Gain Understanding and Recognize Setbacks
For a coach, parent, teacher, or other support person in the life of a young person with ADHD, knowledge of ADHD can be helpful in a variety of ways. First, a basic understanding of the fact that ADHD is neurobiological in nature, caused by brain chemistry rather than by general laziness, poor upbringing, or not caring, will help care providers remain patient and stay focused on the tools that these young people need to overcome or compensate for their challenges. With this kind of understanding, blame can often be avoided and personalized support offered instead.
Second, an understanding of ADHD and how it traditionally presents itself in young people will help the adult be more attuned to setbacks and challenges when they arise. Instead of assuming a missed appointment indicates lack of commitment, a coach will know to look deeper when connecting with the client next time, perhaps by encouraging the client to explore what’s making it hard for him or her to show up for appointments. Does the client need a better reminder system? Does the client’s medication need some adjusting to help improve focus or memory? Did the client not complete one of his or her action steps and feels embarrassed to report back to the coach? Certainly, a missed appointment can point to lack of commitment, but there are a host of other possible reasons for it, too.
Consider Aimee, a 20-year-old political science major who has indicated that she’d like to write her resume by the end of the month so she can apply for summer internships. In the first two coaching sessions, Aimee seemed excited and committed to the process. She brainstormed with the coach to identify her desired strategy for writing the resume and blocked out five hours each week to focus on creating and editing her resume. Then, Aimee missed the third coaching session. When she finally rescheduled with the coach, she said she didn’t really care about getting an internship anymore.
A coach who understands the typical presentation of ADHD—and the mindset that often accompanies it—will know that what is happening with Aimee is common within the context of ADHD. Her reason for stalled progress could be one of many, but the fact that she seems to be faltering and her motivation is dwindling is not necessarily a sign to call her out on lack of commitment or to end coaching. Instead, it is a cue to the coach that Aimee may need some additional support or new strategies to keep making progress. The coach’s knowledge of ADHD thus helps the coach put forth a best effort to meet the young person where he or she really is and to help coaching be most effective.