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Thriving with ADHD: the 3 Keys Needed to Make Lasting Change

Thriving with ADHD

A few months ago, I realized that I have a common theme when I work with my clients. I lead them through a three-step process, regardless of their specific challenges. I was speaking on the phone to the mother of a potential client one day, and I described the steps out loud, then I said – hey, I like that! I’m going to write it down!

Never great at advertising or marketing, I didn’t have a kitschy little acronym or name for my process. I am an occupational therapist and an ADHD coach and yes, also a business owner. I’ve read some books, participated in some mastermind courses, but I still struggle to come up with campaigns that will make me more visible. I just do what I’m trained to do, which is work hard to help my clients be the best version of themselves in the moment.

After writing down what I had described to my client, I began to get used to naming the three steps whenever I worked with someone. I started using them in my phone consultations, and within a few weeks, I had a name: the 3 A’s needed for thriving with ADHD. I will describe them next.

    1. Awareness. I have always said that we cannot make change, we cannot move forward, we cannot get unstuck unless and until we become aware of what the problem is. What is keeping us stuck? What are the challenges that we face? This is true for everyone. If you have your head in the clouds due to inattentiveness, or – more problematic – are in denial of your challenges, you will not be able to progress to the next stage. Thriving with ADHD especially requires an awareness of the unique executive functioning and other challenges that are present.

      To begin the awareness process, I have my older clients self-assess with a questionnaire I created. For kids under 12, I might ask one or two questions verbally about some key executive functioning areas that a parent has reported as a significant challenge. I provide a lot of education about the executive functioning skills, as well as other areas that may be contributing to difficulties with daily tasks, such as sleep hygiene, nutrition, exercise, sensory and environmental factors, and mindset.

      Once my client decides that they do, in fact, struggle in certain areas, we can move to the next step.

    2. Action. Once you have a solid understanding of the challenges, barriers, and thought patterns that are keeping you stuck, you can develop a plan to take action toward thriving with ADHD. We do this by looking at the specific areas of difficulty, and using learning style, environmental and sensory preferences, create systems and strategies for change.

      In theory, this seems simple. I have many parents tell me that if their child “would just do it” everything would be great! But unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Neurodiverse brains think and process in very different ways than neurotypical, and what may make sense to a parent, sounds impossible for their child. I spend a lot of time helping my clients to figure out what will work for them – or at least what they can trial. This leads us to our last step.

    3. Assessment. Thriving with ADHD requires that the person who is doing the changing and growing learn the skill of self-reflection, or being able to critically assess what went well and what didn’t go so well with any strategy employed.

      To be sure, this can be a hard sell for kids who default into blaming others for their challenges more often than not. This is why we must start with the awareness piece because any lessoning or lecturing without it will fall on very unwilling ears!

I use an analogy here. No toddler who was just learning to walk every stood up and took a few steps for the first time, then fell down and thought “well, that’s it. I guess I’m not going to be a walker!” No, of course not. They got back up and tried again. They maybe held onto a hand or furniture, took a wider stance, went for a shorter distance. They for sure fell down many more times but guess what? They eventually got it! And with practice, tweaking the strategy, and persistence, my clients learn that they will be able to meet their goals!

Thriving with ADHD does not mean “fixing” something that is wrong. It means understanding what the challenges are that are due to ADHD, learning some ways to either overcome them, hack them, or live with them, and being able to evaluate when something is not working well and to change course.

Remember the 3 A’s when you want to help your child. I know this is difficult to do alone. I have many resources available to you, including one on one coaching and my workbooks. All can be found on my website. I also offer short helpful videos on my YouTube channel.