ADHD Coaching to Support Healthy Lifestyles

Research done by Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D. and Mariellen Fischer, Ph.D. and published in the Journal of Attention Disorders addressed the reduction in healthy life expectancy of people diagnosed with ADHD due to adverse health and lifestyle activities. The longitudinal study was eye-opening, but pointed to the need for individuals and the professionals with whom they work to talk about lifestyle choices in order to positively impact life expectancy.

At the 2019 Annual International Conference on ADHD Melissa Knight and I made a presentation about how ADHD coaches can help their clients in addressing lifestyle choices such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, driving habits, smoking, etc. that impact estimated life expectancy and the quality of one’s life.

I was happy to see the following write up on the ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO) blog highlighting the November, 2019 presentation.


The Role of ADHD Coaching in Supporting Healthy Lifestyles: Taking Research into Practice

By Melissa Knight, MA, PCC and Roxanne Fouché

Take Away: The importance of working together as a team when providing support for someone with ADHD. The team members can include a therapist, doctor, educator, coach and parents.

More Information: High-risk behaviors that occur earlier in life influence possible health concerns as people age, which then influences the increased risk for earlier mortality. What we have learned is that although ADHD is a serious public health concern, improved estimated life expectancy (ELE) may be achieved with proper treatment. It may be possible to improve the risks associated with lower ELE through treating ADHD, especially in improving self-regulation.

It is important that coaches become aware of this research to educate and support our clients with ADHD in implementing strategies for a healthier lifestyle. Coaches can play a significant role in facilitating change for our clients. Through this process, increased awareness concerning ADHD management, self-regulation, and lifestyle choices can occur. When clients increase their awareness, implementing lifestyle changes can follow.

Through Powerful Questioning and Direct Communication, Awareness is created, leading to Designing Actions. When a coach inquires about a client’s lifestyle, this provides an opportunity for the client to explore how behaviors can impact health. Through this process, the coach also helps the client to identify their values and motivation, which supports the client in understanding why a goal is important. When values are connected to motivation, there is a stronger possibility of success. Next, the client can move forward into brainstorming and strategizing alternative lifestyle choices. In addition to providing education to their clients, ADHD coaches are accountability partners. It is this accountability piece that is crucial for keeping these goals in the here and now for the clients in between coaching sessions.


Contact me for information about ADHD / Executive Function coaching to discover and implement individualized strategies, skills and habits that support healthy lifestyles, effectiveness and well-being. ADHD coaching is conducted in person in San Diego, by phone or via the internet.

ADD Successful Goal Setting

As the new year starts, many people make promises to themselves regarding better physical or financial health, learning a new skill, or how they conduct themselves in the world. Although these goals are heart-felt, unfortunately most research shows that New Year’s Resolutions are often abandoned by the end of January whether or not ADD/ADHD characteristics are part of the picture. It’s not that we don’t want these things – and it’s not because we lack willpower. We often give up on our goals because we haven’t set ourselves up for success.

How many times have you caught yourself making a promise to yourself or to someone else, saying “this time it’s going to be different” without really changing the way you approach the goal? It doesn’t make sense to do the same things over and over and expect different results. There is an alternative.

As an example, I would love to play the piano much better. It would be so gratifying to sit at the piano, look at complicated music, and just have my fingers play music effortlessly. But…it’s a huge goal and I can’t just “magically wish” it to happen.

As I set myself up for success for this goal, I need to consider what has worked (or kind of worked) for similar goals, as well as what has not worked at all. I need to be honest with myself. In order to set myself up for success, I also need to think about:

  • WHAT exactly I want to accomplish
  • WHY this goal is important to me
  • WHEN I want to do the things I set out to do … and
  • HOW I want to plan for success

It’s a combination of “SMART” goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) and knowledge of oneself and how to leverage our interest and motivation.

For my piano skills goal, I want to be able to play songs in an Adult Intermediate piano book with ease and have memorized six pieces by the end of the year. I want to do this to push myself a bit, and have fun perfecting a skill that gives me joy.

I know that when I make too big of a goal, I can get frustrated. I know that I cannot work on too many goals at once, as that can get overwhelming. I also know that I work best with flexible structure.

I want to start this week, keeping track of the time I practice and log a minimum of 1 ½ hours/week. That’s a little over 15 minutes a day, which is do-able. I am going to try to do my piano practice in the morning, but on busy mornings, I would like to sit at the piano at the end of the day. My reward (and inspiration) will be listening to piano music via a streaming service.

I will share this goal with my family so I can have some accountability and although I don’t like the idea of playing for an audience, maybe I can record my playing so they can listen to it without the pressure of performance. Additionally, my intention is to give myself permission to be human, knowing that there will be some weeks that I will not meet my goal. After those weeks, I will revisit my plan and adjust accordingly.

So what goals do you want to work toward? What would make your life easier or more rewarding? What would make a big difference?

As you move toward your goals, the assistance of an ADHD / Executive Function coach may help you determine the strategies and habits that will provide more success, fulfillment and balance in your life. Contact me for an initial consultation and we can talk about how ADHD coaching can help you successfully achieve your goals with ADHD.

Parenting by the Seat of Our Pants

Parenting is simultaneously the most rewarding, and the hardest, job we can have. Just when we think we have everything under control, our kids’ needs change – or our circumstances change – and we are back to “What in the heck do I do now?!?”

When you parent a child who has ADHD or associated challenges, you have more questions…and more rewards. When things go well, it’s a victory that other parents may take for granted.

When our little one begins a short book despite reading problems, figures out a way to calm herself down, or follows a request for the first time without push back, it’s a triumph for the whole family.

When our teen takes out the trash without a reminder, starts homework independently, or organizes a sleepover on a long weekend, we know that they are making real progress.

When our young adult makes a budget, gets ready to graduate, or prepares for a job interview, we know we are doing our job and we can all celebrate.

But when things don’t go as planned, when school is difficult, when our kids don’t know how to make or keep friends, when there are homework wars, when there’s worry about a young adult who isn’t prepared for the next steps of independence, it’s something that can make parents feel like they’re alone without a place to turn. And we blame ourselves.

It’s a privilege to be in the position of supporting the growth of a child. It’s really miraculous how our kids grow and change. But there can be a problem when we expect near-perfection in our parenting. We have in our mind’s eye how we want to parent and then something unexpected occurs and the only thing we can do is to make the best decision we can at the time.

That’s why I’ve joked over the years that I was going to write a blog called “Parenting by the Seat of My Pants.” No matter our education, or background, we are all just doing the best we can with the information we have at the moment.  

Clearly, we all want to be great parents. Our kids deserve the very best. But, as parents, we need to give ourselves permission to be human…and give ourselves permission to occasionally parent by the seat of our pants.

Coaching can help. Contact me if I can be a resource.

 

 

 

 

As You Transition to Something New, Remember What Worked

As we approach transitions, whether it is transition to the new school year, a new job, or a move across country, we can build on our successes by remembering what worked. And then going from there.

School – love it, hate it or just tolerate it, the new school year is upon us.

Whether we are students, parents, other family members, or know someone who is, many of us are ruled by school academic calendars. Many K-12 schools and colleges have already started and others will start soon. So how do we make a smoother transition to another school year?

If we are going back to school or supporting someone who is, there are several questions to ask:

What worked?

Really – think through what worked last year. It’s easy to focus on the things that didn’t work. The should’ves, could’ves and might’ves where we can get stuck and wonder: What’s the use? Why try?

But if we focus on what worked, our mindset shifts and opportunities for success become apparent. Everyone’s wins are different, but it’s important to think about what worked so we can do it again.

As an example, it could be that keeping a calendar of assignments, tests, practices, games, and performances really made a difference…at least for a little while.

If it worked well, keep it up! Do it again. Rinse and repeat.

What could be tweaked?

If something kind of worked, we might look at the obstacles that got in the way and figure out what might be tweaked. For example, maybe you kept a paper calendar, color coded by family member or class, and it just got too much to keep up. What about trying an electronic calendar that can be easily changed as necessary? Maybe you kept an electronic calendar and it worked great … until it didn’t because you found that you weren’t really looking at it. What about figuring out a way to help you remember to check your calendar? That could be a reminder on your phone to check your calendar at certain times of the day or maybe a reward for yourself for doing so. Whatever it takes to make the habit stick more readily.

There is no right or wrong way of doing things. There’s just works for you and your brain.

If ADHD coaching or consulting might be something to add to the mix, contact us. We will be happy to help you set yourself up for success during whatever transition you are approaching.

Making The Most of Summer with ADHD

The prospect of a relaxing summer, unencumbered by the stress of school, is highly anticipated by both students and their parents. Students with ADHD deserve time to relax, hike, bike, swim, wiggle their toes in the sand, and otherwise enjoy the summer months. Parents of students with ADHD also deserve a break from the role of being a “homework cop.”

Despite the difficulty for both students and their families to keep up with the many demands of a busy schedule during the academic year, school does provide the structure that is helpful to students with ADHD. A lack of structure and routine can be trying for someone with executive function and self-regulation challenges.

So how do we, as parents, provide the right amount of structure during the summer months so that our students can have much-needed “down time” without overdoing it? What is the right amount of structure anyway?

For each student the ideal mix of activities is going to be different, of course, but parents of students with ADHD might aim for:

  • Some learning – either through a summer class, information-oriented camp, tutoring, self-study or daily academic time to keep skills up and avoid summer learning loss
  • Some exercise – either through organized sports, camps, lessons, shared exercise opportunities with family, or free play
  • Some routine – for sleeping, eating, chores, and self-care
  • Some socialization – with family, established friends, and friends-to-be
  • Some exploration of interests and passions, which can include limited screen time via smart phones, internet, videogames, or TV
  • Some relaxation, allowing time for students to look up at the clouds, think, and dream

It might be mentioned, too, that summer is often a great time to start ADHD coaching to help students develop the strategies, habits and tools that will allow them to “hit the ground running” once school starts again in the fall.

As the summer begins, you might talk with your family to discuss summer goals in addition to any planned activities, vacations, or classes that are on the schedule. What do they want to learn? What do they want to discover? What would they really like to do to make this summer one to remember?

Whatever summer looks like for your family, when parents and students are in agreement as to the goals and the new routines of summer, the easier and more fun it will be for everyone!

Reflections on the Film, “NORMAL ISN’T REAL”

I was honored to be part of a panel with neurodiversity advocates Jonathan Mooney and Jodie Knowles as we discussed Kris Kornmeier’s brilliant film, “NORMAL ISN’T REAL: Succeeding with LD/ADHD” at the 2019 BOOST Conference in Palm Springs this week.

The film’s title says it all – what we consider to be “normal” is only an illusion. What exactly is normal? Average? The “Goldilocks of abilities” – not too much of this or too little of that? Not standing out? Not being different? Not being ourselves?

Redefine Yourself

I propose that we NOT strive to be considered “normal,” whatever that is, as each one of us is beautifully unique, with varied experiences, interests, values, strengths, passions … as well as personal challenge areas. We all have things that we’re really good at and we all have things that are harder for us, whether we have “disabilities” or not. We should not define ourselves by what challenges we might face, or what makes us not fit in somehow. We can learn to embrace who we are as people, with our strengths and challenges together, controlling our own narrative so that we can move forward toward our vision of the future.

Rewrite Your Story

As an ADHD coach, I have the distinct honor of helping people rewrite their stories with an ADHD lens, helping them appreciate who they are, what they’re good at, what they are passionate about, as well as what doesn’t come naturally. As people come to understand why certain things have happened, they move from self-blame to self-awareness and to self-acceptance; with the confidence that comes with self-acceptance, people are able to leverage their strengths, discover new ways to work with the brain they have, and thrive with ADHD.

Embrace What Makes You Uniquely You

What is your story and how can you rewrite it with an appreciation of who you are? Embrace what makes you uniquely you, for the world needs your passions, your talents, your interests, your energy, and your quirkiness in all its glory!

For more information about the film, go to https://www.normalisntreal.com. You’ll be glad you did!

How Do You “Convince” Someone to Try ADHD Coaching?

When parents call to explore possible ADHD coaching for their teen/young adult, a question that can come up is how parents can convince their son or daughter to try ADHD coaching.

Coaching is not is not something that happens to someone – it’s a process that people need to be committed to. All coaching, including ADHD coaching, is about intentional changeand parents or others cannot successfully convince someone to participate in coaching if they are not interested in the process.

Although some young people begin coaching with the gentle nudge from their parents, teens and young adults who make the best use of ADHD coaching…

  • have the ability to step back to see what is working (and not working) in their lives
  • are willing to accept help
  • are honest with themselves and the coach
  • and have the desire to change strategies, habits and attitudes that are not serving them.

So how does one prime the pump as a parent, nudging someone to at least explore the idea of ADHD coaching? It’s all about sharing what coaching is – and is not.

When the teen/young adult seems receptive, share with them information from this website or online sources. Talk with them about how sports coaches or music teachers work by helping people increase their skills and have more fun. ADHD coaches work in a similar way, assisting their clients learn personalized strategies, tools and new habits so that there is more time to enjoy fun things outside school or work.  

When I talk with students about ADHD coaching, the feedback that I get is:

  • Coaching is empowering as it provides nonjudgmental and supportive structure, while allowing clients to build skills and strategies for future success.
  • Students enjoy the unique relationship between client and coach, one in which the student is in the “driver’s seat,” setting the agenda for the coaching sessions.
  • Students like having someone they are accountable to (other than their parents) while they learn to be more independent and accountable to themselves.

I often talk with teens and young adults in an introductory call, sharing that I “get” ADHD personally and professionally. We talk generally about what school is like for them, what’s easy for them and what is a little more difficult, how ADHD can get in their way, and then we talk about ADHD coaching if appropriate. Even if students are not ready or interested in ADHD coaching, just having a conversation with someone who understands and who offers nonjudgmental support (and a little bit of laughter) often makes a big difference!

So let me know how I can help you – or your teen/young adult. I am happy to assist you in any way I can.

2017 ADHD Professionals Conference

I am honored to be presenting at the 10th Annual ADHD Professionals Conference with my Research Committee colleagues, Dr. Rebecca Toney and Casey Dixon. During our presentation entitled, “The Power of Research to Transform Coaching,” we will be discussing the direct application to ADHD coaching of research regarding strategic self-control, cueing desired actions and self-monitoring for success.

It is exciting to be part of a vibrant community of professionals attending the ADHD Coaches Organization conference in Reston, VA. We have the opportunity to meet and greet colleagues and friends, increase our knowledge base, share ideas for the application of evidence-based practices and generally connect and collaborate for the benefit of the ADHD community.

Adjusting Your Aim

Michael Jordan said, I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael didn’t give up in the face of failure. He paid attention to what worked and what didn’t work, adjusted his aim and didn’t let the missed shots keep him from trying again.

We need to do the same.

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck found through research that one’s mindset makes all the difference. With what Dweck calls a “fixed mindset,” people believe that their intelligence and abilities are pretty much carved in stone, unable to be developed. If Michael Jordan had felt that way, he might have stopped trying after the first missed shots.

It takes a leap of faith to keep moving toward one’s goals in the face of failure, especially when one has ADHD. But we can learn to develop what Dweck calls a “growth mindset,” the belief that we can build on our inborn intelligence and talents through dedication and effort. This mindset can help us learn from our mistakes, more easily move toward our goals, and continue to grow and change throughout our lives.

Missteps are part of life whether you have ADHD or not. But it seems that those with ADHD feel each misstep that much more. Instead of beating ourselves up for things not going as they might, we can look at what happened and ask, “What did I learn from this?” It helps to anticipate what might get in the way of our goals as we readjust our plans. And then we can take the next shot with confidence that it will work…or that we can adjust our aim again to get closer to our goal.

Give us a call. We would be delighted to talk with you about how ADHD coaching might help you adjust your aim and move toward your goals with ease.

Finding the Time for Coaching

Joe was stuck. He was overwhelmed. He was worried about keeping his job. And he was tired. He worked hard all day, barely taking time for lunch at his desk, and got to the end of the day with only a fraction of his work completed. He thought he had a handle on his ADHD with the structures he tried to put into place, but he felt like he was fighting a losing battle. The creative solutions that he devised only worked for a little while and then he was back to the consistent inconsistency that frustrated him so much. The backlog of work increased as his confidence plummeted.

Someone suggested working with an ADHD coach to help him with the difficulties he had with time management, procrastination of boring tasks, general organization, and staying focused, but he would always say, “But I don’t have time for ADHD Coaching!”

It’s not uncommon that someone might feel they would like the assistance from an ADHD coach, but can’t imagine being able to find the time for it. They are always running to catch up, working really hard, doing their best, and trying not to give up. It seems that although coaching might help, there’s just no time.

However, ADHD coaching is often most useful precisely when you feel you can’t possibly add one more thing to the day’s TO DO list. Why? Coaching can help you prioritize the things you want to do and figure out when, where and how you want to accomplish your goals. It can help you determine the next steps to take so you can move forward. Coaching allows you to identify your intentions or how you might want to handle a specific situation. It helps you to figure out the specific-to-you strategies that utilize your strengths to bypass those things that typically trip you up. Coaching, in other words, allows you to be more efficient, more effective and less overwhelmed because what had seemed insurmountable now feels doable. And who doesn’t have time for that?

Those who participate in coaching say the time spent in the coaching session saves them valuable time because they are not frozen with indecision, or reinventing the proverbial wheel, or keeping busy while not accomplishing what they need to. They say coaching allows them to see possibility – not only the barriers. They say coaching allows them to be more efficient and more effective. Instead of feeling overwhelmed or frozen, those who engage in ADHD coaching leave the coaching session with a plan for effectiveness and the coach’s support to realize that plan, moving forward toward a balance of efficient work and well-deserved play.

Coaching is a gift you give yourself to help you flourish with ADHD. We are here to help.

Note: this post appeared as a guest blog for Laurie Dupar’s Coaching For ADHD website.