DeShawn Wert learned that ADHD can affect adults as well as children when she was diagnosed with the disorder late in life. “It allowed me to recognize and develop my own action plan and leverage my strengths,” she says. It also inspired her to become an expert, book contributor, and presenter in this field. DeShawn earned her Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood education from Purdue University, her Master of Education degree in curriculum design and her administrative certification from Indiana Wesleyan University, and completed her ADHD coach training through JST Coaching & Training for children, teens and young adults. A resident of Indiana, she works with clients all over the globe using her guiding principles of it’s “Your brain. Your terms. Your life.
In past, I’ve shared about how I use a body double strategy for getting my dreaded, nasty (did I say horrendous) job of getting the fridge cleaned. This task is especially difficult for me because of the never ending, reoccuringly, dirty job it is. I know the fridge will be a mess shortly after completed and my efforts and energy will have been in vain. Furthermore, I can find everything when I need it, so the very act of cleaning the fridge strikes me as a totally unnecessary and a huge waste of my precious time. Unlike Discovery Channel and Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs, I absolutely NEVER think, “Somebody has to do this job.”
So this summer as I worked hard to get motivated to walk early every morning for fitness, I kept finding excuses getting in my way. My great intentions to raise my heart rate, ‘be one’ with the sunrise, and drop some weight just isn’t enough UMPH to get me going in the morning.
Tried and true strategies like:
- Sleeping in my workout duds to ease rolling out of bed didn’t help.
- Focusing on the rewards of beautiful sunrises and enjoying a healthy breakfast seemed to fall flat in the wee hours of the day.
- Going to bed an hour earlier with the intent of being fully rested was not realistic for my family’s schedule.
- Walking with the gal pals in the ‘hood’ and capitalizing on social pressure did not motivate either.
All these are great strategies but none of them worked for me so I really had to kick it up a notch. I started by relooking at the BIG WHY of the early morning walk. The goal of being healthy was not enough as much as I wanted it to be. It just wasn’t working. Really wanting to lose weight wasn’t getting it done either. I needed an exercise CALL TO ACTION strategy that was alluring to me, personally. One that was so juicy, I just couldn’t ignore it. It was time for a reframe. Time to find a new way to look at this goal from another perspective. A reframe is key to looking at something different and is used as a tool that draws upon MY values and MY bigger picture. It gets beyond stuckness. Check out more about the tool reframing here.
Since turning 50, I have made myself a priority and being healthy was one of those priorities. Hence, the importance of my morning walks. But more importantly, I’ve also been working on connecting and being my own best friend. Being gentle with myself (check out my pinterest board I created to help) in the AM was really making it difficult to get out of bed in the early dark hours for fitness.
So how did I increase motivation? It was by reframing my goal to take care of myself. I now use that time to connect with one of my dearest and oldest friends. And get this…she’s doesn’t live in the neighborhood. She doesn’t live in the same city. We live hours away from each other but my best friend and I have a standing call where we walk over the phone together. I’m walking around our property and she is on her elliptical machine in the basement of her home.
So why did this 6:00 AM call work for me where other strategies have failed? Instead of walking for my health, I’ve reframed my walk to reconnect with a dear friend. I would never let her down and miss our calls. In fact, I find myself waking before the alarm goes off in anticipation of the conversation knowing this is a valuable use of time for us both. This also happens to be the time I use for exercising. It is time I’ve been looking for in my schedule to connect with a dear friend, taking this task from impossible to do to one that is imperative.
It’s true! In the days that we talk, I wake an hour earlier (without my alarm) and have my quiet meditation time and jump in my workout clothes. Often I get a few laps in even before I hear one word from her. I do all of these things because I can’t wait to indulge in this private time with a long time friend.
We accomplish much more in those walks than a elevated heart rate. We connect and revisit our long history of just being ourselves. We remember the girls we were, we talk about reality of raising kids, and we share the dreams we still have.
So I no longer push myself to exercise in the mornings. It’s been reframed into something altogether different. I start my mornings these days with the power of connection moving me forward. And it’s making me a much healthier and happier person than by just getting fit.
Back in the day, I taught a preschool and had a Garter snake given as pet. That opportunity gave me a chance to witness something that has influenced my understanding of how people move forward in conquering ‘scary things’ that I find holds true for my ADHD adult clients trying to move forward in changing mindsets and strategies, today.
A pet snake is an unusual classroom pet but I found it the perfect tool in teaching conquering fear. I watched children learn to make decisions on how to manage emotions and choices to handle the snake. Its also a great gauge to look back and see how much growth we have in our snake-handling skills and our choices to interact with it. It was truly an exercise in self regulation for many of my students in setting goals, managing strong impulses and working towards change. Moving forward must be a self directed activity. What became apparent to me was that each child became aware of their personal desire to hold the snake, or not.
Lesson#1 Making scary changes requires that we decide to change.
I saw many (not all) were fearful of the snake and did not want to hold it. When I would get out our snake to be handled by those who wanted to touch, it gave the class a chance to talk about the feelings they were having. Some kids were expressed excitement and gusto in the idea of holding a snake. While others screeched when hearing the snake was coming out even though they had said they wanted to hold the snake.
Lesson #2 When making your changes, be careful the words you use when talking to yourself. The language used to talk to ourselves is important in getting us to the place we want to be… so choose your words carefully when moving towards your goal.
The idiosyncrasies of each child became apparent at the beginning of the goal setting. Some couldn’t wait to hold the snake; Others wanted to see the snake, not touch it; Several others wouldn’t even set foot on the carpet where we would sit in a circle and hold the snake. It was important to listen to those idiosyncrasies to be successful as they moved forward in their goals long term.
Lesson #3 We all have different experiences that inform our risk taking capability when facing the goals we are pursuing and it’s important to listen to them ONLY as a starting place.
My role in the year long exercise of facilitating snake handling with preschoolers was to make observations about some of the choices the children were choosing with the snake, or leave the rug to observe the scene with curiosity. We shared feelings as I watched on the faces of the kids holding the snake, as well, as those not holding the snake. My class’s weekly attempt to hold the snake grew our vocabulary, emotional responses and self-regulation. Within four months, most of the children were able to request or verbalize their intentions about the snake. They were commenting on their progress toward the goal of holding the snake. Some were noticing that they could be on the rug with the snake (when they previously couldn’t), while others were actually now holding the snake.
Lesson #4 A coaching environment must not force change but invite curiosity by providing a place to re-imagine ourselves and move toward our goals. Facilitating change requires developing new vocabulary and alternative ideas of ourselves.
I know this observation was in the context of a preschool classroom, but it allowed me to see a process that is personal for each individual I work with (ADHD or not) and has specific components that need supported as self regulation develops.
Our Easter bunny made his appearance this week…More signs of Spring include a clean fridge, my organized closet and the donations to be hauled away. My husband, Mike, cleared the patio of dead leaves, and my son, Riley, took care of the dreaded dog poop collection from Winter 2014, so we are well on our way to enjoying this season and that comes along with it. A season of celebration and expectation and one we look forward to…Spring.
But I’m talking about our personal lives, things are transitioning into another season and a major change in our family. My husband is retiring from a 35 year career in less than a week AND my son is going on a mission trip to Honduras. These are the types of events that change us as people, profoundly. They cause us to look at ourselves in a different light. They ask us to assess our past experience and predict into the future about our abilities. Can we manage the transition and change? Will I like the differences? Will the changes enhance my life for the better? My husband is concerned about ‘how’ he will use his time and it’s a little daunting, for him to think about having so much time to himself. I talk about his enjoyment and how much more of his life he gets to himself…but he worries about the change of not having a purpose and daily routine. Will he enjoy being home and not seeing those he interacts with regularly?
My conversations with him remind me of how hard it is to see ourselves differently sometimes. The ‘rut’ we fall into with our identities. It reminds me of my work with ADHD clients who are struggling and I see how they have ‘bought into’ the beliefs from other family, friends and teachers that they just aren’t capable to do things sometimes. It’s true that change is hard…but its about our mindsets and how we think of ourselves.
In my work, I see that it takes more than action plans to change…it takes a mindset and belief that you are not ‘stuck’, that you have strengths and capabilities that can be welded and used to accomplish your desires and intentions. A choice you decide for yourself to move forward and see another ‘season’ coming is one of the most powerful ways to start changing.
The following is the second of two articles providing helpful ADHD parenting tips and information. Read Part 1 here to see the first two tips.
Additionally, they worry about medication decisions, and trying to negotiate educational needs with administrators. It’s easy to get frustrated, but DON’T PANIC! The following information can help you put it into perspective as you help as you raise your child to enjoy a life they are capable of live with the right support for their ADHD.
#3 Keep Them From “Buying Into The Lie”
Celebrate their differences by helping them acquire an appreciation of the gifts of ADHD, by managing it. Many kids are focused on the deficits and think they are defective, which is a lie you can’t afford to buy into! Dr. Ned Hallowell often talks about the gift of ADHD. There are a lot of positive traits that come from having high energy, a curious mind, and persistence! But be mindful of helping them look at their behavior from other people’s point of view so they can see what some behavior, no matter how well intended, can be misinterpreted. Helping identify passions and support their curiosity. Many life-long passions can be turned into meaningful work which is key to successfully living with ADHD
#4 Learn to Be Intentional and Leverage What Works
Help them learn to leverage their strengths and identify environments that work for them. Very few people will know and connect your child’s past experiences, their learning preferences, and future goals like you do. Looking at careers and work environments that compliment their strengths will help you both sleep at night when it comes to looking into the future careers. Understanding the types of executive functions that work well, and the conditions in which your child is successful and productive is an important conversation and needs to be talked about and developed over time. Start early talking about the good/bad sides of holding down work and how their special talents would be a good or bad fit.
#5 Teach Resiliency, Not Victimization
Know that s/he will experience utter disappointment…and a resilient spirit can be cultivated. This is difficult to think about but it is a must as your child grows and takes on more responsibility. Know that it’s not the end of the world and we always have choices in how we choose to handle life’s unexpected turns (our fault or not).
Developing coping skills and learning to manage disappointment with those who have self-regulation and impulsive behaviors need explicit teaching and techniques in managing emotions. Products, such as Tools for Life, help children develop awareness of emotions and options for managing those emotions are important to access for self-regulation and learning.
However, when disaster strikes (and it will) life will go on…College degree or not…Fired or downsized. What is important is how you model resiliency and by not becoming a victim of circumstance. I maybe getting philosophical here, but you can not keep injustice or harm out of life, so prepare your child for it. Additionally, rapid change is a part life as well and all successful humans need to learn to manage that life skills. Help them become aware of any victim mentality and blame, so they can move forward with action to get back on track, gaining some control of their life after such incidences happen. Develop the type of relationship which allows you to be privy to when devastating things happen and then provide the wisdom and support, that only you can give. Become an advocate and friend as they grow into adulthood and need you differently.