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By Brian Mowery (Guest Blogger)
For three years now, I have been facilitating a peer support group for adults with ADHD. I created this group as a result of not having found one already in place.
And I wanted one.
Diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 40, I went through all of the initial shock, denial and then the cascading ‘ah ha!’ moments, so many of us experience.
Then I felt the need to find help. I discovered that while there were loads of resources for children with ADHD, and their parents, there was precious little for adults with ADD. And being the sort of person that I am, seeing an apparent need in the community, I was highly motivated to try and fill the gap somehow.
Once I had done all of the preliminary planning and research, booked the location, and spread the word, I waited until the day of the first meeting. Sitting in the room I’d prepared, I was convinced that no one was going to show up. What was I thinking? How could I, an adult with ADHD, hope to effectively create and plan a support group for others with ADHD? I couldn’t even find my wallet most of the time. And I was certainly no expert on the subject— not a doctor, nor a therapist, just a guy and overall relatively new to ADHD myself. But before my self-doubt and panic reached a peak, people started arriving. I had seven attendees at my first meeting, and two of those were from out of town. Apparently my city wasn’t the only one that needed a support group!
Since that first meeting, I have been amazed at the response, and the gratitude that the group has earned. The reason I think the group has been successful stems from the idea that, among the group, no one person or interest should be placed before anyone else. We have no personal agenda, we aren’t affiliated with a clinic, a therapist or a pharmaceutical company.
And don’t get me wrong — those things are valuable, and often necessary as a means to manage one’s ADHD. But there is something to be said for mingling with your peers, people who have similar experiences, similar problems and similar insights. It’s all about that invaluable moment when you hear someone say something about their life, and you think, “Wow! I thought I was the only one!” And if you are really lucky, you will hear how that person dealt with that situation, and be able to learn from it.
I’m a big believer in a holistic approach to managing ADHD. There are many options available, but any one path of treatment taken in isolation has a great chance of failing when it comes to improving your situation or outlook. For example, the phrase, ‘pills do not teach skills’, means you can’t simply pop a stimulant once a day and expect your ADHD will just be gone. They are taken as a means to reach an equilibrium that will allow you to learn new ways of behaving, with an eye toward reducing or removing the need for medication at all. That is why experts always recommend some kind of therapy go hand in hand with the prescription to achieve real growth.
So, it’s because of my holistic outlook that I feel a peer support group is yet another ingredient to a balanced treatment plan. To put it another way, I have at times been ‘the guy in the chair’ telling a therapist all my troubles, and receiving professional treatment as well as prescriptions. For me, that was helpful and necessary. But I always felt somehow inferior in that setting. The person sitting across from me doesn’t really know me, and has all these credentials which allow him to analyze me, and break me down into component parts so he knows how to treat me.
This has just been my personal experience, so, not knocking therapists. But I will make a comparison.
I can tell you that after having been a part of my ADHD peer support group for a few years, it is a completely different dynamic than anything else. We aren’t just random people who come together twice a month and then depart. We have actually become friends. We socialize outside of the group. When we meet, we may not always follow the agenda, maybe we just vent about what’s bothering us. We curse and make inappropriate commentary when we need to. We even joke about our own ADHD because we’ve helped each other come to terms with it over time. Basically, we feel comfortable enough with each other that we can speak and behave in ways that we might not think appropriate for a therapist’s office. Sometimes it seems more like a party than a support group!
For me, this has been the most surprising benefit of running the group: this realization that a shared ‘kinship’ in ADHD, if you will, has a power that perhaps therapy doesn’t. And that is the power to relate to other people in your situation and share experiences from the same perspective.
We have had numerous newcomers to our group, and more often than not, they come into the room looking anything from despondent to downright scared. They have either just found out through a diagnosis or perhaps they have known for a while and have just reached a really low point with it.
They all come with their own misgivings and personal issues, much as we all did at the beginning. But within minutes of the meeting being underway, you can see them relaxing. By the end of the meeting, all apprehension is gone and they are asking me when the next one is so they can come back — because they have found something they haven’t found elsewhere.
I’m certainly not saying any of this to toot my own horn. I am proud that I have been able to provide this to my local people with ADD, of course. But I consider myself to be a member more than the creator of the thing. I need it as much as anyone else, and at the end of the day, the group belongs to all of us and we all maintain it.
My point with this writing is simply to say that peer support is another level to managing your ADHD. That is why groups like mine, and sites like TotallyADD are very much needed. The shared experience is so necessary to expedite your healing process or growth initiative.
The knowledge that you are not alone and that you don’t have to be alone is very liberating. So if you are lucky enough to have an ADHD group in your area, I strenuously urge you to check it out.
And if you don’t, you might consider starting one!
A note from Rick Green:
I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to be a guest at many support group meetings. It’s so great! That’s how I had the pleasure of meeting Brian Mowery. Thank you Brian, for writing and letting us know how you started your group, and the difference it makes for so many.
Brian and 18 others from support groups took part in our soon to be released video, ADHD Medication: Straight Answers to Big Questions. He hits the nail on the head. Having support is key when you’re learning about ADHD, and especially when starting any treatment plan. Please take up Brian’s suggestion and join or start a group. I also invite you to join us in the TotallyADD Forums. It’s the best online ADHD community there is!
By Tara McGillicuddy
There are just so many distractions in our world today. These distractions make it challenging for the average person to stay focused and be productive. When you have Adult ADD / ADHD these distractions intensify these challenges for us. Eliminating or reducing some of the distractions in our life can really help those of us with Adult ADD/ ADHD be more focused, productive, and less stressed.
I recently eliminated a huge distraction in my own life. I cancelled my cable television and very rarely even watch television. I honestly never thought I would be one of those people who didn’t watch TV. I grew up watching Sesame Street and am part of the MTV generation. TV was such a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. Recently I was beginning to notice that TV was not only taking up a lot of my time but it was also draining my energy. The cable bill was also frustrating me and stressing me out.
I’m not one of those people who is going to preach and suggest that everybody follows me and stops watching TV. What I do want to do is challenge you to look at your own life. What (or who) are the things in your life that are distracting you? What would your life look like if you were able to reduce or even eliminate some of those distractions? What is one distraction (small or big) that you can reduce or eliminate immediately?
Tara McGillicuddy is an internationally recognized Adult ADD / ADHD Expert. Since 1997 Tara has been providing virtual support and Education to people affected by ADD / ADHD. Tara has a passion for helping people affected by ADD/ ADHD lead happy and productive lives. Through the use of online technology Tara has spent the last 2 decades connecting people affected by ADD /ADHD with Education and Support resources. Tara is the founder and director of ADDClasses.comthe leading resource for virtual ADD / ADHD Support and Education. She is also the host of ADHD Support Talk Radio the #1 ADHD podcast on iTunes and top Self-help show on Blog Talk Radio. In addition to her online ADD /ADHD resources Tara also provides ADHD Coaching to Adults with ADD /ADHD.
The good folks over at BeeLine Reader have just updated their browser plugin so that it now works automatically with TotallyADD’s website. To read this blog post with BeeLine, try installing their browser plugin so you can see what it looks like in action! (If you’ve previously installed the plugin, it will update automatically in the next 24 hrs.)
By Nick Lum,
Last year I did a webinar with TotallyADD and had a blast. I’ve met so many awesome people, and gotten so much great feedback, from the TotallyADD community. This group really is extraordinary, and we’re excited to share some great news that will have us all reading easier! We’ve got a bunch of new tools plus a great, exclusive offer to share with you all.
New BeeLine Tools
First up is our new ebook feature in the BeeLine iPad app. With this new feature, you can use BeeLine to read any Kindle book, or any library books that you’ve borrowed using the OverDrive platform. Just select OverDrive delivery to your “Kindle Cloud Library” and you’ll be able to access the book from our iPad app. OverDrive books will show up alongside any Kindle books you’ve purchased.
To celebrate the release of this much-requested ebook feature, we are offering our app for free to you, our friends of TotallyADD, for one week only—until Sunday, September 27. Good news, right?! But wait, there’s more…
We’re also giving the ebook feature away for free to the first 1,000 TotallyADD friends who try it! Click here to get the BeeLine Reader iPad app and check out this new feature for free. To get the Kindle feature, just tap e-books, and then tap Promo Code. Type “TotallyADD” and you’ll unlock the free Kindle feature!
If you read epubs books (as opposed to Kindle ebooks), you can now read those with BeeLine too! The ReadMe! app has integrated BeeLine into their ereader app. This is available on iOS and Android also. This marks the first BeeLine product for Android, and we’re really excited to finally make BeeLine available to Android users. (If you want to read Word docs, PDFs, or other files on Android, you can use this free file converter to make them into epubs, which can be viewed in ReadMe!.)
We’ve also updated the BeeLine Reader browser plugin, which now supports millions more sites including: Gmail, Google Docs, and thousands of WordPress pages. We are offering the plugin with a buy-one-give-five program, so if you want to help support students in low-income schools you can do so. The plugin runs on Chrome and Firefox and is available here.
For Chrome only, we now have a PDF plugin. With this plugin, any PDF you open in the browser will automatically open with BeeLine.
This is much easier to use than our previous PDF converter, which required downloading the PDF to your computer and hunting around for it in your downloads folder. Now you just have to click to open it.
You can also use the PDF plugin to read PDFs that are already on your computer—just drag a PDF into a Chrome window. (To use with previously-downloaded PDFs, enable file access for BeeLine in your Chrome extensions preferences.) Get it here!
BeeLine’s efficacy was recently proven up in two studies, one of which was performed by school district officials at the 6th-largest district in California, and the other of which was performed by educators working with Bookshare. These studies showed that BeeLine is useful for the vast majority of readers with ADD, ADHD, or dyslexia, and that BeeLine dramatically increases the rate at which students learn to read. We are very excited by these results, which confirm what so many of our readers have told us about their gains in reading ease, ability, and enjoyment.
Honors and Awards
Lastly, a bit of BeeLine company news: Intel selected BeeLine as one of 8 participants in its Education Startup Accelerator. We are working with Intel and their many partners to bring you BeeLine on more platforms!
BeeLine was also selected as a winner of The Tech Awards Education—a $50,000 prize for “technology benefiting humanity.” We are honored to be chosen to receive this award, which has previously been given to Khan Academy and Kiva.org.
Help Us Help You!
Do you want to see BeeLine on other platforms like iBooks, Nook, or your favorite news app? We’d be happy to work with anyone to get BeeLine into their app! Our technology is easy to integrate and is useful for the vast majority of readers.
I hope you enjoy the new tools and free stuff. And thanks again for being so supportive of BeeLine!
Nick Lum is a co-founder of BeeLine Reader and a recovering lawyer. He lives with his wife and baby in Woodside, California.
Disclosure: TotallyADD and its parent company, Big Brain Productions Inc. do not profit in any way from promoting BeeLine. We believe that their tools are an excellent solution for those of us who struggle to read books, articles and other online text. We believe that it’s important to spread the word about the work that the folks at BeeLine are doing. Please forward this to anyone you know who has dyslexia or any other reading issue, and for goodness sake please forward this to teachers! We believe this helps teachers teach and empower students. – Ava Green, TotallyADD Co-Founder.
by Zoë Kessler
When I was growing up, there was a TV show called All in the Family. It was about a stereotypical all-American W.A.S.P. family in the early 70s. The head of the family, Archie Bunker, was fond of telling his wife Edith to stifle herself, something no man would say to me — and live.
Undiagnosed and unmedicated, I had an inkling that, at times, my behaviour caused others discomfort. Often it was a subterranean knowledge, not quite conscious enough for me to act upon. I’ve since learned that self-awareness is not a forté for many ADHDers. Not, at least, until we make a conscious effort to learn this skill.
Post-diagnosis, after learning the art of self-restraint, I’m now rethinking how much I’m willing to curb my natural enthusiasm in order to conform. I’ve realized that making an effort to fit in is psychically and emotionally exhausting, and belies the wisdom of Shakespeare’s character Polonius: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”
In trying to be like everyone else, I waged an inner battle, and the biggest loser — was me. Sometimes, to win, you have to be braver than that.
There’s a scene in the movie The Full Monty that I love for its outrageous nonconformity. (No, not that scene, although that one’s good, too!) I’m thinking of the scene where the main characters are standing in line at a queue, and the Hot Chocolate song “You Sexy Thing (I Believe in Miracles)” comes over the PA. Before you know it, the guys are dancing in line, and one of them breaks into a full twirl while walking toward the teller. Brilliant! The enjoyment is palpable and I can’t help but think that everyone in line was lifted up by that bold and outrageous act of public dancing.
I’ve always skipped down the sidewalk if I felt like it. The other day, the sun broke out in the afternoon, after a long, dark Canadian winter. As I walked along the sidewalk downtown, I sang an old song by The Demics in my head. By the time I got to the refrain, “I Wanna Go to New York City,” I was really getting into it. It wasn’t until I was in the middle of the intersection at a green light that I caught myself playing air guitar. Right there. In public. At an intersection.
When I realized what I was doing, I stopped. I blushed. I laughed my ass off.
At the risk of appearing eccentric, I’m letting my happiness out, full-blown, full-grown. I’m no longer jealous of little kids who are allowed to express their happiness with giggles and laughter. I believe that we grown-ups would be a lot more healthy — emotionally, mentally and physically — if we let ourselves be more childlike as well.
So one of my pet peeves is that I live in a society where it’s unseemly for a middle-age woman to skip down the sidewalk, where adults often don’t feel free to express spontaneous happiness, joy and — most radically, pure love of life — in whatever way their spirit moves them. Where audiences, no matter how sublime the performance, restrain their appreciation and God forbid, no one dares to move or dance in their seat to a rousing piece of music.
I’m especially peeved that those of us who do reclaim our natural freedom of expression, throwing off artificial restraints, are seen as mentally unhealthy. Wing-nuts. Eccentrics (and what’s wrong with that?). I would suggest it’s quite the opposite. That, rather, we are reclaiming our birth-right to child-like spontaneity, freedom of expression, and genuine, authentic joy. And what could be more healthy than that?
Kessler’s most recent book, ADHD According to Zoë: The Real Deal on Relationships, Finding Your Focus, and Finding Your Keys has been described as a must-read, spellbinding portrayal of a woman with ADHD. Kessler herself has been described as “Pippi Longstocking all grown up!”
A Huffington Post blogger and top blogger at Psych Central.com, Kessler‘s blog, ADHD from A to Zoë has garnered a loyal readership from around the globe. Kessler is also a frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine. She’s created CBC radio documentary and standup comedy about being a woman living with ADHD and has appeared on Global TV, City TV, and CTV. Kessler has been quoted in Scientific American Mind Magazine, in the book Fast Minds, and has appeared in a documentary film about women and ADHD. She’s open to more interviews, but first you have to catch her.
To join Zoë and Rick Green for the next live webinar, please register HERE
By Elaine Taylor-Klaus
Trick Question: who is school harder for?
- A kid with ADHD
- The parent of a kid with ADHD
- The parent of a kid with ADHD who also has ADHD
Any way you look at it, “back to school time” is a stress factory waiting to happen, regardless of whomever in your house is challenged (and gifted) with ADHD.
So what do you REALLY need to know to help your complex child find success in school? And how can you, as a parent, stay sane in the process?
While we could go on for days on this topic (just ask Rick and Ava), here are a few gems to start this school year with smooth sailing. There’s a TON more guidance and advice at the ADD School Summit, so if you haven’t signed up for it, yet, we highly recommend it – interviews with a dozen experts (just who you need to hear from), at the perfect time of year, that are really easy to access (30 minutes at a shot).
But for now, if you’re ready to make this school year different, start here….
Back To School Survival Cheat Sheet
1. Focus on What’s WORKED in the Past. Solutions for all of your challenges are hidden right before your eyes — in every success your child (or you) has ever had. If your child planned a successful spend-the-night with friends over the summer, she can learn to plan out her homework. If she found a way to remember to take care of the animals, she can find a way to remember to turn in her homework. If you managed to get everyone fed this summer, you can figure it out for the school year.
Generally speaking, assume best intentions, keep a positive attitude, believe in your child’s (and your) potential, and look for hidden achievements, large and small.
2. Understand the Challenges Your Family Faces. Neuro-typical people make complex tasks look easy, like turning in homework or getting dinner on the table. Don’t be fooled – these things are actually quite complicated! Whether you or your child struggles with Learning Disabilities, ADHD, Anxiety (or anything else), “simple” things REALLY are hard to do.
So, instead of feeling somehow inadequate, take the time to understand your or your child’s specific challenges: memory, prioritization, decision-making, whatever (download free eBook for fundamentals of Executive Function). Once you understand the way your or your child’s brain is wired, you’ll begin to realistically anticipate what might cause stress– and hopefully, give yourself permission to find appropriate work-arounds. At the very least, if you can stop beating yourself up because it’s hard and accept that it is – everyone will breathe a little easier.
3. Only Use Systems & Structures with a Clear Purpose. It’s been drilled into us that “consistency” is the solution to our kid’s problems. Which translates to, “so if you’d just put a structure in place everything would be fine.” Yeah, not really. We have a tendency to see “systems” as the ultimate solution, but truly, they are just an assistant.
Systems work well when you’re clear on WHAT you’re trying to achieve, WHY it’s important, and HOW it works for each person involved. And you gotta have buy-in. Even young kids can be part of creating systems, and they must be motivated to use them. When possible, use rewards instead of punishments; work towards success instead of taking things away. Identify your child’s strengths and create structures that play to their strengths.
Look, we know that Back to School is not as simple as “3 easy steps.” But you’ll be amazed at how quickly things start to improve when you take these 3 things into account – they’re a great place for you to start.
At the end of the day, behind every complex family’s success during the school year is a parent who understands, who believes, and who inspires. That parent is you.