The Fundamentals of ADHD Coaching for Students – Part 2

The Coaching Process

As in coaching with adults, the student sets the agenda for the coaching process, while the coach elicits information to clarify and identify the details of the student’s agenda and the plan for how to reach the student’s goals. Thus, when working with students, the coach is careful not to redirect the coaching toward an agenda that has been predetermined by the parents or one that the coach views as a better alternative for the student. Coaching is not a quick fix and it is not a process that changes anyone overnight.  Coach training programs are offered in a variety of formats and coaching models.  It is valuable for the prospective student to seek out a coach who has both life coach training (non-ADHD specific) and ADHD coach training, plus experience in coaching youth students.  Having a teenager of one’s own is not a qualification for being able to coach others.

It is the coach’s responsibility to listen carefully to questions and concerns that might get in the way of the student’s path toward the agreed-upon goals. For example, the student may set a goal to learn how to ski, only to find out that skiing is cost prohibitive at this time in his or her life. (Note that questions related to the feasibility of the students’ goals are posed during the coaching process.) The student chooses instead to put the goal of learning to ski on the back burner and to find a more affordable option (e.g., taking up ice hockey or running). In addition, the coach will listen for any hesitation that might be coming from the student due to lack of skill or knowledge of how to go after the selected goal and then respond by encouraging the student to explore what it might take to increase skill or knowledge in order to accomplish the goal.

A typical coaching session lasts 30-45 minutes. This can be an in-person meeting, a Skype session or a phone call, depending on the student’s availability and learning style. For example, if student is a visual learner but has many extracurricular activities, she may choose Skype coaching to see her coach without having to travel to the coach’s office.  The coach and student review the results of the past week – what worked, what did not; and plan ahead for the upcoming week. This may include breaking down homework assignments, planning the stages of a new project, discussing upcoming social events and how to juggle homework and personal time, developing self-advocacy skills or reviewing organizational strategies for both school and home. The coaching plan that was developed at the start of the coaching relationship provides a framework for the goals and action steps each student chooses to focus on in their coaching sessions.

In addition to the weekly session, students are requested to exchange emails and/or text messages with the coach on a regular basis to foster accountability and allow the coach to monitor progress.  Details of the coaching sessions are confidential, while students are encouraged to share their goals and progress with their parents. You are probably wondering what happens if a student is not following the coaching plan or his interim grades are less than acceptable.

The key to the success of coaching is the trust and connection between the coach and the student.  When problems arise, parents are encouraged to talk directly to their student and if that does not work, reach out to the coach.  A good rule for parents to follow is to send an email to the coach and copy the student on the email.  The coach will do the same, and, with permission from the student (the parent for minors), teachers and professors may do the same. This keeps everyone in the loop when a problem arises and lets the student know that you and the coach are not communicating privately.

Once a student decides to move forward with coaching, be patient with the process. It takes time to build new habits and develop skills for success.  Coaching is a month to month process with a recommendation of 6 months or longer to allow all the strategies to “gel”.  Parents are encouraged to be patient and allow the student to progress at a pace that fits his needs. There will be bumps along the way, not unlike those we experience in other new life endeavors.  With the added support of a coach, students will have a wonderful opportunity to pursue their goals and dreams with greater confidence and success.

©  Jodi Sleeper-Triplett 2014