are sobering, but also encouraging, as ADHD is the most treatable mental health disorder in psychiatry.”
Dr. Russell Barkley and his team utilized data from a longitudinal study in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that followed a group of mostly male patients with ADHD from childhood to adulthood, and analyzed the data using an actuarial-based life expectancy calculator (how much longer the study subjects could be expected to live) developed at the University of Connecticut by the Goldenson Centre for Actuarial Research.
“Dr. Russell Barkley’s research confirms what we’ve suspected for some time,” says CHADD Resident Expert L. Eugene Arnold, MD, MEd, professor emeritus of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at the Nisonger Center Clinical Trials Program of Ohio State University.
“If you look at the four biggest health risks in the US—poor diet, insufficient exercise, obesity, and smoking—ADHD presents a greater risk than all four of these concerns combined,” explains Dr. Barkley. “ADHD is a major health problem that has not been evaluated in that light by policymakers,” adds Dr. Arnold. “It needs to be taken much more seriously.”
To varying degrees, ADHD is a factor in many first-order lifestyle behaviours that result in reduced life expectancy, and Dr. Barkley contends that these behaviours are not likely to improve until the underlying problem—ADHD—is addressed. He says the professional influencers who are most likely to have an impact on healthy lifestyle choices—primary care physicians, paediatricians, cardiologists, and other healthcare professionals—often do not look for ADHD as a potential reason for their patients’ noncompliance with recommended changes.
“Healthcare professionals need to look behind the curtain for ADHD,” says Dr. Barkley. “Patients who struggle to follow their physicians’ advice to manage weight, stop smoking, or reduce sugar intake, among other concerns, should be screened for ADHD and treated accordingly. We need to educate our colleagues about the symptoms of ADHD, the substantial impact this disorder can have, and how to screen for it. The good news is, with accurate diagnosis and the continued use of evidence-based treatments including cognitive therapy, educational support, skills training, and medications, people with ADHD may add years back to their lives. And collectively, we can make a significant impact on some of the biggest health concerns we face as a nation.”
Verbal and non-verbal working memory are two of your seven executive functions. They are also the essential batteries powering what Dr. Russell Barkley calls your brain’s GPS system — the one that keeps you on track, on time, and in control. Here, learn why ADHD brains so frequently struggle in these areas and what you can do to lighten your cognitive load.
Many experts today argue that attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) is not, at its core, an attention problem, but rather a self-regulation problem exacerbated by weak working memory.
Our brains comprise two systems: the automatic and the executive. The automatic system guides 80 to 90% of our activities every single day; the executive system guides the remaining 10 to 20% and requires purposeful, regulatory effort. As many with ADHD know, this system of executive functioning can be exhausting; it requires frequent mental pauses and ceaseless self-regulation.
Executive function is so taxing, in part, because it comprises seven distinct brain activities — two of which are verbal working memory and non-verbal working memory (which hinges on visual and spatial acumen). Both types of working memory influence the amount of effort and type of actions required to modify what our brains would do automatically. The stronger your working memory, the less work your brain must take on with each new challenge.
The importance of working memory is growing within the study of attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), according to Dr. Russell Barkley, author and clinical professor of psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. He calls working memory your brain’s GPS — an essential system that guides and directs actions, and which is commonly weak in people with ADHD. Dr. Barkley explained this GPS theory in depth in a joint presentation with ADHD coach Jeff Copper during an Attention Talk Radio podcast earlier this year. During their talk, Barkley and Copper shared strategies for offloading working memory stresses in the ADHD brain.
How Working Memory Powers Executive Function
Like a GPS booting up for a new voyage, the brain begins any new task by referring to its maps — those sensory images logged and stored in non-verbal working memory, Barkley says. It next tunes in to its instructions, the verbal commands and “inner voice” stored in verbal working memory. The visual images of the non-verbal working memory help the brain to act, and the verbal working memory becomes its guidance system.
When a brain is storing and synthesizing both types of working memory effectively, it begins to work a lot like Waze or Google Maps — determining the relevance of new information as it arrives and altering the plan in real time to get us to our destination better or faster. It becomes a more powerful tool for self-regulation, for goal-setting and for working around obstacles in our paths. But to an already overwhelmed brain, all of this working memory can be a lot to process. Because of that, Barkley suggests a strategy called “externalizing” that gets the information out of the brain and into an external environment by transforming both the sensory and the verbal working memory into a physical manifestation. This helps the brain to become less taxed.
Below, Barkley and Copper offer five strategies for strengthening your working memory and externalizing information so that your brain can effectively plan and coordinate tasks without expending the extra effort.
Digital isn’t always the best solution.
To lessen the burden on your working memory, begin by simply writing things down with pen and paper. Yes, your phone is often nearby, but using technology for all such memory tasks is “… misguided for ADHD in many ways,” Barkley says. Smart phones, tablets, and smart watches – which may be lost, drained of battery life, and not synced – may lead to more stress than they relieve. Instead, Barkley says, “Let’s go low tech. Let’s go back to paper and pencil.” Use an ADHD-friendly notebook as the external storage device for your working memory. Use imagery, not just language; make to-do lists; keep your schedule; make goals – but do it on paper.
When you do use tech, use it wisely.
For example, Copper suggests snapping a photo of the outfit you’ve laid out for an upcoming trip so that you can recall it quickly from your offloaded, externalized working memory – now in the form of a photo – while balancing other priorities during your trip.
Map it out.
Returning to the GPS metaphor, Barkley suggests creating a work (or mind) map. This works well for those who achieve better results with visual cues – particularly when working on longer written projects or reports. Creating an image of something can be easier and faster to retrieve because it can be instantly imagined. For example, sticky notes can make great low-tech systems, because they can be moved around as we think through an assignment, allowing for quick categorization, scheduling, detailing, and rearranging without expending more mental energy. Sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words.
Simplify your workspace.
When it comes to controlling distractibility and impulses, working memory is often fragile. Barkley recommends limiting your workspace to only what’s involved in the project at hand. He even suggests that some students and professionals benefit from using two computers – one with games, social media and the web, and one that is stripped down, for work only. A software application that blocks browsing is another tactic that can limit online distractions and keep projects – and working memory – on track.
Take time to discover what’s right for you.
We can’t all commit to the same systems and expect powerful, individualized results – one size does not fit all. According to Barkley, research shows that, in the average ADHD brain, verbal working memory is twice as strong as visual working memory. For some, however, this isn’t the case. Artists, architects, and others who are visually inclined generally find that the opposite is true. (Some even find that their tactile, auditory, and olfactory senses may be harnessed to lighten the load on working memory.)
Lately, I keep seeing this commercial on TV. An on-the-go mom keeps getting phone alerts — text messages and reminders about a meeting or something to buy at the grocery store. I don’t know if it’s advertising a car or a smart phone, because I always lose interest around when she gets a text message from her son, “Forgot my tuba.” In the next scene, she’s at the school handing him the instrument. Then they hug, smile at each other, and wave goodbye. It’s at this point that I change the channel.
Clearly this mystery product is not meant for me, because this doesn’t happen in my family. I mean, the “I forgot my crap” part happens all the time. But the happy little exchange between the patient parent and the grateful child? That’s just fantasy.
It’s only Wednesday, and this week Laurie and I have received the following text messages:
“I forgot black socks for my choir performance tonight.”
“I need Oreos tomorrow for a science project.” We emailed the teacher and confirmed this wasn’t made up.
“I forgot my shoes.” Somehow, this was for a different choir performance.
“Remember I have a track meet after school.” This one came from a child who did not inform us he was on the track team, or that his school had a track team.
“I didn’t pack my clothes for practice tonight.”
“I forgot black socks.” …Again, for yet another choir performance.”
“I need €10 for a school trip.”
Laurie and I try to be amused when these messages are followed up with, “Sorry. It won’t happen again.” But, it makes for a long week when the mishaps and forgetfulness begin first thing Monday morning.
We used to treat each incident like a character flaw, and discuss ways we could teach our kids to get their acts together and stop being so forgetful. Clearly, that didn’t work.
Instead, we’ve been trying to accept the inevitable and let natural consequences take their toll. We don’t bail them out every single time. And we try not to blow up over every overlooked appointment or forgotten item.
Maybe that’s how the commercial might have hooked me. Not with a drawn-out list of every text the mom received, but with a more relatable scene. The mom hands her son his tuba while shaking her head. The son smiles and says, “Sorry, I promise I’ll get better.” And then the mom knowingly responds, “Yeah right. I’ll see you again tomorrow with whatever you forgot.”
Here is the 2nd in our series of videos talking to Adults in Ireland about living with ADHD in Ireland today! A big thanks to John Mullee for taking part. If you would like to take part in this series and tell your story, please give us a call on 01-874 8349 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Countless small acts of bias happen to people with ADHD all day long at work. If you let it get to you, it can feel like death by a thousand papercuts. I often say that it’s not ADHD that’s my biggest problem, it’s that people don’t understand ADHD. If you have ADHD, you’re probably a sensitive person. Pick your battles.
Here’s an example: two women, in a parking lot, are chatting as they walk into work. One colleague offhandedly remarks: Ugh, I’m having such an ADHD day. And the other one replies, Oh, honey, it’s barely 9 o’clock how could you be a hot mess already? You’ll be fine.
As a person with ADHD, I have a choice: Do I get really pissed off that someone just used my diagnosis as an adjective to describe being a hot mess? I don’t speak for everyone with ADHD, that would be impossible, but my personal opinion is, let it go. Playing the language police at work takes a lot of headspace. I choose to spend that energy being more productive. I have to believe that most people are not trying to be rude. They just haven’t been educated about ADHD in the workplace. Only 10% of organizations factor neurodiversity into their human resources policies. In other words, there are people in human resources, hiring managers, chief diversity officers and other middle managers who have no understanding of what it is like work with, support, advise or promote people with ADHD. In my opinion, your #1 job is not to educate the masses about ADHD. (More on how you can help people understand your diagnosis, but later). Instead, focus on being the rockstar that they hired. Ideally, you can explain to your colleagues that you tend to do things a little differently and offer small examples of how you work best. At worst, ignore them if they can’t understand it and say things like, “that’s not how we do things around here.” Control-alt-delete it from your brain.
Ruminating on everything colleagues say behind your back—or in front of you—will cause a mental health nightmare. How do I know? It is estimated that those with ADHD receive 20,000 more negative messages by age 12 than those without the condition. Now imagine how they feel when they are working age? View yourself as different but not flawed. It’s one secret to rising to the top at work.
When you succeed, people will start thinking of you differently, in a good way. Go ahead and do what you need to in order to be a top performer. Wear your noise-canceling headset to stay focused. Bring your computer to meetings instead of handwriting notes like other people do.
Build a small arsenal of colored folders, tabs, Sharpies in the bottom drawer of your desk to keep you organized. (When the office manager asks who’s been raiding the supply closet and costing them a bundle, own up to it with pride.) Offer to give some of your stashes back. Be a master of the workaround. Put sticky notes on the cabinets and tape your work to the wall if your office manager says there’s no budget for another bulletin board. Don’t let small things be roadblocks to big successes.
I’ve learned some of the most important lessons in my career from ADHD mavericks. Here are just a few:
Don’t Get Side-tracked. Stay the course, even when management doesn’t understand. At one job, I sat through a meeting where the agenda included a discussion of why I had so many colorful sticky notes on my cabinets. According to a supervisor, the staff had noticed them and were complaining (I don’t exactly know why, since they were in my office). I was speechless—which, if you know me, is a rare occasion. Looking back, the discussion seems ridiculous. But there it was, bias hiding in plain sight. Plenty of people on staff had kids old and young who had been diagnosed with a learning disability or ADHD, so this wasn’t unfamiliar territory to them. Their ability to compartmentalize what they experienced at work and at home was astounding. I am confident that that type of rigid thinking will begin to change. As for you? Don’t go changing. Get your work done. Focus on success. Rise to the top.
Take it from a generation that did not want to talk about mental health or learning disabilities in the workplace. Whether you disclose your ADHD or not, you can and should demand more empathy and accommodations—not because you are asking for a handout or to be treated specially—but because you’re human.
Think About The Bottom Line
Productivity suffers when people in the organization do. Poor mental health, stress, depression, and anxiety are costing companies thousands if not millions of dollars. Anxiety and depression are creating an increase in sick days and poor morale. It’s sucking the creativity out of some of the most creative people on your staff. Most of us have experienced managers who are either undereducated about ADHD, too overtaxed with other work to really listen, or just outright uncomfortable with letting you bend the rules, even if it helps you work at your best. Reject the status quo. It may be a bumpy ride, but it will boost your team’s productivity in the
Be As Transparent As Possible
As an advocate who talks openly about ADHD, I look forward to having an honest conversation about how we can all work together, just differently. When we do have that talk, I expect I can learn as much from you as you can from me. I expect that after that discussion, there will be a lot fewer hairy eyeballs and rigid rules because managers will start to really get ADHD.
Find The Funny
I think having ADHD can be equal parts funny and frustrating. For example, this summer in the grocery store a woman was helping to bag my groceries. I told her—hold on, I forgot one thing. I knew it was in a display rack right behind me. I grabbed it and put it on the conveyer belt in time to hear her say, Why are people so ADHD these days? I could have been frustrated but instead, I turned to humor. Wow! Thank you for noticing!, I said. I am actually ADHD! It was slightly painful but completely empowering and we all ended up laughing.
Find Power In Your Ability To Handle The Unexpected
Mental agility, as in always having to prepare for a mistake or change in plan, is one of the most useful features of having ADHD. I’ll give you an example: Once I ran a race with a friend and her husband. Probably due to ADHD, I have very little sense of direction. At some point, I lost my friend and her husband and was running alone. When to my surprise, I crossed the finish line first, the volunteer at the rope said kindly, Did you know you are the winner?
That was physically impossible, I thought. I run a 10-minute mile. My friend’s husband runs like a human gazelle. A minute later I saw the volunteer go back to his coworkers and heard him say quietly, What just happened here? Is there a different category that this woman might be in? I started laughing. No, I told him. I have no sense of direction. I didn’t win. I just got lost. I’ll go back and run the extra mile. I had a great race. On the Monday after the event, I realized I should embrace my affinity for uncertainty more often in the office. At the time, I had been feeling beaten down and bullied. Why retreat when you can pivot like a pro? A leader can’t be a success if they think they always know what’s coming next. Use your mental flexibility to your advantage and, I’ll say it again, you will rise to the top.
Know That Change Is On The Way
The key question for me right now is: How can ADHD-ers be successful if they can’t bring different ideas and work styles to the table? When you can’t bring the real you, disability and ability, to work, you pay a high price. We’re beginning to see the signs of change. This week a top human resources executive at IBM was quoted as saying that a transformational leader is someone who is willing to disrupt, is comfortable working closely with people who have radically different points of view and is at ease with both saying and hearing the uncomfortable truths. She just gave us a glimpse of the future—and thanks to companies like IBM who are shifting their thinking in human resources, ADHD-ers will rise to the top much more often!