by Susan Dunn
Alonso calls me every week, Wednesday at 10 am. Well, actually I call him most of the time, because he forgets. And the reason he’s home at 10 am is because he can’t hold a job. He couldn’t show up on time, remember what he was supposed to do, or finish a task without supervision. He and I are working on strategies to help him self-organize which bring success, and then better self-esteem and more confidence. Alonso (not his real name) is 26 years old, has ADHD, and I’m his coach.
“Coaching is the most effective tool today in the management of ADD,” says Ed Hallowell, author of “"Driven to Distraction," who, having ADD himself, is quick to point out the positive side of ADD. I also coach Janessa, who has ADD. I always look forward to talking with her, and if I weren’t her coach, and didn’t hear the problems she has keeping appointments, meeting deadlines, maintaining relationships, and negotiating highways, it would just be fun to talk with her. She’s got the “high energy, intuitiveness, creativity and enthusiasm,” Hallowell attributes to such possible ADD sufferers as Mozart and Einstein. Janessa’s a painter and her work is beautiful.
Gerry, one of the best therapists here in town is also ADHD. (That “H” indicates “hyperactivity”.) We were doing some research together and I kept sending him reading material. He told me he “hated” reading; understandably, I thought he just didn’t like to. To get the job done, I started calling his answering machine and dictating from articles. When I began to resent it, and spoke up, he told me he’s ADHD and in order to read he has to take a Ritalin, but he doesn’t like the side effects. He’s an excellent clinician with a full practice and a waiting list. I imagine the “intuitiveness” listed above, and the creativeness allow him to zero in on what’s going on with his patients and generate solutions. Also he’s the sort of real-life example we all need that most of us have some limitation, some “cross to bear.” I call this, in coaching, “the trump card.” Imagine telling your therapist “How would you know how hard it is?” and finding out he’s ADHD.
ADD sufferers can learn to function well. Hallowell is a physician.
It’s estimated that about 2-6% of adults have ADHD, and yes, is can be a life-long disorder which can disrupt the quality of your life. It has the same symptoms in adults as it does in kids -- hyperactivity, inattentiveness and impulsiveness. In adults, these behaviors can cause significant difficulties with work and relationships.
There are distinct neurobiological features, such as “activity in the frontal striatal networks of the brain,” and “decreased frontal cortical activity,” which can only be diagnosed with sophisticated instruments. If you wonder if you have it, or someone you love, please see your physician.
About 80% of children who show symptoms of ADHD in childhood continue on into adulthood. According to the Canadian Medical Association, adults with ADHD are more likely to suffer being fired from a job, marital problems, poor medical health, serious motor accidents, cigarette smoking, drug abuse and poor social skills.
Various treatments are available, including, of course, medication.
Also recommended by the CMA is what’s called “psychosocial treatment”: education about the disorder, involvement in support groups, skills training (such as vocational, organizational, time management) and what I do, coaching.
Janessa’s family called her “space queen,” “ditz,” and “lazy.” Whatever medication is able to do, there are still residuals from a lifetime of behavior that tends to bump up against society, and a lot of negative self-talk.
ADD is, according to Dr. Russell Barkley, “a deficit in self-regulation or of ‘executive functions’—the ability to inhibit impulses, control moods, use flexible problem-solving and effective self-directed speech. Individuals with ADD, he says, have trouble deferring gratification, persevering, and waiting. Nor do they plan ahead and use self-discipline.
I don’t study the causes—that’s up to the doctors—but you can see the fit with emotional intelligence coaching. Among other things, I provide a support system and accountability—plus lots of encouragement and down-to-earth management techniques.
For the time being, Alonso takes his cell phone with him when he heads out for an interview, and calls me as a check-in. I remind him of things—“Do you remember where you’re going? Look for the name of the street.” He brings a message with him when he gets in the car—a sticky with the name of the street on it. As he learns ways to manage that bring success, his anxiety about “never remembering” will go down.
A coach can model rational problem-solving and positive self-talk, and also give a host of management and accountability techniques.
According to the CMA,the benefits of psychosocial treatments for adults with ADHD haven’t been scientifically studied extensively, and new psychotherapeutic approaches are being developed.
When I peruse the “Request for Proposal” section on one of the major coaching websites, I see many individuals requesting coaching for ADD. Apparently the word is getting around that it helps.