Several years ago, as a financial advisor, during a training event at our corporate headquarters, I was having lunch with the consultant dujour who was hired for a portion of our training. The topic of how budget cuts impact training for new employees came up. I was interested in how companies go about making those decisions. Having had some of the best sales and management training in the world, I was curious about what else was out there. His comment was laced with a sadness as he talked of days gone by, how there used to be a great deal of importance placed on the skill of “listening”. He lamented about an incident that had occurred earlier that day in our training group that almost ended in a physical altercation between two of the participants. They were young, aggressive and ambitious. Desirable qualities for a star broker. What was missing? The ability to ask the right question might have been easy to grasp, but to really hear the answer was sadly missing in this seasoned consultant’s opinion. The overwhelming desire to jump in and give an opinion, to be heard themselves and to emerge as the expert was destroying the ability to truly connect. Not just in the case with these two characters, but across the board. It has been years since that conversation, but it comes back to me frequently. The number one handout over the last four years at my group for adults with ADD has been one on listening. It starts out with “When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving me advice, you have not done what I asked.” It gets better from there. For adults with ADHD, the impulse to interrupt is strong. There are ways of self managing to help with the skill of listening. I am happy to share the Listening handout from my support group. Email me at email@example.com.
It was an “aha” moment for me yesterday when a client said “it took time” on the telephone. It is a phrase I use everyday myself. I always say,”these things take time”. I find that my ADHD clients almost always underestimate the amount of time it will take to do a task. This leads to scheduling too many things in one day, not accomplishing all of them and feeling like a failure…… again! Now, we could go into a long discussion along the lines of prioritizing, distraction, blah blah blah. They are all issues, all very real and challenging. I choose however to focus on “it taking time”.
So, listening to my client yesterday, when I heard “it took my time“, I had this visual of a bandit in a black cloak running up and grabbing her time, running off and leaving her stranded on the street corner saying “now what do I do?”. It felt so powerless. This client, like most of us, is anything but powerless. In fact, on the powerful scale, she is up there. She is part of some amazing things. In that moment, though, it felt a bit victim like. The voice in my head said, “hmmmm, it sounds like you gave your time“. Without judgment, and with complete understanding of that feeling, I realized the power of those words.
So, after my call, I played around with the words a bit. I invite you to do the same. Think of the things you did yesterday. You did, after all, choose them.
Take 5 minutes, here are the steps:
1. Choose a task you did yesterday. (I chose dishes).
2. Say out loud or in your head, “The dishes took my time.”
3. Notice your energy, notice how you feel, notice anything at all that comes up for you. Then notice any thoughts that follow.
4. Now say it another way, “I gave my time to the dishes.”
5. Again, notice how that feels. Notice what thought naturally follows.
I am going to practice that today. I gave my time to this blog today. There were no bandits, no little gremlins dancing around. Just me, my time and my choice.
For most people with attention deficit disorder, the cornerstone for treatment is medication. I say most and not all because medication does not work for everyone and if it does, there may be other health conditions that prevent one from taking ADHD medication. In addition, there are many misconceptions and faulty beliefs that can get in the way of making an educated choice on whether to medicate or not. Medication for ADD is often compared to getting eyeglasses. Sure, one who suffers from near sightedness or far sightedness may be able to see without aids such as glasses or contact lenses, but how well they can see and the quality of their life may depend on whether or not they choose the eyeglasses. I frequently refer to building your ADHD team. If you or someone you love is considering medication, you need to know which team member can prescribe it. Below is a chart that you can use as a guideline.
|Specialty||Can Diagnose ADHD||Can prescribe medication, if needed||Provides counseling or training|
|Pediatricians or Family Physicians||yes||yes||no|
|Clinical Social workers||yes||no||yes|
Remember, if the medication you are prescribed is not doing the job, talk to your physician about it. Determine prior to your visit what you are expecting of your medication and assign a measurement to it so that you can accurately articulate what is going on in a way that guides your doctor the the next best step for you!
Regardless of your stance on medication, it is only part of the treatment for ADHD. Do your homework and make sure you are getting the best advice and paying attention to what is going on in YOUR life! You are unique and so is your ADHD.
As adults with undiagnosed attention differences, our focus tends to be on our deficits. Our continual quest to do things “better”, find out what is wrong with us and get it together occupies a great deal of our time and energy. If we could just “get organized”. We lament our inability to pay bills on time, to clean out the car, to organize our closets, our lives. We feel like a failure in many areas. We disappoint those we care about. We want to be different and we try many ways to make it so. We change jobs, change life partners, change our hairstyle, change our calendar systems, electronic devices, change our homes………we are determined to figure “it” out. It is very confusing. Until is isn’t. That time comes when you realize that all of the external devices in the world cannot change the neurochemical differences in the brain. They also cannot change the beliefs that developed out of faulty thinking patterns because of the ADHD. The external measures one takes to organize can certainly help and support, but education and acceptance is the first step to getting a handle on life with ADHD. The real work during this time is internal. Internalizing new messages about yourself based on reality. Do not give up hope. You may still flounder at times when you “mess up”. It is okay. You are not your ADD. At this point, you may not have given a lot of thought to the incredible strengths you have. The incredible creativity that lives within you. Don’t worry, keep searching and you will find the positive path to your true self.
Just what is the difference between ADHD and ADD? ADHD is the correct term for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. There are 3 subtypes of this disorder.
- The first one is ADHD-Inattentive Type. This is the set of very troublesome symptoms that look like daydreaming, distractibility, trouble maintaining focus, inability to focus, possibly slow processing.
- Second is ADHD-Hyperactive/Impulsive Type. This is the always moving, energetic, impulsive person who, in addition experience the symptoms of Inattentive ADHD.
- Last, but not least is ADHD Combined Type. Some symptoms of Inattentive and Hyperactive/Impulsive and is the most widely diagnosed type of the three.
The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual will be coming out in 2012 and will include some changes. Stay posted for updates which may impact how you and your physician view ADHD. There will be criteria that will more closely resemble what ADHD in adults looks like.
Attention and focus are challenges for people with ADHD. Less frequently talked about are the problems with memory. The idea that there was one memory center in the brain has been shattered by research over the past several years. Memory occurs in more than one memory centers in more than one location in the brain. In addition, there is more than one memory function to be concerned with. The ones that tend to present the ADHD brain with difficulties are listed below.
1. Working memory simultaneously stores and manipulates information.
It may very well form the basis for intelligence and reasoning.
2. Strategic Memory is the ability to organize, learn and recall
strategies such as learning a strategy for finding one’s car keys.
3. Metamemory makes use of memory strategies. Knowing what one can
remember, so to speak. An example would be learning a phone number
as opposed to a string of 10-12 numbers.
4. Procedural memories are about automatic functions such as bedtime
5. Prospective memory is the memory for the future like saving for
The good news is that there are memory training programs to help. Most are online programs. However, being aware of where memory breaks down and planning for it is the key. If one knows they never remember the name of the nice lady who greets them at church, a prompt on the calendar or cell phone right before attending church with her name is an easy fix. Be aware and be intentional. You are still in control.
In 2002, I was lunching with a training consultant for the company I worked for as a financial advisor. We were talking about the “fast food” training he is asked to deliver so much of the time as companies seek to make budget cuts. What gets cut the most? The listening module. I wasn’t surprised. When is the last time you really felt “heard and understood”? I think a training program on powerful listening for people with ADHD would be a good thing. My suspicion was confirmed recently when my husband presented an exercise on listening to my ADHD support group. I was a little nervous when they broke out into their workgroups to practice the skills he presented. At the end of the exercise, the impact was obvious. This was a powerful exercise and one they found value in. As for me and my peeps, we will not cut the listening module, but will instead give it more attention!