Ep. 14: Introduction to Behaviour Analysis
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What is ADHD? (Episode 3)

In this episode of the DPSS podcast, Aimee Parsons and Trevor Friesen talk about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD.

They answer questions like:

  • What is ADHD?
  • What does it look like?
  • What can I do to support myself or someone else with ADHD?

References

Archer. D. (2014, May 14). ADHD: The Entrepreneur’s Superpower. Forbes.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/dalearcher/2014/05/14/adhd-the-entrepreneurs-superpower/#32bc4f6859e9

Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada. (n.d.). Understanding ADHD.

https://caddac.ca/adhd/understanding-adhd/in-general/

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 21). Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/index.html

Sibley, M. H., Kuriyan, A. B., Evans, S. W., Waxmonsky, J. G., & Smith, B. H. (2014). Pharmacological and psychosocial treatments for adolescents with ADHD: An updated systematic review of the literature. Clinical psychology review, 34(3),218-232. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2014.02.001

Spalletta, G., Pasini, A., Pau, F. et al. Prefrontal blood flow dysregulation in drug naive ADHD children without structural abnormalities. J Neural Transm 108, 1203–1216 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1007/s007020170010

Zang Y. (2019). Impact of physical exercise on children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders: Evidence through a meta-analysis. Medicine, 98(46), e17980. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000017980

The Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance – CADDRA

Jessica McCabe – How to ADHD

Chandler DJ, Waterhouse BD, Gao WJ (May 2014). “New perspectives on catecholaminergic regulation of executive circuits: evidence for independent modulation of prefrontal functions by midbrain dopaminergic and noradrenergic neurons”. Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 8: 53. doi:10.3389/fncir.2014.00053. PMC 4033238. PMID 24904299.

 Malenka RC, Nestler EJ, Hyman SE (2009). “Chapters 10 and 13”. In Sydor A, Brown RY (eds.). Molecular Neuropharmacology: A Foundation for Clinical Neuroscience (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Medical. pp. 266, 315, 318–323. ISBN 978-0-07-148127-4. Early results with structural MRI show thinning of the cerebral cortex in ADHD subjects compared with age-matched controls in prefrontal cortex and posterior parietal cortex, areas involved in working memory and attention.

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This podcast is produced with the support of the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay and Jordan’s Principle.

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TRANSCRIPT: What is ADHD? (Episode 3)

Trevor Friesen

Welcome. Thank you for being here with us today. My name is Trevor Friesen. I am a Behavioral Analyst with the Disability Programs and Specialized Services Team, part of the Cree Health Board. I’m here today with Aimee-Elizabeth Parsons to learn about a disorder that is often misunderstood. Aimee is a Planning, Programing and Research Officer with DPSS, a former principal and a parent of two kids with ADHD.

Aimee, welcome. Thank you for being here.

Aimee Parsons

Thank you for having me, Trevor. This is obviously a topic that’s very close to my heart that I enjoy speaking about.

Trevor Friesen

Great. So let’s jump right into it, shall we? What do the letters ADHD stand for?

Aimee Parsons

So ADHD, the four letters stand for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A simple explanation would be that ADHD is a disorder where the chemical messengers in the brain. These are called neurotransmitters. So the chemical messengers in the brain may not work properly. So that means doing some very simple tasks can become a lot harder for someone with ADHD.

Trevor Friesen

Okay, so if it’s a disorder in the brain, that means that I can’t see it. Right. Someone with ADHD probably doesn’t look much different than someone who does have ADHD.

Aimee Parsons

Does not.

Trevor Friesen

Have ADHD I should say.

Aimee Parsons

Yeah. So this is an invisible disability because it takes place in the brain. What is visible or what we can see is how a person goes through their day. So we see behaviors. We see actions, how they react to certain things. That’s the part that’s visible. The actual disorder in the brain is not visible.

Trevor Friesen

I see. Okay. So, for example, like someone who’s always forgetting their car keys when they leave the house.

Aimee Parsons

So that could definitely be one symptom. And I giggle because I’ve definitely done that. But to get a diagnosis, to really have ADHD, a person has to be more than just forgetful. So a doctor would look for five different symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity in at least two areas of your life, like at home and at school. For them to say that you have ADHD.

Trevor Friesen

Okay, I see. So can you give me some examples then of hyperactivity and inattention or distractibility?

Aimee Parsons

Sure. So a school example might look like a student who can’t sit still. Someone who is always getting up. Who’s disrupting the class. So we would call this hyperactivity. So if I was going to look at distractibility, let’s see if we could talk about maybe adults who have trouble focusing at their job. Maybe they’re daydreaming, thinking about other things.

So again, that would be distractibility or inattention. And there’s another one actually that I can talk about. And that’s the person who is often interrupting in a conversation, sort of they can’t wait to see their piece or someone who takes risks, and often they might regret it afterward. So they do it first, and then afterwards they go, Oh.

So that would be called impulsivity. So each of these people, each of these persons could have a diagnosis of ADHD. But as you see, it affects each of them differently. We see it differently in each one of these examples.

Trevor Friesen

Okay. So those are some of the more common things that I’ve heard of before. But I’ve also heard of stories about extremely talented athletes or business people with ADHD, and they would talk about how they could become hyper focused on things that were interesting to them, like their sport of choice or video games or creating a computer program.

That doesn’t sound like inattention to me.

Aimee Parsons

You’re right, Trevor. Often as a school principal, a parent would say to me, It’s not possible for my son to have a deficit of attention when they’re able to sit and play video games for 3 hours. But the problem with this is that they’re going to become so focused on the task or the activity, like the video game that they’re going to miss appointments or they may come late to work or even to the extreme of forgetting to eat supper or to take their bath.

So you can imagine how this could become a difficulty, this hyper focus, or even back to hyperactivity, distractibility, impulsivity. Any of these things can cause a lot of challenges for someone with ADHD, their family, their boss, and, again, their self-esteem.

Trevor Friesen

Hmm. Sure. So, Aimee, this might be a strange question to ask, but is ADHD real? Personally, I’ve experienced myself days where I can’t sit still or days where I’m daydreaming and I can’t focus, or days where I haven’t been able to control my emotions very well.

Aimee Parsons

That’s great Trevor, people bring those examples up all the time. But as I mentioned before, we’re going to look for not just one of those things and not just once in a while. By we, so the doctor is going to look, the team is going to look at how this interrupts your life, how much this makes your life more challenging than someone who experiences it once in a while.

So again, we’re looking for more than one symptom in more than one area. And again, there is something physical going on in the person’s brain that’s causing these constant challenges that we see.

Trevor Friesen

Okay. So I know a little bit about the brain. I know that different parts of our brain help us to do different things. So things like helping us to think ahead or to make decisions or to manage our emotions. So when the chemical messengers in the brain aren’t working well together, does that mean that someone with ADHD can’t do those things?

Aimee Parsons

So it’s not the word can’t. So again, we’re going to go back to these chemical messengers, these neurotransmitters in the brain. They’re not working properly. And I would say that it’s more of an interruption. It’s just they’re not being able to do something smoothly. So I can give you an example when it’s time to go to bed.

When my daughter was younger, I’d say, okay, off to bed, it’s bedtime. It’s time to go brush your teeth. Now, my daughter knew how to brush your teeth and she knew how to get to the bathroom and knew how to get to her bedroom. But on the way, she would perhaps see a game that was not put away and she would sit down and play with the game.

As a mom, I would look I would look at her playing the game. And, you know, there’s a moment of frustration. I’m like, What is she doing? So I ask, you know, like, what are you doing? You’re supposed to be brushing your teeth. And then there’s a moment where she would look surprised. You could really see it in her face that there was.

Oh. And then in my daughter, there was. Oh, yeah. Like, I forgot I was distracted. And then. Then after there was this look of disappointment because she knew what had happened. And she knew she was supposed to go brush her teeth, but something got in the way.

Trevor Friesen

So something about how her brain works made it harder for her. Even though she was trying to do what you asked. That sounds unfair to me.

Aimee Parsons

Absolutely. And that’s something we talk a lot about at home. Like it’s unfair. Things are harder. And what’s even more unfair is often people with ADHD are labeled as, you know, with negative words like lazy or super disruptive, or you’re always forgetting things. Sometimes it’s a mix of all three, and it’s unfair because we don’t understand the challenges that we don’t see all the work they’re doing to try and not forget these things, to try and overcome the difficulties that ADHD brings.

Trevor Friesen

Right. Aimee let’s get into the good stuff. Let’s talk about the research behind ADHD. So I’ve done some reading, and what I’ve discovered so far is that we don’t know 100% for sure what causes ADHD, but we think that there may be a few different things that could contribute to it. So, for example, if a baby is born earlier or with a low birth weight, if the mother is exposed to lead during pregnancy, or if the mother uses alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy, these things may lead to a diagnosis of ADHD.

Trevor Friesen

But what else do we know about the causes of ADHD?

Aimee Parsons

So first of all, Trevor, I like the way you say “may” because again, we don’t 100% know. So. It could be one of these things. It could be a combination of some of these things. But something you didn’t mention is that we’re learning that it runs in families. So what that means is if mom or dad has ADHD, that there’s a higher chance that one or more of the children will have ADHD.

What we also know is that there’s about 4% of adults that are diagnosed with ADHD and 5% of children worldwide. So what that means is if we take a thousand people, we’re going to look at 40 to 50 people of that 1000 that has a diagnosis of ADHD.

Trevor Friesen

Okay, I get it. But there’s an interesting number that you threw out there. So you said that there are less adults with a diagnosis compared to kids. So does that mean that kids, as they grow up, they’ll grow out of their ADHD?

 Aimee Parsons

So there’s no research to prove that they’re going to grow out of ADHD. What we do know is that a child’s brain grows and matures, that symptoms can lessen and change over time. But you don’t grow out of ADHD.

Trevor Friesen

So you don’t grow out of it. That means that there’s no cure for ADHD, right? But there’s still more kids diagnosed with ADHD compared to adults, according to the statistics. So how can we explain this difference?

Aimee Parsons

So, again, it’s it’s a difficult question to answer, but what we do know is that when you know more, you sort of do better. Right. So obviously, there’s been medical advances where understand doing more about human behavior. So definitely that could be one one reason that we’re diagnosing more. It also might be that more people are comfortable starting to talk about it and going to see their doctor.

So that could be two reasons why.

Trevor Friesen

Okay. So there might be a couple of different reasons. And I suppose one other reason might be just that the world is very different than it used to be before. So for example, we’re moving around much less and being asked to sit and pay attention for longer.

Aimee Parsons

Yeah, absolutely. So without activity, when we’re not moving as much, you’re going to see more of the behaviors. You’re going to see ADHD to be more visible. So, again, I want to bring up that we don’t think there are more cases now. It’s just as the world has changed, as we’ve asked children to sit longer, there’s less play time.

Those symptoms have become more visible, those behaviors we can see with our eyes now, whereas when they were getting more activity, their body was managing the ADHD better.

Trevor Friesen

Okay, so whatever the case may be, were much better at seeing it now than we used to, maybe.

Aimee Parsons

Yeah, absolutely.

Trevor Friesen

Okay. Aimee we’ve discussed some of the things about ADHD that we know are not true. So, for example, people with ADHD are not lazy, disruptive or just forgetful. We’ve also talked about some of the facts. So some of the possible causes, the fact that there are 4 to 5% of people with a diagnosis, according to statistics, and also that you don’t just grow out of ADHD.

There’s no cure. So with all of this in mind, I’d like to ask you now, how is ADHD treated?

Aimee Parsons

So as you mentioned before, ADHD isn’t something that can be cured and the challenges are going to be something that someone with ADHD will face throughout their life. What we can do is help to manage some of the symptoms or some of the behaviors. And I would have to say, probably because I’m an educator or a former principal, that the first step is education.

So for people who have the diagnosis, but also just as importantly for the people that surround them. So that would be their family members, people they work with and teachers.

Trevor Friesen

So as a first step, why is education about ADHD so important?

Aimee Parsons

So one of the things I’ve been told by people who have been diagnosed. So one of the hardest things is their self-esteem, having low self-esteem.

Trevor Friesen

Low self-esteem. That means that they feel bad about themselves?

Aimee Parsons

Yeah, definitely. Again, we’re looking at usually very smart people. And remember that story I told you about my daughter just after I spoke to her, there was that look of. Yes, I know. So that was just one time. But if you could picture that happening many times, there’s this frustration. They know they can do it. What happened? Okay, next time I’m going to do better.

And then, oh, they got distracted again. So that’s one part. And those of us who live with someone with ADHD can also get frustrated and sometimes don’t help the situation because we get frustrated. Right. So showing someone with ADHD compassion and empathy for what they’re experiencing is so important. And it really can help take away sometimes a feeling of shame over something that they have difficulty controlling.

Trevor Friesen

Okay, I think I get it. So it helps the person with ADHD if they know that, you know, they aren’t forgetting things or being impulsive on purpose.

 Aimee Parsons

Yes, absolutely. So it’s really it’s that relationship you’re building with the person that they know that you’re in their corner sort of thing. Also, I think it’s really important to develop like a language understanding so that people know to start talking about it. So when the doctor talks about it, you’ll understand it a little bit better as a parent, maybe when you’re talking to the school, you’ll start to understand what’s the school talking about?

They’ll know what you’re talking about. So again, learning more about ADHD can help the communication, the talking back and forth better.

 

Trevor Friesen

Sure, it gives you the words to talk about what you’re seeing someone else experience or maybe what you yourself are experiencing, either with a support network, family, or with your doctor. With that in mind, now that we’re talking about doctors, I’d like to ask you, what about medication as a treatment? I’ve read that the right medication can help the chemical messengers in the brain to work better, but that there might be side effects like decreased appetite and trouble sleeping for some people.

Aimee Parsons

Okay. Yes. So medication is definitely one part of a plan, a very important plan. If a family chooses to go in that direction. So I’m going to first talk about the first part of your question. So what is medication? Sort of what would medication look like? So I’ve heard it described as like glasses for the brain.

Trevor Friesen

Okay.

Aimee Parsons

Sure. Someone, even for myself, if I take off my glasses, I can still read. But if I was to do that all day, I would be, you know, sort of squinting my eyes. I would maybe hold the paper closer to my face. And if I was doing this all day, I would definitely become tired, grumpy. I probably have a headache at the end of the day, so I can still read.

But my whole day just got a lot harder.

Trevor Friesen

It’s exhausting.

Aimee Parsons

Yeah. And then I wouldn’t really have the energy to do other things. So medication really gives you an opportunity, a window for someone with ADHD to use their strengths to learn new information without having to spend that extra effort, you know, squinting that extra effort, fighting through their ADHD. The second part, which I did talk about is the side effects.

 

People do talk about not eating well or trouble sleeping, like you mentioned. Sometimes people will talk about like the mood changes. Absolutely. These are all things that may happen. But what I’ve learned on the journey in my family is that sometimes it’s because you’re not on the right medication and you’re not on the right dose. So it may take trying more than one medication for you really to get the right medication for ADHD, for you or for your child.

Trevor Friesen

So if I’m understanding you right, Amy, the right medication and the right dosage for this person with ADHD, it doesn’t fix their ADHD, but it might make it easier to use the tools they already have.

Aimee Parsons

Yes, Trevor. So you’re going to see an improvement in certain visible behaviors. So, for example, someone who’s inattentive, who is daydreaming, medication could help them come back and focus. Someone who fidgets a lot and has a hard time completing something. Medication could help them stay on task. But the biggest thing it does medication does is help you put in place your other tools.

So it’s really like I can see without wearing my glasses, but wearing my glasses makes things a lot easier for me.

Trevor Friesen

Okay. From what I’ve gathered so far, Aimee, ADHD may look different for each person on the outside, but what is the same is that there’s something going on in their brain that’s causing those symptoms that we see on the outside. It’s important for us to learn about ADHD so that we can show compassion and empathy towards that person instead of blaming someone for something they can’t control.

 

Aimee Parsons

Absolutely. And then we finish off by talking about medication. The medication is a journey, but that it can definitely help a person with ADHD to use other strategies.

Trevor Friesen

Right. And that part’s very important. The right medication may make it easier to use strategies that they already have. So let’s talk about some of those strategies now. I remember before we talked about the importance of movement breaks and physical activity.

Aimee Parsons

So absolutely. That’s so, so important. There’s no one size fits all answer for someone with ADHD. We keep talking about how different two different people with ADHD can be, but physical activity, if you can put that in your day, that would be super important.

Trevor Friesen

Sure thing. So something like getting up and taking a walk around the office for 5 minutes and maybe how about taking a bike ride in the summer when the weather allows or you could go snowshoeing in the winter. Are those options?

Aimee Parsons

Absolutely. Those are great examples, Trevor. If the gym in your community center is open, if there is pickup games or organized sports, that’s fantastic. If you’re in your house, you have any exercise equipment. That’s great, too. If there’s swimming, that’s great too. So I think we’ve given some different examples of organized sports, something that you have, you know, every Wednesday night, every Friday afternoon.

But it’s also important to have throughout the day, many breaks like like you said, getting up, walking around, taking a break from from sitting down and listening. You know, I was just thinking, actually, for example, listening to us right now, if you’re able to walk around and move while you’re listening to us, that would be a great use of using movement while you’re listening to something else.

So that just popped in my mind.

Trevor Friesen

Fantastic idea, especially if you’re only listening to the audio part of this. You could pop in your headphones and you could go for a walk. You could do some chores around the house, right? Anything that’s kind of go you up and moving around.

Aimee Parsons

Absolutely. Yeah.

Trevor Friesen

Okay, cool. So that’s pretty good. Those are pretty good ideas for physical activity. What about for somebody with ADHD who’s having a hard time getting started on new tasks or forgets new tasks altogether? What can they do?

Aimee Parsons

So one of our favorite words is the word routine. We have a lot of routines in my household. What my children will say is that once the routine is sort of I’ll use the word established. So once the routine is in part of their way of functioning, their way of behaving, they don’t have to think about it anymore.

So you can’t get distracted when you don’t have to think about it anymore, is what they’ll tell me. So we use a lot of routines, so I can give you an example of a routine that we used is what do we do when we come home from school? So before I had a routine in place, the door would open and the coat would be on the floor.

The school bag would be somewhere on the floor. You know, homework got done, didn’t get done. I have one child who would have a snack, the other one who would forget, you know, and not have anything to eat. So what we did is we put a routine as sort of what are the four steps when we come home from school.

So when we came home from school, we hung up our jacket. We put our school bag by the table for homework. We grab something to eat, and then we took like a play break. And what we did for one of my kids who was younger is we we turn this into pictures. So there was four pictures that were on the back of the door.

So when they came in from school, close the door, there would be the four steps. And this routine helped them. And it helped me to not get upset that I was tripping over the school bag and tripping over the jacket on the floor. So routines are super appreciated by me, the person living with someone with ADHD. And it’s super important for my kids to feel successful and happy.

Yeah.

Trevor Friesen

Right. Okay. And it takes all of the guesswork out of it, especially if you’re using a visual schedule like you’re describing. So your routine is actually pictures that represent each task that they’re supposed to do. These are sometimes called visual schedules or social stories. So for our listeners, if you’re interested in learning more about visual schedules and social stories like the one that Aimee has described using with her family, you can visit our website when you finish listening to this podcast to find out more, you’ll be able to find the links.

You’ll just have to click on this one link and it’ll take you to our web page and then you’ll search the word social stories and you’ll find some very nice information about how you can create a routine for your family or for yourself or for whoever. Using these pictures.

Aimee Parsons

Yeah, again, like routines for me are so super important, as I mentioned. So for the younger one, I did use pictures and my older one would appreciate pictures. But sometimes now, you know, in high school we’re going to go with a list. So we use a lot of lists in our house. We put lists on Post-it notes, we use a notepad sometimes like on the computer, we’ll put notes sort of reminding us of the things we want to get done, reminding us of the things that are coming up.

So yeah, so really using a list to help remind us about what’s going on.

Trevor Friesen

Sure. Okay. So for the younger ones, maybe pictures are going to be a better fit. And as they get older or even as up to the age of an adult, maybe written lists are going to be more appropriate. Another way that I know of that you can use lists, maybe you don’t like to write stuff down by hand, maybe you prefer to use your phone.

I know lots of people have smartphones these days and so what you can do is you can dictate, which means you can speak into your phone and it will write down your list onto your phone. And then another thing that you could do, for example, is you could set an alarm on your phone to remind you that there’s something you’re supposed to do, say, at 5:30.

It’s quite easy to do. And I’ll show you how to do it right now with my phone. What you do is you call up Siri and you say, set an alarm for 5:30 p.m. and there you go.

Aimee Parsons

Look at that Trevor.

Trevor Friesen

I have an alarm set for 5:30 pm.

Aimee Parsons

Absolutely.

Trevor Friesen

What a world we live in.

Aimee Parsons

Absolutely. And Trevor, just like we had talked about before, these are definitely tools, someone with ADHD need. Right. Because we know the challenging things that happen in our life. Things are harder, but these are things that the whole family can do so that the person with ADHD feels included, feels good. The whole family’s got list going on are using techniques.

So there’s a need for the person with ADHD, but there’s no reason why everybody can’t get involved and just make it like a family project or this classroom uses it so everybody feels that they’ve got reminders, lists, visual schedules going on. So these are great, great strategies.

Trevor Friesen

And and just like we were saying before, with physical activity, you’re saying this is this is a good strategy, not just for someone with ADHD, but for everybody, anyone who’s around them could be family, could be teachers, could be friends. These are two strategies that you can start using right away that’s probably going to make you feel better throughout your day.

Aimee Parsons

Absolutely. So one is a need for the person like they really need it to do better and to get through things. And the other one is good, healthy habits. Healthy habits to have reminders. It’s healthy to exercise. So you’re absolutely right. One is a need and one is like for everybody else, you know what? Why don’t you try it too?

And things might go better for you.

Trevor Friesen

Give it a shot. You might like it.

Aimee Parsons

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Trevor Friesen

Aimee, let’s talk about some of the small things that I or someone else can do every day to help someone with ADHD, whether it’s a child or their partner or a student, or even if I myself have it. What are some of the small things that I can do every day to help them?

Aimee Parsons

So my first suggestion is super simple and super hard at the same time, and it’s remember not to blame. So it’s sometimes hard, when you see a behavior over and over again, to not blame. But, number one, really try not to blame. And if it happens, apologies are always good afterwards. It is frustrating for the family to live with someone who has ADHD and that’s okay.

It is frustrating. And if that happens, you as the caregiver, you as the brother or sister, the mom, you know, go for a walk, take some space, practice some deep breathing to calm yourself down. Again, someone with ADHD is not being impulsive, distracted or hyperactive on purpose, and they’re probably just as frustrated with themselves. So that would be my number one is the blame.

Try not to blame.

Trevor Friesen

Okay? And so for parents or family members or whoever really who’s feeling this frustration and doesn’t want to blame but is looking for support, they could also reach out to a support group, right?

Aimee Parsons

Absolutely. So there does exist some formal support groups. Maybe there’s even a circle or a support group in your area if there’s not. Sometimes there’s talking to another parent who also has someone with a disability like ADHD. This can be super helpful to just share, to just let it out. Then it can turn into trading stories.

Sometimes it turns into really good belly laughs because you know, you’re sharing these things that have happened. Sometimes it turns into cries, all this is okay. So it’s really important to reach out to another person, you know, by phone, in person, support group, if there’s one in your community or sharing circle. Yes, definitely.

Trevor Friesen

Sure, sure. So just so that you can you can reach out and as we were saying before, talk about something that both of you are experiencing. And maybe you can trade stories and strategies and things that you found helpful. Yeah. The next one, I actually have a good strategy and this is a universal strategy.

It seems like we’re talking about lots of things you can do right away for someone with ADHD. But this could be something that you could do with anyone. And it’s important to remember. So remember to encourage the person for the things that they do well. So a lot of times we’re going to have a child or a partner or someone that, you know, with ADHD that all day, every day they’re being reminded of everything that they’re doing incorrectly.

And so if you can find those little moments throughout the day to give them a compliment or encouragement for something that they’ve done right, for example, using your story as an example, you hung up your coat. Thank you so much for hanging up your coat. Something as simple as that could go a really, really long way because someone with ADHD may not hear about what they’re doing very well, very often.

And so that small complement might actually be a lot more valuable than you think. And it’s not hard to do.

Aimee Parsons

Yeah, these are free strategies, Trevor, things you could do right away and you know what? What you’re saying is so super important. Who doesn’t want to hear good things about themselves? Can you really imagine only hearing the negative about yourself? All day long? So thank you, Trevor. That is a fabulous strategy. I know you worked with children with various disabilities before, so is there something you can share with us that would be important?

Another strategy for daycare workers, teachers to remember.

Trevor Friesen

Sure thing. Yeah. So we’ve talked a little bit about kind of some of the universal strategies or free strategies that you can use at home. But ADHD doesn’t just live at home, right? You find it in lots of different places. So again, one of the universal truths here is that when people are learning things or they are trying to learn something, it’s always going to be easier if it’s something that they’re interested in.

Right. So if you can as a daycare educator or a teacher, figure out what that person’s interests are, either by watching them play or talking to a parent or asking the person directly. That might even be an easy way. If that’s appropriate. You can find ways to work those interests into the thing that you’re trying to teach them.

So, for example, if you’re trying to teach an earlier learner about colors and you know that they are just over the moon excited about animals, what you could do is put those two concepts together in order to teach them. So what you might have is a page with a picture of a bear, or maybe a few pictures of bears that are different colors.

And you’re pointing out this bear is black. What color is this bear? It’s black. And this is a blue bear. This bear is blue. What color is the bear? And you might find that when you mix that learners interests with stuff that might be less interesting for them, that you might have a bit more success in them learning that boring skill because it’s associated, which just means it’s connected to the thing that you’re trying to teach.

Sorry, you’re connecting what’s boring for them, to what’s interesting, so the colors with the animals.

Aimee Parsons

Trevor can I interrupt?

Trevor Friesen

Yeah please.

Aimee Parsons

No, just a story actually this morning I was just talking to my kids and I was just bringing up how fascinating it is that sometimes learning something for school, like memorizing an oral presentation could be hard. But yet I have one child who knows animal facts like you wouldn’t believe. He’s like a dictionary. He can name their scientific name.

He can name a hundred facts about them. And I’m just like, So how come you struggle, you know, learning this? And yet, you know, more than maybe even like a teacher about those animals? And again, it comes down to what you just said. It’s more interesting for my son to learn about these crazy animal facts than memorizing a speech that he has to do at school.

So absolutely right. If people can pair those two things, you’ve got a winning combination.

Trevor Friesen

Yeah, exactly. And I’ll repeat it one more time just in case I stumbled over my words before. The idea is that you want to mix together the thing that might be boring, that you’re trying to teach with something that the learner is interested in. You put those two together and you’ve got a good chance that some of that interest in the interesting thing rubs off on to the boring thing, and you might have a better chance of it sinking in.

So unfortunately, the problem with that is that it’s not always the right time or it’s not always easy to find something interesting and mix it into something that’s boring. So an example that I’ll give you is maybe you’re at home and your teenager who has ADHD is in the other room and you want to remind them to take out the garbage before they go to bed.

I don’t know about you, but it might be tough to find an interesting way to frame that request so that they remember it. So Aimee, maybe you have some ideas for things that you can do to make sure, or at least to give a better chance that that request to take out the garbage is going to be heard by the person with ADHD.

Aimee Parsons

Okay, so Trevor, there’s a few things going on here. Like you said, there’s a lack of interest, so that’s not an interesting thing to do. So one way of getting around this is a routine, right? So that, you know, on a certain day, at a certain time that you take out the garbage before going to bed. So putting it in a routine, either a visual or a list would definitely help.

Sometimes that interesting thing comes after the garbage is done. So sometimes that’s, you know, getting to read their favorite book after bed because they’ve put out the garbage. So really making something interesting after. But one of the other things we need to bring up is, did I even hear you ask me to take out the garbage? So the first step, Trevor, really, is how do you get someone’s attention when they have difficulty paying attention?

So some of the strategies are to remove distractions, remove things. So for example, if they’re watching TV and you’re in the kitchen, you’re not yelling from the kitchen to the TV room, it’s time to take out the garbage, right? Because they’re watching TV. There’s been nothing to signal for them that they need to listen to the voice in the kitchen.

So really trying to remove the distractions. Another technique and this is with permission. You need to make sure the person is comfortable with this is just touching them on the shoulder. Sometimes this is a very discreet, a very private way that can be used in classrooms. So instead of saying, Trevor, Trevor, Trevor, I’m talking to you, and then, you know, Trevor, you’re embarrassed.

It’s just really going up to Trevor, giving him a slight touch on the shoulder. And then Trevor knows it’s time to listen. So where Trevor sits, is going to be important. Trevor might need to sit closer to the person who speaks the most in the class. So closer to the teacher’s desk, maybe away from the door.

That has exciting things. And the last, I guess, suggestion that I would share is eye contact is important, and by that is just by getting the attention you start. Not making a person with ADHD look at you the whole time. So we’re not about seeing their eyes the whole time we’re speaking, but just to make sure before you start with, remember, it’s time to take out the garbage.

You’ve at least seen their eyes. They’re looking at you. Then you can start so those were a few things that would help to get someone’s attention that has ADHD.

Trevor Friesen

Right. Okay. And for those suggestions that you’ve made some of them being to remove a distraction like turning off the TV or with the person’s permission, a light touch or getting a little bit of eye contact, it’s probably going to be important to figure out which one works best for each learner. Right? Not everybody’s going to want to use the same one.

Aimee Parsons

Absolutely. I go back to how we started. Have two kids with ADHD, extremely different. One has no problem with being touched on the shoulder, really appreciates that discrete look. And the other one needs really for me to walk all the way in front, really put myself in front of them, turn the television off, ask a few questions before the important question.

So really have to do a couple of steps before I ask to take out the garbage.

Trevor Friesen

To take out the garbage, the most interesting time.

Aimee Parsons

The garbage is the most interesting task.

Trevor Friesen

Thank you for joining us today. As we learned about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD, please remember that you don’t need a diagnosis to begin using the tools we’ve talked about here today. Things like physical activity, routines using pictures, reminders on your phone. These things might be helpful to you right now before you have a diagnosis. If you’re concerned that your child might be showing some of the symptoms of ADHD, go to your local clinic and talk to your doctor.

Tell them about what behaviors you’re seeing that worry you. You can take a video of your child doing what you’re worried about and show it if you’re not comfortable talking about it. If you are an adult and you suspect that you have ADHD, you should also talk to your doctor about it. Aimee, is there anything that you’d like to add on the way out?

Aimee Parsons

Always! So for someone with ADHD, life is hard enough without more people judging them. Please be loving, understanding and compassionate and look for the strength that the person has and really celebrate it. People with ADHD are most often very smart and with the right tools can be super successful. So I like what you said. Don’t wait.

Ask for help if you’re struggling or you see any signs of possible ADHD.

Trevor Friesen

Thank you very much.

 

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