A Thanksgiving Story – Sharing My “Why”

Traditionally we designate Thanksgiving as a time to pause and consider all that we have to be thankful for in our lives.  For me, Thanksgiving is just one of the 365 days of the year that I am thankful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people around the globe. This year I want to share my “why” – a story of how a simple Thanksgiving luncheon changed my life.  It is my “why” for becoming a coach and choosing the niche of young people with ADHD and executive functioning challenges. 

The following is an excerpt from the Introduction to Empowering Youth With ADHD:  Your Guide to Coaching Adolescents and Young Adults for Coaches, Parents and Professionals. 2010.

“When my son was in elementary school, I set aside one day a week to volunteer in his classroom. In the third and fourth grades, children are told that they need to learn to pay attention, stay in their seats, behave appropriately, and follow instructions. It is considered grade appropriate and age appropriate to do so. Well, anyone who understands attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children knows that this is not easily accomplished and that grade and age don’t equate to capability. Many times, when I arrived at my son’s school to help out, certain students were identified for me to work with one-on-one outside the confines of the classroom. In effect, I was coaching the students with ADHD, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and the like, while supporting their learning. I found myself making a connection with those students who did not get the attention needed in the classroom to achieve at the level of their peers. 

One situation, in particular, stands out for me as the defining moment when I knew I wanted to become a coach for youth. Yes, it was one of those huge “aha” moments in my life and my career, and it occurred, of all times, during Thanksgiving lunch. 

The iconic holiday repast was being provided in the cafeteria for students and parents. The place was a flurry of activity—groups coming in and going out; some cleaning up; and others waiting in line with their green plastic trays for the annual feast of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, and gravy. Once our group got through the line, we sat at a round table: three families and one lone child, Kyle, whose parents were not able to attend. Kyle was one of my students on volunteer days, so he felt comfortable at the table. 

We proceeded to dig into our meals while talking around the table. At one point, I turned to Kyle and noticed that his meal was untouched. “Kyle, aren’t you hungry?” I asked, to which he responded, “Mrs. Triplett, I am starving, but there is so much to choose from and so much going on today with everyone here visiting that I don’t know where to begin.” At that point, I “walked” around the plate with Kyle. 

“Do you like the roll?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied. 

“Okay, how about a Thanksgiving sandwich?” I inquired. 

“Wow,” he said, “how do I make that?” 

Together, we identified all of the things on the plate that Kyle liked: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and cranberries. Kyle piled them all on the roll and inhaled his Thanksgiving sandwich. 

Imagine how many Kyle’s missed out on lunch that day. What else were these children missing every day at school, at home, or with peers? At that moment, I knew that I wanted to help youth with ADHD and decided to focus my coaching on this population. Through coaching, I have seen many children, adolescents, and young adults move forward in their lives with greater confidence, increased self-esteem, and a skill set to support them now and in the future. This is one of the reasons I believe so strongly in coaching and have dedicated my time to bringing coaching youth with ADHD into the mainstream.”