The Neurodivergent Owner’s Manual

When I learned about how our brain learns during the cognitive science session of the course I am taking (PIDP 3100), I could not help but think about my own and my daughter’s challenges. 

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In this episode, I would like to present some background of a condition that (according to HealthLinkBC) affects about 3 to 10% of children. About 50% of these continue to have symptoms into adulthood. I am one of those.

There is a lot of material about ADHD on the internet. I found the website a very helpful site. Additudemag has a scientific advisory board and a published policy about editorial standards on their website.

The most informative piece I discovered was a book from 2019 by Dr. William Dobson who is a speaker, consultant, and writer on adult ADHD. Dr. Dodson is a Psychiatrist who was one of the first practitioners to specialize in adults with ADHD 25 years ago.
In 2013 the New York Times criticized him for receiving funds from the pharma industry. I found very little mention of medication in the material I read and it seemed irrelevant for the purpose of this presentation and my work.

What is ADHD? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a misleading term. According to Dr. Dodson, the ADHD nervous system is a unique and special creation that regulates attention and emotions in different ways than the nervous system of those without the condition. Those of us with ADHD have no attention deficit but inconsistent attention. We pay too much attention to everything.

For our ADD brain, everything is equally important. While we often need extra skills and help to organize our world, studies have proven that we are no less intelligent or productive than neurotypical people. In fact, because we learn strategies to cope in a “normal” world, we are often good problem solvers and when we finally get going can complete tasks on time.

Elke Pritchard is the student support person in the trades area on the Kelowna campus of Okanagan College. When I spoke to her about this, she mentioned that the vast majority of the students that seek her help display clear signs of ADD. Often these students are overwhelmed and have difficulties scheduling and prioritizing things.

There are a few tricks that I use and others that Elke told me about that I want to share with my students.

Reading non-fiction books or writing papers and articles is a challenge for me. I have discovered that listening to specialized focus music tracks while I work, greatly increases the time I can spend studying and writing. Most ADHD people seek out quiet environments without distractions. Others go to coffee shops for the background noise.

In her practice, Elke often encounters students that are overwhelmed by the amount of material they must memorize. She helps them break down this material into manageable chunks and then encourages them to create flashcards on a key ring. The tactile sensation added to the repetition in the learning process helps the information to enter the working and ultimately the long-term memory.

Often visual aids are helpful for us. I love making mind maps. I will share the example of the map I made for this presentation in the blog post.
We can make mind maps on the blackboard or with post-it notes that can be moved. I love using internet tools to build my maps.

In preparing this podcast I realized that there is so much more that I want to learn and so much more that I can share. Dr. Dodson points out that people with ADHD were given a neurotypical owner’s manual at birth. It works for everyone else but not for them. I want to use tools like the ones mentioned above to help my students write their own owner’s manuals and become as successful as they deserve to be.


The Adult ADHD Mind: Executive Function Connections

Secrets of the ADHD Brain

The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder

HealthLink BC ADHD Myths and Facts

I frequently use the app for focus music. With this link you can try it for free for a month.

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