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Resources and Take-aways from the 2018 International Conference on ADHD

International Conference on ADHD

Since my last blog, I have immersed myself in learning again - something I truly love to do. The 2018 International Conference on ADHD was an amazing opportunity for me to learn from several talented and well informed professionals who shared their latest findings, tools, strategies and ideas. I had the opportunity to engage in interesting dialogue and discussions with like minded folks who not just "get it", but get it from different points of view. It helped me see further possibilities for my own work going forward.

Here are just a few of my key take-aways:

  • The importance and power of Self Acceptance as a path to success. Opening Keynote Speaker LeDerick Horne talked in depth about how self acceptance of hidden disabilities like ADHD and Learning Disabilities in a very practical sense leads to self disclosure, accessing supports, self advocacy, connections to the community and realizing our potential; whereas, non-acceptance leads to shame, rejecting supports, maladaptive behaviors and risk of underachievement. He shared some wonderful resources including a mentor program for school age children called Eye-to Eye,

  • I am acceptable as I am, challenges and all. Not "I will be acceptable when..." or "I am acceptable because..."Closing Keynote speaker Jessica McCabe, advocate and author of the hit Youtube Channel, "How to ADHD", brought this message home by sharing her own journey with ADHD with humor and vulnerability. She talked about how our challenges do not negate our strengths and how important it is to decrease the shame we feel in ourselves for "failing" at life. She emphasized the importance of community and support.

  • The trick to "adulting" is knowing we can do hard things. This was a key message from ADHD Coach and author of the well known podcast series "ADHD Rewired", Eric Tivers. He also shared the importance of systemizing, automizing, creating a sense of urgency and how to use accountability to get things done. He made this important distinction that helps us be successful - doing what we want the most vs doing what we want now.

  • It's like neurotypicals run on automatic transmission while ADDers run on stickshift. We have to learn how to drive it (develop our cognitive control). Tamara Rosier, president of the ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO), shared her model for time management called the Solve-It Grid where she has conceptualized time management in terms of energy management in 4 colored quadrants based on how much fun the activity is for us and how emotionally stimulating the activity is for us. The key is to become aware of our own pattern of energy management (what drains us? what recharges us?) and develop a healthy balance for ourselves. Eric Tivers echoed this concept when he said that time management = energy management + time wisdom.

  • What is the plastic in your life? What is the crystal in your life? In one, it does not matter if you drop it, you can always pick it up; in the other, it will shatter if you drop it and be ruined forever. Jon Thomas and Pam Barton from the ADHD College Success Program talked about the importance of the language of soft skills for ADDers. They illustrated this concept of "what is your crystal?" by throwing back and forth something made of plastic, metal and glass, letting each one fall to illustrate how it feels when something is important and we need to be careful with it. Their use of imagery and fun to create language short cuts and make abstract concepts more concrete and accessible for young adults with ADHD is intriguing.

  • Anxiety in children is best thought of as an interpersonal problem with a biological basis. Dr Eli Lebowitz from Yale Medical School talked in detail about an innovative program called SPACE, Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions. The foundation of this program is that children with anxiety disorders and their parents are caught in a dependence and accommodation cycle to deal with the anxiety symptoms. This cycle can be interrupted by coaching the parents in a systematic way as laid out in their program. This program has been found to be as effective as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for the children directly, with the advantage that you can work through the parents in situations where the children are not able or willing to participate in CBT to alleviate the anxiety. Dr Lebowitz also works extensively with parents of adult children who have "failed to launch" with a similar approach. The core of their 12 week program is teaching parents how to provide supportive rather than accommodating responses to their children. Support = Acceptance/Validation ( I know this is hard for you) + Confidence (I know you can do it). This shift is very powerful from a coaching perspective.

  • We have to figure out what we want to be better at and then how we can go about doing it? It is not enough to just do more of something. Eduardo Briceno, Co-founder and CEO of Mindset Works, spoke in detail about Growth mindset vs Fixed mindset which is a concept I was familiar with. But he went further into talking about how we use deliberate practice to create the growth in our skills. We can operate in a Learning Zone, where we go beyond our comfort level, the stakes are low and we make mistakes so we can make corrections, thus improving our skills. We then apply our skills in the Performance Zone where the stakes are higher, we function in our comfort zone and minimize mistakes/corrections. The key is knowing that if we only operate in the Performance Zone, we do not actually get better at what we are doing. We have to reflect, experiment and practice in the learning zone to improve.

This is just a fraction of all the offerings at the conference. All the speakers in the sessions I attended, had very personal connections to ADHD and shared their stories with honesty and vulnerability. They were compassionate with themselves and others. They created an open space where everyone could let their guard down for moment and look at our own stories with compassion and non judgement. This was a priceless gift beyond all the lessons learned. I came home feeling honored and grateful for doing the work I do and connecting with the wonderful people I get to connect with.

Disclaimer: This is a very brief sharing of my understanding of what I heard at the conference. Please use the links above to learn more about the presenters and their work from the original source. I hope you find the resources helpful.

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