An ADHD coach also can become an integral part of your treatment team. A coach provides individuals with strategies and tools to accomplish their goals and overcome challenges. “A coach can be there in the moment,” Robin said. One of the coaches Robin collaborates with holds weekly homework sessions to help teens complete schoolwork effectively.
When choosing a qualified coach, get professional testimonials (from psychologists or psychiatrists) and ask about educational background. Look for a relevant degree such as psychology or education, which serves as a foundation for coaching. Ask about conferences the coach attends and how many ADHD clients he or she sees, said Maynard, who was instrumental in developing The National Attention Deficit Disorder Association’s coaching guidelines.
Pitfalls and Pointers
Everyone is bound to make mistakes when managing ADHD or parenting a child with ADHD. Here’s a list of common pitfalls followed by practical solutions:
- Slacking off on organizational and time management tools, leading to “a slow downward spiral,” Maynard said. Fix this by using the system until it becomes automatic, Safren said. As a reminder, create a list of current goals and email them to yourself at random times, as one of Maynard’s clients does.
- Snapping at a loved one or colleague; being passive-aggressive. For starters, make sure you’re getting enough sleep, nutrition, and exercise, all of which help our moods, Maynard said. For instance, exhaustion can exacerbate anger. Identify your triggers and intervene, she said. Try relaxing your shoulders, counting to 10, or taking deep breaths. Instead of talking “in the heat of the moment,” say “I need a time out,” Robin said. Instead of shooting off an email, put it in your draft folder and read it when you’ve calmed down, Maynard said.
- Forgetting things, especially when leaving the house. Before flying out the door, “pat down” (Do I have my keys, cell phone, wallet and planner?), “look around” (“what have I left behind? Is the oven off?”) and “think about” (“what was I just doing?” and “what am I doing next?”), Maynard said. Apply this to work: After a meeting, immediately review your calendar and consider what you need to do next.
- Trying to reason with children age 10 or younger. Apply positive and negative consequences, Robin said. More information on behavioral strategies.
- Grounding a child for bad grades. This doesn’t improve a child’s school performance. Instead, create consequences that will do so, such as “do 20 minutes of extra math problems every day,” Robin said.
- Doing just one more thing before you leave. Set a schedule at the beginning of the day, and train yourself to stick to it no matter what, Robin said.
- Hopping from one paper topic to the fifth. Though you may know more about these subjects than the professor, you still receive an F, because you never submitted the assignment. Define the objective of your project; break it down into definable pieces and ask the professor for suggestions on approaching the project, Maynard said. At work, consult your colleagues or boss about how to approach the project.
- Get enough sleep. “ADHD symptoms worsen with lack of sleep,” Matlen said. Stay away from stimulating activities (such as computer games or TV) at least one hour before bed, find boring things to help slow down the brain, and write down thoughts and plans to reduce ruminating in bed, she said. Keep a regular sleep schedule.
- Get regular exercise. This is dismissed as just another common piece of advice, but “studies show that exercise does help with cognition, memory, hyperactivity, and more,” Matlen said.
- Get help. Whether it’s hiring a professional organizer, ADD coach or babysitter—even when you’re at home—“allow yourself to get help,” said Matlen, author of Survival Tips for Women with ADHD.
- Re-evaluate expectations. Societal expectations for women are endless, from the perfect mom to the flawless homemaker. “As Dr. Ned Hallowell says, ‘just be organized enough,’ meaning don’t beat yourself up if you can’t keep your house immaculate. Just keep things organized enough so you can get by,” said Matlen, who also co-hosts a website for women with ADHD.
- Boost self-confidence. ADHD can shatter self-esteem. To cultivate confidence, Maynard suggested: Stay focused on accomplishments, not shortfalls; don’t compare yourself to others; pat yourself on the back when others don’t; view mistakes as learning experiences; and choose friends wisely, avoiding overly critical or judgmental people.
- Make tasks meaningful. To complete tasks, individuals usually need to be excited and engaged. “Find a way to make that task meaningful for you to stay motivated and follow through,” Maynard said.
- Show up. If you’re unable to focus, your first instinct is to skip class. Instead, “suit up and show up, because you will walk away with something and learn,” Maynard said.
- Study smarter. When studying, “know yourself,” she said. Ask yourself: “How do I study best — in my dorm or the library; with a partner or alone; early in the morning or in the afternoon?”
- Avoid multitasking and discard distractions. Before starting a project, identify things that disrupt your concentration, Maynard said. It also may help to quantify your attention span. Time how long you pay attention to a task, and then try working on the task for that long, Safren said.
- Prepare for the worst. Though you can’t plan for everything, think about your worst-case scenario and how you can prevent it, Maynard said. For instance, you may keep your calendar on your computer and cell phone and own a hard copy.