Social Navigation Strategies for ADHD Individuals
ED 5000: Social Psychology in a Diverse Society
Area A- Problem Statement
Growing up with ADHD, I’ve known and had to overcome many obstacles posed by the cognitive effects of the condition-effects which at times, make functioning in our fast-paced modern society quite difficult. I went through elementary and secondary school undiagnosed, as my parents refused to believe that there was anything ‘wrong’ with me, and stumbled through my first two years of college undetected until finally, following a mental breakdown, I was diagnosed with ADHD/anxiety and put on medication. The doctor who diagnosed me was shocked that nobody had ‘caught’ it earlier, asserting that I’d have ‘done well by’ having an IEP throughout my academic career.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve been fascinated by the condition, and conducted my own research on the many theories behind its underlying causes and proposed therapeutic solutions. Though I’ve come across myriad research studies on the effects of ADHD on academic performance, I haven’t found nearly as many studies on ADHD’s effects on socialization and one’s overall performance (and success or lack thereof) in society, living with the condition. I’m very interested in those childhood ADHD-sufferers-turned-adults, for the general consensus is that some children diagnosed with ADHD eventually ‘outgrow’ the condition while others do not. For those that supposedly do not outgrow the condition, I wonder how the condition affects adults in the ‘real world;’ how do these ‘ADHD adults’ fare in work/friend/love relationships?
In my experience, developing and maintaining healthy friendships and relationships has always been difficult-yet another ‘task’ to add to the never-ending pile of ‘to do’ post-it notes littering my desk/wardrobe/fridge/table. Reflecting on my childhood friendship struggles, I realize (now) that my complete lack of self-awareness was often a huge turn-off when meeting and or attempting to foster new friendships; I was the loud one, the unruly one, the one who got you in trouble for talking, the one who always had to ask five peers for a pencil for the test, and so on. Though both I and my good friends know that I am also fiercely loyal, able to make even the dullest task fun, and a non-judgmental and trustworthy confidant, for those in the process of knowing me-and hence, unknowing of my redeeming friendship qualities-being my friend must’ve seemed a daunting task with little apparent reward, especially to a child or teenager. Only within the past few years have I realized this reality, and been able to gradually take steps toward addressing these social obstacles, obstacles that according to my psychiatrist, are rooted in my ADHD; according to my psychiatrist, I lack social awareness because I lack self-awareness, and I lack self-awareness because my brain itself lacks awareness because of a neural disconnect.
Unfortunately, this internal disconnection transcends into an external disconnection with those around me, a disconnection that as an (undiagnosed) child, resulted in a lack of healthy relationships, which lead me to believe that there was something inherently wrong with me because most people my age didn’t want to know me, which eventually led me to experiment with substances and hang out with the ‘wrong crowd’ in high school. Luckily, I never got myself into actual trouble during my tumultuous teenage years, however I attribute this mostly to luck. From my self-directed ADHD research I’ve gathered that those with ADHD are more likely to abuse/experiment with psychoactive (legal and illegal) substances, as well as to become dependent and or addicted on said substances. Remembering myself as a teenager, I know that aside from using substances for their mind/mood altering properties, using substances (especially alcohol) resulted in tangible social benefits; drinking was an avenue toward peer acceptance, invites to bonfires and football after-parties. That said, I often wonder about these correlations between ADHD-imposed social deficiencies and substance use, especially among ADHD teens. Perhaps had I known how to effectively control my ADHD in social situations, I would’ve have used alcohol as a means to ‘successfully’ socialize among my peers.
As I said, I’ve only recently come to accept and understand my own social struggles, which I attribute to my ever-constant lack of ‘awareness.’ However, knowing that this lack of awareness plays a pivotal role in determining my social success, I’ve been able to develop effective strategies with my psychiatrist that allow me to self-regulate, pick up on social cues, and reign myself in as needed. For ADHD individuals, effective navigation of the social world is imperative for success in the world; with seven billion humans on this planet, we must learn to get along with others, for the benefit of our own selves as well as the world. The classroom plays a decisive role in determining social success; for my future ADHD students, I want to help them foster their own self-awareness in a way that I could not growing up. I hope to explore some of the ways in which ADHD affects the ways in which individuals navigate the social scene, both in and out of the classroom. I hope to learn about methods and strategies that can be employed by those seeking ADHD treatment, of all ages, for both myself as an educator as well as a person living with ADHD. I also hope to learn more about the ‘real world’ social consequences of failing to enact an effective ADHD treatment plan, so that I can help my future students avoid wandering off into adulthood lacking awareness of their own sense of self and place in society. The treatment options I will be exploring are essentially options for all ADHD individuals, regardless of age; these options would ideally be tailored to individual needs and treatment goals, and merely offer a guideline to for building awareness of the self in society and developing the social skills that are typically underdeveloped in ADHD individuals due to the condition’s associated symptoms.
A. Chapter Notes
1. Chapter 2
a. Affect- Our current feelings and moods.
The power feelings and moods can have on the ways in which humans navigate social situations is almost palpable, is palpable-at least, in my own lived and observed life experiences. Thanks to the growing New Age movement, the term ‘mindset’ seems to be permeating collective social thought, especially among my generation (millennials), and in this vein, ‘right’ or ‘proper’ mindset is believed to strongly affect one’s ability to handle social situations with tact, as well as one’s ability to self-regulate emotions, perceptions, interpretations, and so forth; is the glass half-full, half-empty, or glass, what glass?
Though I personally subscribe to the aforementioned ‘mindset is key’ mantra, I struggle to adhere to this life strategy almost every day; I’ve come to attribute my samsara-of-a-struggle to my raging ADHD-riddled brain. Although I’m completely aware that I want to have control over my mindset-because I know mindset transcends every facet of life-however my hyperactive mind opts to hop from here to there, which in turn churns up anxiety as my mind and my parasite engage in a battle of wills until usually an external event forces a truce-but the white flag never makes it on time before the next time.
I wonder what methods and strategies a child with ADHD could employ in order to ‘self-regulate’ his or her own mindset–and what the limitations of such methods would be? From my own experiences-and from research I’ve conducted on ADHD over the years for various research projects-it’s clear that both ADHD children and adults struggle to self-regulate their moods, feels, and emotions, which in turn often affects their ability to successfully navigate social situations. ADHD-minds are prone to impulsivity, which in itself speaks to the inability to self-regulate feelings and moods; if one were to act on impulse at all times, one would essentially act in ways associated to one’s current feelings/moods/emotions (to change, maintain, alter, enhance, ect). Perhaps this is why research studies claim that ADHD adolescents and adults are more likely to abuse and or become addicted to psychoactive substances. If current feelings and moods affects areas of the average brain’s ‘social cognition’ (Baron & Branscombe 37) then wouldn’t such effects be more pronounced on the ADHD brain?
b. Planning Fallacy- The tendency to make optimistic predictions concerning how long a given task will take for completion.
Given my ADHD-brain’s tendency to procrastinate, my brain’s cheerful response to any fleeting moment of ‘maybe we should be doing this’ is typically, ‘we have plenty of time!’ I smiled when I read about the ‘planning fallacy’ because finally, a word to describe the majority of my life in a nutshell! And I’m sure I’m not the only ADHD individual to suffer at the hands of this time-to-spare fallacy either; most friends I know who have ADHD either also procrastinate, or take their meds as directed religiously.
Procrastination seems like the product of one’s overconfident rationale, which manifests itself due to the unreliability of time itself. To me, ‘time’ is one of the trickiest, most abstract concepts in existence–because does it truly, really exist, I mean honestly, it exists because we can all agree that then is not now, and now is now, and not-now is not-has-been-yet. Hence, how is the poor ADHD-riddled mind to tackle such an opponent? Gaining and maintaining ‘good’ time-management skills perhaps? Investing in several calendars, watches, and clocks? Hiring a personal assistant? Accepting that because of ADHD, one will almost always inherently underestimate, and thus it’s better to simply overestimate, and pat one’s back when the clock and the shock break even?
c. Counterfactual Thinking- The tendency to imagine other outcomes in a situation than the ones that actually occurred (“what might have been”).
What would my life be like now had I gone to Colorado instead of Plymouth back when I was a senior in high school? Would I have passed my math praxis if I’d studied more diligently…
The knowledge that again, there’s actually a term to describe the above syndrome brought a smile to my face, along with a memory or two or five hundred. Another phrase that seems to go hand-in-hand with the ADHD mind, the constant compulsion to reflect on one’s own shortcomings, mediated by feelings of regret and hopelessness, are by no means exclusive to ADHD folk. However, judging by my own experiences and observed experiences of friends and family under similar mental conditions, it seems like ‘counterfactual thinking’ is a frequent flyer amidst the ADHD mind. And of course, such thinking can’t change the past-it merely tortures us in the present by dissuading from the present. Going back to the notion of ‘mindset,’ perhaps one way to discourage such discouraging thinking again relies on an individual consciously attempting to self-regulate through proper, controlled ‘mindset.’ Living in the past and imagining what ‘could have’ or ‘should have’ been serves as a distraction-and for those already living with ADHD, that’s one distraction too many!
2. Chapter 3
a. Actor-Observer Effect: The process through which we seek to identify the causes of others’ behavior and so gain knowledge of their stable traits and dispositions.
When I came across this term in the text, a wave of ‘aha’ washed over me; though I’ve observed this ‘actor-observer effect’ in action unfold from both kids and adults, the more pronounced episodes have hailed from adults and children with behavioral disorders, especially ADHD. Now that I have a term-and explanation-for this ‘attributional bias’ behavior, the tendency for an ADHD individual to engage in such behavior is very clear; though as the text maintains, all of us experience the actor-observer effect to some degree, I can see (and have seen, both observed and my own lived experiences) ADHD individuals struggle with the ‘observer’ end.
For example, this past school year at my after-school program, I worked with a ten-year-old boy, John*, for over a year now-and he suffers from the most extreme case of ADHD I’ve ever seen; he’s so incredibly hyperactive that during the school year, his daily Adderall XR dose is already up to 60 milligrams (as an adult, I’m only on 20 mg)! His medication started wearing off by 4:00 PM, which was about the time he’d arrive to our after-school program. And by approximately 5:15 PM every day, my coworkers and I would have approximately 1-3 other children coming up to us with complaints about John; pushing, slapping, toy-stealing, jumping, screaming, kicking, and so on. And John’s response to our inquiries? ‘I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it…’ In John’s world, the other child ‘was hit by the toy’ because said child ‘didn’t move out of the way in time.’ He truly believed that he was but an ‘innocent observer’ to the chaos that so-happened to follow him wherever he went. Now looking back, John’s complete lack of awareness-due to his extreme ADHD-caused him to ‘attribute’ all conflicts away from himself. His total lack of focus, coming off his meds, must’ve literally allowed his brain in some way to rationalize all the chaos away from himself. As a result, John’s relationship with most kids in our program was rocky at best. In order to help ADHD children navigate the social world, investigating the ways in which ADHD children attribute their own behavior and the behavior of those around them may yield promising social cognitive strategies on their behalf.
b. Attribution: The process through which we seek to identify the causes of others’ behavior and so gain knowledge of their stable traits and dispositions.
The term ‘attribution’ connects to my overarching theme of ADHD individuals and the social world in that my project’s ultimate goal is to investigate the ways in which ADHD individuals have difficulty navigating society due to underlying deficiencies in social cognition that are rooted in the chemical imbalances which cause the condition. Thus far, it seems to me that ADHD individuals lack self-awareness, due to their inherent inability to focus attention, and that this lack of self-awareness translates to a lack of social awareness, in turn sometimes causing ADHD individuals to make social blunders and/or experiencing difficulty when establishing friendships/relationships, maintaining friendships/relationships, navigating social situations, and the like. If we can establish this apparent ‘lack of awareness’ as being a major-or the major-contributing factor to the majority of social obstacles experienced by ADHD individuals, then we can start developing and implementing social strategies geared toward establishing/raising/maintaining ‘normal’ levels of both self and social awareness in ADHD individuals.
c. Self-Serving Bias: The tendency to attribute positive outcomes to internal causes (e.g., one’s own traits or characteristics) but negative outcomes or events to external causes (e.g., chance, task difficulty).
I view the ‘self-serving bias’ as a behavior which sort of goes hand in hand with the ‘actor-observer effect.’ Going back to my earlier example of the ADHD child John, I realize now that he was employing this bias basically every time he denied involvement (and instigation) in conflicts with peers–for John, he was not the issue, everyone and everything around him was the issue. This phrase also, admittedly, reminded me of my own behavior growing up (and now at times, to a degree); until I hit college and was diagnosed with ADHD, I constantly blamed the world for all my woes, issues, inabilities, struggles, toe-stubbing. But I was NEVER the issue in my own mind-and perhaps my lack of ‘self-awareness’ was to blame. Since going on medication, my tendency to ‘blame the world’ for my faults and shortcomings has reduced drastically, and I’m now able to take accountability for (almost all of) my actions. Throughout my research for this project, I’d like to investigate the ‘self-serving bias’ more, and explore any possible connections (such as, it being more pronounced) in those living with the condition-especially those undiagnosed/unmedicated.
3. Chapter 5
a. Selective Avoidance: A tendency to direct attention away from information that challenges existing attitudes. Such avoidance increases resistance to persuasion.
We’re all guilty, we’ve all done it-tune out, drop off, headphones on, Iphone out. But for ADHD individuals genetically predisposed to impulsive behavior and attention difficulties, asking an ADHD individual to focus said limited attention span on a source of ‘challenging’ perceptions and attitudes is akin to asking said individual to tightrope walk over a pit of lava (which said individual would probably opt to do). For me, I’ve spent most of my life actively avoiding confrontation, avoiding people who I think I share nothing in common with, avoiding places where I expect to encounter any sort of test of the self I think I am. Of course as I’ve grown older, I’ve become aware of this tendency, and made it a point to work on it; exposing myself to differences because these differences can either validate my own perceptions and attitudes, or show them in a light I hadn’t considered before. When I was younger, I used to think that my ways were my ways-that I was perfect the way I was and would never have to change. Perhaps every teenager thinks this way, yet I thought this way until around the age of 22, after my study-abroad-experience-gone-awry caused me, in retrospect, to reflect deeply on the flawed values, attitudes, and perceptions influencing my former (long-standing) ego.
For a long time, I’d practiced selective avoidance, sheltered myself within a crowd of like-minded individuals throughout high school and Plymouth, believing I’d never have to conform to ‘real world’ social standards because I’d ‘never have to deal with those people outside of a work context.’ However when I found myself in an ‘abroad’ situation, outside of my comfort zone-my acceptance zone-I realized the social fallacy I’d subscribed to for so long. In the real world, you can’t always simply avoid those who don’t agree with you, ‘vibe’ with you, share the ‘same’ with you. And is that a bad thing-quite the contrary. Is knowledge not perpetuated through a form of communal transaction, exchange of ideas and opinions and arguments and counterarguments? It was then and there, in the aftermath of my abroad experience (writing a reflective narrative for a course actually) that I couldn’t hide behind my circle of ‘people who know how to handle me’ forever; impermanence is an inevitable casualty of mortality. Until that point, I’d been in denial about my ability to navigate social situations; at parties, it’s one thing-people don’t expect normal-but sober, my ADHD would reign, and those who didn’t ‘know’ me were often put off by my constant interrupting, short attention span, foot -tapping, volume level, lack of awareness in public, and perpetual ‘self’ talk. Conversations with me were anything but a give and take, anything but mutually rewarding and fulfilling. But I’d somehow managed to avoid socializing (sober) with anyone outside my circle-unless in an academic or work-related context-until that abroad experience. Though it was a tough lesson, it’s one I’m glad I learned when I did, as I’ve since taken measures to remedy those aforesaid social difficulties (with great success thus far). So advice for other ADHD individuals in selective denial out there–step out of your social comfort zone, observe how people react to you, and reflect, painful as it may be. Evolution of the self has to start somewhere.
b. Cognitive Dissonance: An internal state that results when individuals notice inconsistency between two or more attitudes or between their attitudes and their behavior.
This term instantly brought me back to (shudder) my 17-junior-in-high-school self; a self that was taciturn, melding with external personalities in any given environment, always opting to about-face rather than face the facade teenage angst so carefully maintained. I’d challenge you to track down an individual claiming, ‘me, nope, never’ against even a single lifetime act of cognitive dissonance-said refusal itself would of course be an exercise on the very matter. In regards to my project, cognitive dissonance ties in quite well with ADHD’s influence on ‘impulsivity.’ According to an article from Psychology Today, ‘Impulsivity: A Symptom of ADHD’ decision making occurs in the prefrontal cortex, an area that naturally, is the last region of the brain to mature-and of course, those with ADHD experience an ‘even greater delay in the maturity of this part of the brain, which may explain some of the impulsive traits that they have.’
Due to this tendency toward impulsivity, those with ADHD-especially teenagers and young adults- often experience difficulty thinking before doing, which of course leads to a host of social issues and societal difficulties. And for those of us who forget to think before we act, cognitive dissonance seems like a logical given, an inevitable side-effect of impulsive behavior; an ADHD individual acting on pure impulse due to environment, peer influence, and myriad other contributing factors is not taking the time to consider their own perceptions and attitudes regarding a given behavior, they’re just doing it. This then naturally can lead to feelings of regret, shame, conflicted identity, disassociation…a cocktail of cognitive dissonance and an existential crisis! So many times growing up, I acted on impulse because ‘my friends were doing it’ and later I’d lament, beating myself up for being ‘fake’ and conforming when I had the chance to stand up for what I knew was right. To an ADHD teen facing similar struggles, I’d have some simple words of advice; stay true to you…there’s nothing worse than going to bed at night knowing that the person who will be in your bed the next morning is not you…so think before you do, ‘is this how I see, is this what I believe, is this me?’
c. Self-Regulation: Limited capacity to engage our willpower and control our own thinking and emotions.
Though in-context this term deals with issues of persuasion resistance, ‘self-regulation’ literally lit up on the page for me in neon lights; ah, the ability to exercise restraint and self-control…that fabled superpower I’ve lusted after my entire life! To expand on ADHD deficiencies more from the previous paragraphs, the ADHD individual’s ability (inability…) to ‘self-regulate’ is arguably one of the more infamous traits of the condition. Due to the ADHD individual’s ‘impulsive’ temperament, struggles with ‘self-regulation’ is a given-one which unfortunately for said individuals, transcends every facet of the social world. Everyone I’ve ever known blessed with ADHD’s double blades has struggled with self-regulation in some form at some point; and some have overcame these struggles, while others rage on. These struggles include but are not limited to: gluttonous overindulgence (off-meds, starvation on-meds, vicious cycle), job-cycling, self-medicating with substances (particularly alcohol and marijuana), relationship disharmony (said individual starting arguments over little things and being jealous/possessive), compulsive spending, anxiety/depression/mood swings…and so on and so on.
Many friends of mine (and once upon a time, even I) have resorted (or still do) to self-regulating with substances, which of course in most cases, backfires. ADHD individuals are already at a disadvantage; we’ve a penchant for instant gratification, that ‘moment’ feeling, and ironically, a penchant for despair and self-loathing when those clouds temporarily clear long enough for the inevitable, ‘and we’ve gone and done it again.’ The key to learning to self-regulate? I’d start with discipline, a fixed schedule, a written record of goals (daily, weekly, monthly, annual, lifetime, career, family, relationship, social, travel, ect). If one needs help establishing goals and a strategy for achieving said goals, a therapist with experience working with ADHD patients would ideally be the place to start!
4. Chapter Six
a. Stereotypes: beliefs about social groups in terms of the traits or characteristics they are believed to share. Stereotypes are cognitive frameworks that influence the processing of social information.
For these notes, I’m considering ADHD individuals as members of the mental health condition/disorder social group. As far as stereotypes go, those with mental health conditions are constantly stereotyped as being ‘unstable’ and hence unable to function in society without being heavily medicated or looked after by another. For ADHD individuals, common societal stereotypes I’ve come across in my life associate ADHD individuals with negative characteristics such as inattentiveness, disorganized, and lazy/unmotivated. Considering the weight of stereotypes in society, ‘conscious intention’ against ADHD individuals can easily affect the ability for ADHD individuals to obtain employment and effectively perform in academic environments (183). If the prevailing attitude in education is that ADHD students are disruptive, easily distracted, and disorganized, then right from the start teachers may automatically judge ADHD students from the beginning of the year, attributing these stereotypes to the student due to the stereotypes surrounding the condition. Stereotypes thus initiate an academic disadvantage for the ADHD student from the start; this student ‘will be’ a disruption, a distraction for the teacher and the class, a straight up menace. Moving on to the adult sphere, prospective employers with knowledge that a given job candidate has ADHD may also fall victim to the same stereotypes, which may then affect a decision to hire (or to fire) an ADHD employee. Against a non-ADHD candidate, qualities like ‘disorganized’ and ‘distractible’ can make quite the difference.
b. Common Ingroup Identity Model: a theory suggesting that to the extent individuals in different groups view themselves as members of a single social entity, intergroup bias will be reduced
Whenever I meet someone with ADHD, I feel a palpable, instant bond form between the two of us. This bond is unspoken, but (I believe) both of us feel it from the moment we have the ‘you have ADHD/me too’ moment of truth. Though I wouldn’t call this bond an ‘us against them’ notion (208), we ADHD individuals share a common experience in that we’ve been told our entire lives to ‘sit and listen’ and (usually) rebelled against authority in some form at some point. Every ADHD friend I’ve ever had has struggled with either substance abuse, depression/anxiety, and (or) the law. Many of us were frequently yelled at and punished as children by adults-parents, teachers, coaches. Perhaps the bond we feel is one forged of a common societal misunderstanding, of who we are as individuals, as who we are as individuals labeled as mentally ‘disabled.’ We resent the stereotypes that have haunted our every step, stereotypes that sometimes even we start to believe. To identify with ADHD is to identify with being different, to recognize that your brain does not function in the ways that society dictates proper brain function. So when two ADHD people meet, that meeting is validating, that meeting is meaningful in a basal, primal way; I see you, and you see me, and at least we see each other. Because unless you have ADHD, you don’t see ADHD, you only see what you are told is ADHD. But we do see each other–and is that really a terrible thing, this act of mutual validation?
c. Social Learning View (of prejudice): the view that prejudice is acquired through direct and vicarious experiences in much the same manner as other attitudes.
My only memories of elementary school consist of those in which I failed to perform as well as other kids in my class (failure usually linked with my inability to focus on the task at hand) and was hence berated in front of the class, while other students earned ‘star’ stickers for their abilities to do what I could not. These children were praised for their ‘abilities’ and exposed to a real-life example of what it looks like to lack said abilities. According to the social learning view of prejudice, ‘children acquire negative attitudes toward various social groups because they hear such views expressed by significant others, and because they are directly rewarded’ (207). Going off this notion, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of my former classmates is a boss of a big company somewhere who weeds out employees and prospective employees that don’t share star-worthy ‘abilities.’ When I was in secondary school, students who constantly asked clarifying questions in-class evoked groans, eye-rolls, and impatient pencil taps regularly. Some teachers would call these students out for their inability to focus in-class, ‘I said this already, why weren’t you paying attention…you must’ve been fooling around and texting!’ Even if said student was listening (i.e. me) some teachers refused to believe that somehow said student didn’t absorb every second of word-vomit during the 90-minute lecture. Teachers need to be careful how they navigate ‘focus/listening’ issues in the classroom, as saying the wrong thing very well may perpetuate the negative societal views against ADHD individuals that exist today; we must acknowledge that ‘focus’ is not merely an objective, innate ability.
5. Chapter Eight
a. Social Norms: Rules indicating how individuals are expected to behave in specific situations. (on how students must behave and learn in class, we must change social norms in school in order to level playing field)
Reflecting on my own high school experience, social norms played a HUGE, pivotal role in influencing my behavior and the behavior of my peers (as well as my teachers) both in school and outside of school. Social norms dictated how we dressed, what was okay to buy from the school cafe (i.e. bagels and Vitamin Water), and most importantly, how to behave in class in a manner agreeable to both peers and teachers. The latter being the most difficult juggling act of all, these unspoken classroom social norms were largely detrimental to my learning experience, and undoubtedly to the learning experience of fellow peers with ADHD and other learning difficulties. Without the freedom to ask questions, I was doomed to eternally ‘just pay attention’ in class…a paradoxical situation at best.
For example, it was considered inappropriate to continue asking clarifying questions in-class about a given lecture topic, assignment, conflict with a quiz grade, and so forth. The only acceptable situation to ask numerous clarifying questions was before a test–and even then, excessive questions from a peer were met with groans and eye-rolls from other peers, and of course the inevitable trash talking in the cafe (‘so and so wouldn’t shut up, that brain dead moron kept us all three minutes after the bell with those b-s questions’)! And to ask questions (that would entail a lengthy answer from the teacher) minutes before the bell for next period (or heaven forbid, dismissal) was absolute social suicide. In order to maintain face-to ‘look good’-one had to conform to our school’s established classroom norms. Because of this specific norm, hardly anyone ever asked questions-even in the honors classes I was in! Everyone was more concerned with going along with the school’s groupthink, that asking questions wasted others’ time and made one appear stupid and incapable of understanding a given lesson. It’s as if our established classroom social norms maintained that we ‘should just know/understand’ naturally after hearing a lecture or reading a chapter, and to be that guy asking for help in front of everyone else-all having subscribed to this flawed norm-was simply unthinkable. Peers were willing to take the hit and groan with everyone else about that ‘ridiculously hard test’ than appear like they didn’t understand something in front of peers.
b. Injunctive Norms: Norms specifying what ought to be done; what is approved or disapproved behavior in a given situation.
To expand on my previous paragraphs, many teachers too subscribed to my school’s ridiculous social norms, and subscribed to many of their own ‘injunctive norms’ as well. Being a traditional school, the curriculum of most classes hadn’t changed since the ’80’s, and most teachers taught to the test religiously, and tests were often the only summative assessment option they’d entertain. And for these old school teachers, open-book tests or take-home tests went against their own perception of what a test ‘ought to be’–their own injunctive norms regarding the test-taking procedure-and thus usually the only option was to study and hope for the best. I used to beg math teachers to at least let us use index cards with formulas for tests–as I have trouble memorizing math formulas due to ADHD, which I didn’t know then–yet time and time again I was shut down because ‘a test is supposed to test the knowledge one has gained from the lessons and if you have notes then the test is just testing your note-taking ability.’ I never understood this, but now it makes sense, these teachers subscribed to injunctive norms surrounding the test-taking philosophy and process, probably norms they subscribed to when they were also in school, and because of their refusal to accept the existence of or deviate from these injunctive norms, their students suffered.
My school was the blind leading the blind–all about appearances, conformity. Though my school is an extreme case, social norms exist in every school, and establishing an open and positive school culture which encourages academic exploration (QUESTIONS AREN’T STUPID) and inspires knowledge building through peer-peer and peer-teacher communal transaction (through questions and sharing of insight and ideas) is an absolute must–knowledge is not some independent force of nature, it builds on preexisting ideas and concepts and draws on the power of human community. Knowledge itself is a social act, and schools and educators must work to instill this philosophy in the classroom.
c. Normative Social Influence: Social influence based on the desire to be liked or accepted by other people.
Again to expand on the previous paragraphs, the notion of normative social influence–conformity due to desire to feel acceptance and approval from others–plays an integral role in the power (and practice) of school social norms and injunctive norms. Given the track record of society since the dawn of civilization, it’s hard to argue against the notion of growing pains during adolescence and young-adulthood; the puzzle of growing up is essentially a universal truth inherent to the human condition. Literal hormones stand in the way of enabling a ‘smooth’ transition from child to adult, and even the ancient Greeks knew that only ‘the Gods’ were capable of effectively navigating that cliff Holden so desperately warns us of. The power of normative social influence is a given in any school, and due to the presence of said raging hormones and the universal growing-up struggle experienced by every student, one could argue that normative social influence has the most influence in a school. Humans crave validation, and teenagers (for the aforesaid reasons, among myriad others) crave even more validation. As we’ve already discussed in this course, the power of peer pressure cannot be underestimated due to our need to be validated and accepted in society. Our all-too-human desire for external validation gives power to normative social influence, the need for approval (validation) sparks one to succumb to influence from peers, to engage in what peers are doing, in order to be considered and thus validated as a well-liked member of the group.
In my school, normative social influence was everything–as I said appearances were everything, and to appear liked was to be liked. And in order to appear liked, one had to conform to the norms, one had to appear all-knowing in class. We operated under the illusion of adulthood–we all wanted to be adults, so we did what we did in order to appear adult. As we discussed in the forums, peer-pressure can be harnessed in positive ways–in the matter of establishing a school culture that encourages communal engagement in the learning experience, normative social influence can indeed alter reigning groupthink which in turn can alter school norms and ultimately, school culture. If students prescribed to the notion that the purest knowledge hails from communal transaction, this in turn could trigger students to perceive learning as an interactive, participatory experience. In order to do this, the whole school must be on board–teachers must constantly reinforce this ideology, practice a teaching philosophy that encourages questions, student-led discussion, and peer-to-peer interaction.
a. Prosocial Behavior: Actions by individuals that help others with no immediate benefit to the helper.
In order to build a better world, prosocial behavior, or simply, “actions by individuals that help others” (Baron and Branscombe p. 290) is necessary behavior to instill in the youth at the earliest age possible. Considering a recent example of this behavior I was luckily able to witness firsthand, the youth of today are absolutely capable of demonstrating prosocial behavior without provocation, and I believe that adult positive reinforcement of these acts can in the future, result in an increasing positive trend of prosocial behavior among the youth and thereby, the adults of tomorrow. At the YMCA summer camp where I work, Fridays are themed days in which the entire camp dresses up and comes together for camp-wide activities–most other days, activities are scheduled and organized by specific groups (of 10-15 children per group) in accordance with the grades campers will be entering this fall. Three weeks ago however, the entire camp had been participating in ‘Color Wars Week’ in which all groups had been split evenly into respective teams of red and blue. As it was too hot to run our normal Friday camp color-wars event–capture the flag, red vs. blue–groups were instead divided into two different water challenges, K-3 ‘sink your counselor’ and 4-6 ‘lake toys obstacle course.’
Being a fourth grade counselor, my group fell into the latter category, and since there were three fourth grade groups, my group (9-10 year olds) the odd one out, had to compete against a sixth grade group (10-12 year olds and a few seventh graders). My kids rose to the challenge with grace and dedication. During the competition, something incredible happened; my two lead male swimmers, upon reaching the final leg of the obstacle course (swinging off an inflatable water swing then swimming back to shore) suddenly stopped, and worked together to help each of their group members up onto the swing in order to make sure that no member of the group was left behind. We watched in shock as these two boys, who would’ve beaten the lead sixth graders, chose instead to stay behind for the rest of their group members. Every counselor was blown away, as well as all the kids, and the sixth grade group forfeited their point to my group in a display of sportsmanship (both teams were awarded a point because of this). Later that day, I awarded these two boys with ‘camper of the week’ awards in front of the entire camp, emphasizing the phenomenal ‘act of greatness’ for which these boys had earned their respective awards, and then some. If that wasn’t prosocial behavior in its natural habitat, I don’t know what is!
For ADHD individuals, prosocial behavior must be emphasized in every treatment plan. Considering that ADHD individuals tend toward impulsivity, their impulsive behaviors can definitely deviate from a plan to instill positive prosocial behaviors; impulsive desires are typically motivated by desires by and for the self (or as Freud would suggest, the ‘id’). Expressing and constantly reiterating the importance of doing things to help others for the sheer sake of helping others needs to be consistently reinforced in ADHD individuals in an effort to help curb said ADHD individual’s impulsive tendencies. It’d also be interesting to study the effects of such reinforcement more in-depth in a (preferably longitudinal) research study.
b. Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis: The suggestion that some prosocial acts are motivated solely by the desire to help someone in need.
To expand on my previous paragraphs, these two campers were motivated solely because they wanted to make sure that each of their fellow group members made it through the obstacle course. This act of greatness reinforces the hypothetical notion that ‘at least some prosocial acts are motivated solely by the desire to help someone in need’ (p. 291). My fellow counselors and I learned later that the boys in question had actually witnessed a seventh grade girl on the opposing team (a highly troubled girl we’ve struggled with myriad times for years past) push one of our female group members under the water in an effort to take her spot while climbing aboard the inflatable swing. The boys had already resolved to assist their fellow group members prior to this incident, however upon realizing what was going on, one of the boys let this seventh grade girl ahead of the line in order to prevent her from causing additional harm, while the other rushed to help said group member up out of the water and onto the swing. Of course after the fact, this seventh grader was dealt with (sent home immediately) yet in the moment, the boys were more concerned with helping their group member in need instead of complaining about how the ‘unfair’ incident was going to cost our group a victory. The boys both conveyed an incredible amount of self-control here, as well as an incredible amount of ‘empathetic concern,’ as they were more concerned with their group member’s well-being and safety than they were with winning the challenge (p. 291).
For ADHD individuals, impulsive tendencies already pose a potential threat to one’s engagement in prosocial behaviors. In conjunction with this, these tendencies, as well as the ADHD individual’s attention and focus difficulties, may also lend reason as to why ADHD individuals often experience trouble navigating the social world; if prosocial behavior depends largely on one’s empathetic abilities across three spheres–emotional empathy, empathetic accuracy, and empathetic concern (p. 291)’–then I wonder what would happen when steps are taken to address the latter cognitive difficulties through a treatment plan. This is a potential solution I intend to explore in part three of my project.
c. Social Exclusion: Conditions in which individuals feel that they have been excluded from some social group
As I’ve said before, I believe that at base, all humans seek external validation in some form through some avenue. External validation through the social world and human-to-human relationships is necessary in order to validate our primal need to make sure that our own inner consciousness–that self who we ourselves cannot see but who sees everything that we see and narrates our worldly visuals and the meaning of worldly visuals back to us–is indeed here right now, wherever or whatever ‘now’ happens to be. In order to ‘be’ we must know that our own consciousness is being successfully projected and received by at least one other separate consciousness of which we can see and perceive ourselves and thereby know-think we know-to be true, a part of the palpable reality that is mediated by the consciousness and interpreted by the self. Hence, we are naturally social beings, who seek acknowledgement from other beings in order to know that our inner narrator does indeed exist, it ‘be’ somewhere, and somewhere’s enough. Going off this notion of external social validation, ADHD individuals are likely to have experienced social exclusion at some point in their lives, due to the myriad issues posed by the cognitive symptoms of the cognitive condition they live with. ADHD individuals embarking on treatment must be constantly reminded that even though they may have been excluded in the past, the treatment plan they are following will help provide them the tools and confidence necessary to avoid repeating the past.
For me, reflection helps immensely in this respect; looking back on the person I was prior to taking control of my ADHD makes me cringe at times, but reflecting on who I was and the mistakes I made allows me to acknowledge the strides I’ve made since to better myself, to appreciate how far my willpower has taken me, to remind myself of the things I must continue to do to ensure that I never fall back down again. I’m able to successfully perform meaningful reflection in this way on my own, however I’d consider myself an exception, and guided therapeutic reflection should be overseen by a professional therapist for any ADHD individual on such a treatment plan until said individual has demonstrated the ability to perform these reflections alone–at which point, said treatment plan would ideally be over and said individual’s ADHD successfully under complete, independent control of the individual.
1. Although I’ve really enjoyed reading and viewing the resources posted on our class Moodle page thus far, I’ve experienced difficulty drawing connections between the assigned readings and my project topic. However going out on a limb, ‘The Guiding Principles of Cultural Proficiency’ reading from this past week sparked me to think about the ways in which school culture affects a given student population’s perception of learning disabilities-to be specific, of ADHD. This text expands at length upon the notion of ‘culture’ and its role in shaping the literal mass condition of a school community. The text maintains that those members of the ‘dominant’ culture must accept the reality of the role of culture; culture transcends every facet of social life, of humanity itself, and those without dominant-class membership face myriad struggles due to the dominant class’s perpetual marginalization of anything ‘other.’ If we are to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity for academic (and post-academic for that matter) success, then we must strive to be ‘culturally proficient’ educators, and learn to “adjust [our] behaviors and values to accommodate the full range of diversity represented by their school populations” (102).
To me, the term ‘diversity’ in this context of ‘school populations’ absolutely includes those students with special needs and learning disabilities. In regards to ADHD, I’ve heard many despicable stories about educators refusing to acknowledge ADHD student needs (forbidding extra test time, refusing to explain content one-on-one, ect). When I was in school, there seemed to be a widespread misguided notion, shared by both faculty and students, that ADHD was a ‘made-up disease invented by doctors and parents who can’t parent.’ As much as typing the former made me wince, unfortunately, the stigma against ADHD is very real and though ADHD seems to be gaining acknowledgement due to ongoing medical research, there are still those who refuse to believe in a condition that is rooted in focus-related cognitive deficiencies. Many people-including former teachers-have laughed in my face and told me that ADHD is a ‘fake disease,’ and that I can’t focus because I personally lack discipline and an effective time-management strategy; to which I always laugh and invite said misguided individual to, ‘by all means, try living in my brain for more than five consecutive minutes and then come talk to me about what is and what isn’t fake!’
In the classroom, educators must actively seek to address the learning needs of ADHD students-this is to me, a no-brainer. Beneath the surface however, educators must be mindful that ADHD students may be sensitive or embarrassed about having ADHD due to the social stigma against it. If an educator overhears a misguided comment uttered between peers regarding this stigma, the educator must take steps to address and correct-to educate to the contrary, that no, ADHD is a very real, and a very potentially debilitating mental condition and learning disability. Educators who are unfamiliar with ADHD can attend workshops, or propose bringing in guest speakers to address both faculty and the student body. The only way to change this stigma against ADHD is, in my mind, through mass education on the realities of living with the condition. And what’s a better starting place for promoting this education than the cradle of education itself? Change faculty and student body opinions about ADHD through education and scientific facts–change the school culture, and ultimately, change the school experience for those students living with ADHD.
2. After exploring the notion of normative social influence in my Chapter 8 textbook notes, I felt compelled to read through this article again to look for connections between the concept of positive peer pressure and my exploration into ADHD and effective social navigation using Tina Rosenberg’s article, ‘Harnessing Positive Peer Pressure to Create Atruism.’
Due to the innate human need to seek acceptance and approval from others, normative social influence, ‘social influence based on the desire to be liked or accepted by other people’ (Baron and Branscombe 262) plays on one of the core facets of the human condition; validation. For ADHD individuals, who according to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder [CHADD] “often experience social difficulties, social rejection, and interpersonal relationship problems as a result of their inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity” (CHADD, n.d.), the power of normative social influence can have devastating effects. However, if one were to prescribe to Tina Rosenberg’s proposed notion of the power positive peer pressure has in creating altruism, normative social influence can have decidedly positive effects on ADHD individuals.
If normative social influence has the power to influence the ways in which students behave in school due to their need to be accepted by peers, then peer pressure which helps foster a positive environment for ADHD children is indeed feasible, so long as said peer-pressure is executed by the students themselves. Rosenberg suggests that, “when a peer sets an example of kindness or idealism, this creates a social norm where such behavior is rewarded” and as evidenced by the proposed 2012 Wernick et al study, “the most effective act was another child going first…when one child intervenes, all bystanders suddenly have social permission to intervene” (Rosenberg 493-4). If the mass population lacks awareness of the social struggles of ADHD children and adults, then where better to tackle this lack of awareness than the cradle of education–the school itself. A mass initiative to educate students (in health class, guest speakers, assemblies, student-led clubs) about ADHD and the struggles imposed by the condition could plant the seed of change. Peers noticing ADHD students struggling in school may then perhaps be compelled to help said peer out, to commit an act of altruism that in turn could change myriad lives. All it takes is one powerful act to nurture that seed. Given the power of social media, one altruistic act from one non-ADHD peer to another could spark mass change among the youth, and in turn, the future. Perhaps one day, ADHD will be understood by many, and the social world may become less hostile-even welcoming-toward ADHD individuals as a result.
3. I’ve watched Rita Peirson’s Ted Talk, ‘Every kid needs a champion’ several times as an assigned video in other graduate courses–and it just gets better and better every time. Peirson’s gifted orator abilities convey the ultimate goal that every educator, every adult that works with children, every parent, every individual concerned with the future of this world, must uphold; that inside every child awaits a unique form of greatness waiting to be cultivated and unleashed unto the world. Because children are children, they often need assistance in the realization and cultivation process necessary to nurture their own inner greatness, and sadly the lack of adult assistance can and does result in the eventual abandonment of this greatness, a dark remanent of what might have been that transcends into adulthood. And this is one of the core issues that Peirson seeks to address here; every child deserves a ‘champion’ so that every child may have the opportunity to become who they are meant to be. In an ideal world this would be our reality, and all inner ‘greatness’ would hence combine and enact palpable, revolutionary change among our species–in which case, ‘Neo-Renaissance’ would be a severe understatement.
As I’ve said before, humans are naturally compelled to seek external social validation in some form; for children, social validation can be the nail in the coffin or the magic seed of the beanstalk. Peirson suggests that the ‘value and importance of human connection’ is often forgotten or overlooked in the world of education (Peirson, 2013). Considering our basic need for validation, ADHD individuals must learn to effectively navigate the social world by employing strategies that enable them to control ADHD symptoms that pose a threat to success in the social world–specifically to control impulsivity, focusing abilities, and self-awareness–in order to satisfy their human need for social validation. In an ADHD individual’s treatment plan, it’s important that all therapists and doctors involved stress the importance of human connection constantly to said individual. It’s also important that the ADHD individual consistently receives positive reinforcement and constructive feedback from their team as well as friends and family members, for this external social validation from those the individual seeks acknowledgement and approval from can motivate the individual to continue one’s efforts. Just as every child needs and deserves a champion, every ADHD child/teen/adult needs several champions to keep them on track and eyes focused on the prize.
4. Chapter 12 in Social Psychology deals in the notion of ‘social adversity’ and the ways in which common causes of social adversity may be addressed in order to achieve life satisfaction and happiness (Baron and Branscombe p. 398). As I’ve suggested already–and as the text has stressed–humans are social beings by nature. To be socially isolated from others is to experience loneliness,“the unpleasant emotional and cognitive state based on desiring close relationships but being unable to attain them” (p. 399). In order to gain and maintain happiness, one must learn to get along with others, to learn from others, to depend on others, to help others; the world is too scary and unforgiving to go it alone, many have tried and tragically failed to do so, like the infamous Chris McCandless and his failed trek into the Alaskan brush. For ADHD individuals, learning to ‘get along’ with others may be difficult at times, yet learning to navigate the social world and control one’s ADHD symptoms in a given social scenario is absolutely crucial–effective navigation by the ADHD individual in society can be the difference between losing a job and landing a job, losing friends and making lifelong friends, toxic relationships and unadulterated love and partnership. The ultimate goal of any ADHD treatment plan is to help the individual achieve happiness in life, happiness had through control of the mind, awareness of the self in society, and a sense of purpose and self-determination. As the text suggests, personal happiness refers to ‘subjective well-being’ (p. 420) and no course of treatment is ‘complete’ unless the individual in question is satisfied with the ‘real world’ results of said treatment plan in his or her own life.
1. The article I selected, ‘Social Challenges of Children With ADHD’ by Eileen Kennedy-Moore Ph.D. hails from Psychology Today, a well-known magazine concerned with a variety of topics related to the psychology field; from my experiences reading this magazine for several years now, I’ve noticed that most of the magazine’s articles are written by professionals in the field, and are thus highly credible in my eyes. This article, written by a Ph.D. professional, cites compelling findings from 2013 longitudinal research study exploring the correlations between ADHD and friendship quality and stability among ADHD children. Citing this study along with other supporting research, Kennedy-Moore suggests that the tendency for children suffering from hyperactive and other combined types of ADHD to act on impulse, move constantly, lack of social awareness, and inclination toward aggressive behavior may play a pivotal role in determining the likelihood of ADHD children forming new, long-lasting friendships with their non-ADHD peers. Kennedy-Moore deconstructs the driving factors behind the social obstacles ADHD children face in a concise, accessible manner, and concludes with a promise to continue this exploration in order to forge a plan of action for these children in a subsequent article, ‘Social Challenges of Children With ADHD (part 2)’. Overall, this article offers an enlightening glimpse into the social struggles faced by ADHD children, and prompts one to contemplate the ways in which society inadvertently marginalizes these children, posing barriers against future success; for the ability to effectively navigate social situations is imperative today, and without knowledge of this ability, one may very well struggle to succeed in our very social modern world.
2. The article, ‘9 Ways to Master Social Skills,’ which I accessed through the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder [CHADD] organization website meshes perfectly with my exploration into the social struggles of ADHD individuals. This article both identifies social struggles and offers solutions to overcome them. The text encourages ADHD individuals to educate themselves about the condition and associated struggles, as well as to stay informed and up to date on current research and findings on the condition. The article not only encourages individuals to set goals, but to ‘work on one social skill at a time’ (CHADD, n.d.) which I find particularly refreshing, for my own self as well as for my project exploration. As an ADHD individual, a giant ‘to do’ list can be extremely overwhelming at times, and sometimes even downright discouraging–the list just seems so long, so much text to read and absorb that once you’re at #4, you catch yourself thinking about what you have to buy later at the grocery store and then kick yourself for failing to focus, yet again. For ADHD individuals, goals need to be prioritized, so that we can channel all the focus we can muster toward ONE major goal at a time–once one major goal has been accomplished, one can enjoy the feelings of victory and progress before moving on to a new goal.
The article also reinforces the notion of ‘buddies’ I previously expanded on with the notion of peer-pressure and normative social influence in that, “If you miss pieces of information during conversations due to ADHD, a buddy can tell you what they heard…social errors due to inattention can be avoided. They can also help you interpret social cues to see if you are understanding them correctly” (CHADD, n.d.). The fact that this article, which hails from the national organization that works to provide the public with resources on ADHD, suggests that ADHD individuals should use peers to help them navigate social situations validates my developing belief that peers play a huge role in determining the social success of ADHD individual, and that peers should be recruited to help ADHD individuals foster the self and social awareness skills ADHD individuals need in order to have social success. The text also suggests role playing social scenarios with trusted peers as an option, which was a new idea to me–especially for more ‘dramatic’ individuals, role-playing could provide palpable feedback for ADHD individuals, allowing them to practice the burgeoning social skills without fear of peer rejection or general social consequences.
3. My resource, ‘ADHD’s Impact on Relationships: 10 Tips to Help’ is an article that hails from the PsychCentral website, a site which highlights information (under a ‘Conditions’ section of the site) on many common psychological disorders, including ADHD. According to the site’s ‘About Us’ section, the website was founded in 1995 and since then ‘has been run by mental health professionals offering reliable, trusted information and over 250 support groups to consumers.’ The website’s list of awards is extensive, and the site has reportedly been recognized by reputable media giants such as TIME Magazine, The New York Times, and USA Today. The author of this article, Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., is an ‘Associate Editor’ at PsychCentral according to her ‘about’ bio featured on the article page (at the very end). Toward the beginning of the article, the text reveals that Tartakovsky’s main source used in the article is the book The ADHD Effect on Marriage by Melissa Orlov. Considering that she is an Associate Editor and holds a Master of Science (as indicated by her ‘M.S.’ title) I believe that her article is indeed credible.
Tartakovsky approaches the issue at hand-a sensitive matter for many-with supreme tact. She doesn’t try to sugar-coat or beat around the bush, she states the issue simply along with validating evidence (information sourced from Orlov’s book), “research has shown that a person with ADHD may be almost twice as likely to get divorced, and relationships with one or two people with the disorder often become dysfunctional.” The article goes on to offer ten ‘solutions’ for ADHD-couples, all of which are quite compelling and based on evidence presented in Orlov’s book. The solutions align well with the ways in which the ADHD brain behaves, particularly number ten, which suggests, ‘instead of trying harder, try differently.’ This really resonated with me because, having lived with ADHD my entire life, I’ve gleaned that the key to overcoming ADHD’s obstacles in all facets of life almost always involves implementing ‘different’ strategies. The irony is palpable, yet so is the reality–the ADHD individual’s brain operates on an other-than-normal wavelength, and that’s that. Learning to ride that wavelength and manipulate its undulating dips and curves to one’s advantage is the true riddle. I’d highly recommend this article to all ADHD individuals as well as to any individual with an ADHD individual in their life–so, everyone.
4. After watching Peirson’s Ted Talk again, I started to wonder about the ways in which social validation affects ADHD individuals–and how social validation might be harnessed and integrated into a treatment plan. I came across an article by psychologist Karyn Hall P.h.D. “Understanding Validation: A Way to Communicate Acceptance” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pieces-mind/201204/understanding-validation-way-communicate-acceptance (Hall 2012). According to Hall, “validation is the recognition and acceptance of another person’s thoughts,feelings, sensations, and behaviors as understandable…self-validation is the recognition and acceptance of your own thoughts, feelings, sensations and behaviors as understandable.” Hall then goes on to relay Marsha Linehan’s, P.h.D. ‘six levels of validation.’ I found this article exceedingly compelling in that the text provides six strategies which can be employed by both the individual seeking validation (self-validation) and the individual seeking to provide validation to another. The outlined techniques come across as being largely psychological by nature, however the techniques are articulated in accessible language and explained using in-text examples chronologically organized in accordance with each respective validation level. I absolutely intend to utilize this resource when developing one of my new project solutions.
1. “When group members have time to reflect, they can see more clearly what is essential in themselves and others” (Heider, “Time for Reflection”, 23)
This quote raises an interesting notion-the notion of reflection-which in our modern western society, seems oft ignored and even scoffed at. However the notion that taking a few precious moments of time to engage in mindful reflection in order to ‘see more clearly what is essential’ is a compelling point indeed. Considering that the term ‘essential’ is arbitrary, as the ‘essentials’ of life vary greatly according to myriad factors such as culture, geographical locale, and individual desires, taking time out of the day in order to contemplate just what exactly is essential in a given individual’s life at a given moment makes perfect sense! I’ve always been one to process my goals-from daily ‘to do’ tasks to what I hope to record in memoirs someday-by first thinking, then writing them down.
Through this process, I’m constantly engaging in deliberate reflection and introspection, ‘am I on the right path, am I doing what I need to do to stay on this path, are other paths possible down the road…’ For whatever reason, I’ve always been compelled to do this, and recently, I’ve started to believe this reason is rooted in my ADHD; perhaps because I’m aware that unless I control my brain and organize my scattered thoughts, I’m likely to slip down the cliff faster than others. My psychiatrist actually asked me during one of my first visits if I ever ‘wrote things down’ to which I laughed, ‘all the time utilizing every medium you can imagine.’ I find this process to be incredibly cathartic, encouraging, inspiring, and useful each and every day. Having a written record of my daily/weekly/monthly/yearly/lifetime goals may seem strange to others-I’ve been told I’m ‘crazy’ for doing this-however considering the ways in which my brain works, processing my life in this manner is absolutely necessary. Though of course this method probably wouldn’t work for every individual with ADHD, I believe this method should at least be piloted by every ADHD individual.
2. “The wise leader does not try to protect people from themselves” (Heider, “Equal Treatment”, 9)
These words are definitely words to live by in general, for anyone, as the notion of ‘protection’ is arguably ingrained within the human condition. In regards to this project, ‘protection’ against the ‘self’ is quite relevant, for modern medicine, parents, and educators, all participate in the protection game to a degree. The issue of ‘medicating’ children with ADHD is highly controversial, with both sides offering compelling arguments. However, it seems the notion that parents and doctors might be trying to ‘protect’ ADHD children from ‘themselves’ is lost on many. On the one hand, medicating children in order to cope with ADHD does work in a sense-but does it truly ‘cure’ the condition? If it truly did, then eventually one would ideally be able to get off the medication,right? The reigning argument against medicating for ADHD is that it’s a temporary solution, an 8-hour band-aid that dulls emotions and creativity and kills appetite. But on the other hand, what about the ability to focus these medications allow for, the ability to sit still and listen in class, to do the homework, to remember the test on Monday. Are parents doing their children a favor by withholding medicine that could potentially allow them to navigate the societal challenges faced by ADHD individuals today? But if we give them the meds, and offer no other avenue for success-therapy sessions during which the child works with a professional in order to develop unique coping strategies that can be used for life, on or off meds-then is that not merely ‘protecting’ the child from their own Achille’s heel?
Children must learn that medication is a temporary avenue of relief-learning to live with ADHD is the real challenge at hand, because if one is to conquer the condition and learn to control one’s own mind, one must learn to have no fear of one’s true self, ADHD and all. A person’s ADHD is literally a part of them, it is the way that one’s brain processes information. One must read the manual, know the manual, before flipping the power switch.
3. “Stillness, clarity, and consciousness are more immediate than any number of expeditions into the distant lands of one’s mind” (Heider, “Here and Now”, 93)
The language employed by the text here, ‘stillness…clarity…consciousness…expeditions’ immediately invoked images of Buddha statues and zen gardens…images which gave way to musings on mystical Eastern concepts of the ‘calm’ and ‘controlled’ thoughts and mind which often elude ADHD individuals, myself included. To imagine a mind that is both still and clear-not to mention consciously aware of one’s surroundings-is to embark on a flat expedition into the ADHD individual’s attention span…a doomed expedition which ended before it started somewhere between thinking about folding laundry to listening to the neighbor’s blaring car alarm.
What I struggle with to this day is what many ADHD individuals struggle with, in my experience; due to our limited attention span we often jump from thought to thought, but on occasion, we focus (hyper-focus) on one specific thought until it effectively drives us insane with anxiety. What begins as an ‘expedition’–today, I’m going to file my taxes–often descends into a number of ‘sub-expeditions’ which have little to do with the initial expedition at hand, an expedition which served a present-as opposed to some obscure and distant-purpose. If I forget to maintain my own consciousness and awareness of my actions ‘in the moment’ when I’m doing a lengthy task or project, I’ll find myself deviating from my initial task because I’ll be thinking about all these other little tasks the initial task got me thinking about, which in turn impedes my work on said initial task and causing said task to take way more time than necessary. For ADHD individuals, we must strive to achieve clarity and stillness in our minds, to channel our focus and attention at the task at hand, to be aware of our mind’s tendency to wander into the ‘distant lands’ of our own consciousness.
4. “Being open and attentive is more effective than being judgmental. This is because people naturally tend to be good and truthful when they are being received in a good and truthful manner” (Heider, “Be Open to Whatever Emerges”, 97)
If I have one redeeming social skill, it is my ability to be open and receptive to the people I encounter; as a Libra, I’ve always considered my astrological symbol of ‘the scales’ to be a symbolic representation of my own innate tendencies toward diplomacy and empathy. I believe in justice, I believe in equality, I believe in brotherhood, decency, and universal connection among mankind, and though of course I’m not free from prejudices and subjective beliefs and opinions (as all humans are regardless), I make a conscious effort to ‘mind my sign’ and take it upon myself to honor my cosmic purpose to be the diplomat in any given social situation. Friends, family members, peers, and even strangers have sought my advice as long as I could remember, as if they’re drawn to me, as if I have a stamp on my forehead ‘tell your problems here.’ Thankfully, the role of social diplomat isn’t particularly desired in the social world, and those who assume this role and ‘take one for the team’ are highly valuable friends forever glued to the middle of the circle. My friends respect my social values regarding diplomacy and my commitment to giving everyone social ‘chances,’ and because of this, I’ve helped people gain social standing and acceptance over the years. To pass judgment is supremely unfair and uncalled for, because the way I see it, who am I to pass judgement on another with the expectation that they will not in turn pass judgement unto me! I am aware of my flaws at this point in my life, but I wasn’t always; I often wonder that had I not been the diplomat that I am, would my friends still be my friends? Would being my friend have been worth it back when I wasn’t self aware and made myriad social blunders all the time, if I hadn’t given back as being the diplomatic friend who would always help and never pass judgement?
For ADHD individuals, the lesson here to consider is the act of social judgement; considering the social struggles of ADHD individuals, we must take care to make up for these struggles (until they are no longer struggles) to peers and friends in other ways. We must think to ourselves before we attempt to pass judgement; ‘this person may be annoying, but the things this person could say about me…’ By being open and non-judgmental in social situations, people are (in my experience) more forgiving of some of our annoying ADHD social symptoms. Don’t pass judgement unless you’re willing to receive judgement from another–and we will be better people for it in the end.
5. “Excitement is rooted in passing desires. Vital energy springs from the eternal” (Heider, “Vital Energy”, 109)
One of my mantras that I recite to myself when I feel my thoughts starting to wander and anxiety starting to kick in is, “I am excited and it will pass.” It’s easy for the ADHD individual to get overwhelmed; external stimuli, unexpected events and changes, and medication have all triggered ‘excitement’ and feelings of intense anxiety in my own mind on many occasions. One minute I’ll be focusing on homework, then the next, I’m thinking about getting up for a snack, then I’m thinking about the fact that I;m not even hungry why do I want a snack, then I wind up thinking about how when I move out and get a real job I’m going to have a snack drawer in my bedroom.
I constantly have to reign my excitement in, and remind myself that true feelings of happiness and contentment with my life happens when I complete projects on time, when I have a productive day and feel like I’m moving forward in the direction I know will help me realize my life’s purpose. Impulsivity is a major ADHD symptom, and every ADHD individual I know has battled impulsive behavior in some form-drugs, food, shopping, drinking, smoking, nail-biting. Using my mantra helps bring me back to the center of my own consciousness, reminding me to stay true to my passions and goals, reminding me to resist passing desires and episodes of excitement because I will be a better person for it. For any ADHD individual, a mantra (or several mantras) can be used to reign in and settle the mind, and can definitely find a place in one’s treatment plan.
6. “Consciousness or awareness…is the source of your ability. Learn to become increasingly conscious” (Heider, “The Source of Your Ability”, 117)
The nature of consciousness is the riddle that can never be solved because as of right now, there’s no way for one to physically step outside of one’s mind. Consciousness is being aware that there is a thinking entity within our own bodies that validates the very existence of our bodies. To be aware of this thinking entity, and learning how to control this entity, is a game few have mastered, but most have grappled with. For ADHD individuals, the act of ‘being aware’ of one’s surroundings, let alone one’s own self, can be a feet in itself. However I’ve found that through consistent meditation and reflective practice (writing in journals and reflecting on life lessons, current mindset, ect) awareness can indeed be built and expanded on. I’m exceedingly more aware of my behavior and the consequences of my behavior in social situations than I was five, even two, years ago. I am constantly engaging in introspection, thinking about how I am not the person I was yesterday, thinking about social skill areas I’m still working on, reflecting on successes I’ve made recently as well as since I began the evolution of my social self. For ADHD individuals, building awareness of the self is key to building awareness of one’s self in society; by being aware of one’s own social behaviors, one can make it a point to maintain awareness of these behaviors in order to identify and address them in action, until these behaviors are ultimately undone.
7. “Being unconscious is not a crime; it is merely a lack of a very helpful ability” (Heider, “Whether You Know It or Not”, 123)
This passage further expands on the notion of consciousness and the importance of practicing mindfulness in daily life. For ADHD individuals who naturally have difficulty concentrating and wrangling their hyperactive inner-narrator ‘self,’ being unconscious-unaware of one’s own surroundings and place in society at a given point in time-is bound to happen more often than not. ADHD individuals must take care not to criminalize their unconscious tendencies, as being ‘unconscious is not a crime’ and one can’t help being born with an ADHD-riddled brain. However if one acknowledges that due to the condition, one must work to transform the ‘unconscious’ to the ‘conscious,’ one may begin to develop the ‘very helpful ability’ that is conscious awareness of the self in the external world.
8. “Nobody has all the answers. Knowing that you do not know everything is far wiser than thinking that you know a lot when you really don’t.” (Heider, “All the Answers”, 141)
ADHD individuals embarking on a treatment plan must accept the fact that it is impossible to ‘know’ exactly what aspects of the treatment plan will work, and which aspects will not work. Being mindful that one ‘does not know’ will help one stick to the treatment plan, instead of picking and choosing which aspects of the plan to try and which to ignore. In order for an individual plan to be successful, one must explore multiple treatment options and avenues, and this exploration is only possible if the individual in question maintains an open attitude and is willing to try every option. Holding fast to stubborn opinions of what is ‘best’ for one’s self on the treatment route is anything but ‘wise’ in that the entire reason one seeks treatment is because one wishes to alleviate ADHD symptoms and to learn to navigate the ADHD brain. If one ‘knew’ how to do this to begin with, a treatment plan wouldn’t be necessary!
9. “No one can tell you what to do. That is your freedom. That is your responsibility.” (Heider, “Freedom and Responsibility”, 145)
It is important for ADHD individuals seeking treatment to understand that ultimately, they are responsible for following the plan, and for benefiting from the plan. If after trying out a treatment plan for a few weeks an individual decides that an aspect of the plan isn’t working-or can be improved-one must make their treatment team aware so the plan may be appropriately addressed. In order for a treatment plan to truly be successful, the ADHD individual must be completely on board with both the reason behind the plan (believe that there is an issue that must be addressed) as well as the plan itself. The individual must feel that they are in control of their own treatment–this is especially important for ADHD individuals, as these individuals struggle with ‘control’ already as it is. These individuals must believe that ADHD poses issues, must accept that one must seek treatment in order to solve these issues, and must accept that it is one’s own responsibility to one’s own self to ensure that these issues are resolved so that one may freely control one’s mind once and for all. Merely ‘telling’ ADHD individuals that they need ‘help’ is not helping anyone; throughout history, mankind has always sought the freedom to choose, for better or for worse, for good or for evil. For treatment to work, it must be at the ADHD individual’s own free will, plain and simple.
10. “Whatever is flexible and flowing will tend to grow. Whatever is rigid and blocked will atrophy and die.” (Heider, “Flexible or Rigid?”, 151)
As I’ve previously suggested, ADHD individuals following a treatment plan must remain open and receptive to different forms of treatment and coping strategies. If an individual is unwilling to try out different methods–especially those that deviate from what said individual ‘believes’ will be good methods–then said individual will remain ‘rigid,’ the consciousness blocked and closed to new perceptions, and thus success may never be realized. A dedicated individual committed to learning to effectively navigate the ADHD condition must know that in order for growth to occur, one must be willing to reach into the far recesses of one’s own brain, to step out of one’s comfort zone, to reflect on painful memories and past actions for the sake of purposeful reflection. One must accept that mistakes have been made, that one is seeking treatment specifically because ADHD is negatively affecting one’s life in one or more ways and one does not know how to end the cycle, and that an open mind and willingness to explore one’s own mind is necessary for growth. Only after growth of the self occurs through guided treatment and self-learning, may one evolve to the point of ultimate knowing which in turn, will allow one to successfully control one’s ADHD.
Process for Problem Resolution
A. Treatment Team Meeting and Development of a Feasible Treatment Plan
To start, the ADHD individual must acknowledge that he or she is experiencing social/life/work/school issues, and that these issues are namely due to said individual’s ADHD symptoms. After this first step, the individual must gather the support of a ‘treatment team’–parents, family, friends, teachers, counselors, school administrators, mentors, doctors, therapists–and arrange a treatment team meeting to discuss treatment options. This team meeting is important, as all members must be aware of all aspects of the treatment plan, their respective roles in the plan, others’ respective roles in the plan, and the overall treatment goals set forth through the plan. At the team meeting, the individual in question may discuss treatment options with team members, and all team members may agree on a plan of treatment, which will be documented and copies provided to all team members, including the ADHD individual. The potential treatment options–and possible combinations of said options–must be tailored to the ADHD individual in accordance with the patient’s history, state of mental and physical health, obligations and responsibilities, and so forth. The agreed upon plan must hence be feasible for all members of the team. The treatment plan must also aim to achieve a set of realistic, reachable goals for the ADHD individual; goals which will address any current issues and instill various coping strategies and methods which the individual may absorb and draw upon at will after the completion of treatment. Success of a given treatment plan may be measured in accordance with an individual’s reported self-control and awareness of one’s own ADHD symptoms and the ways in which one’s brain operates. Self-knowledge, self-appreciation, and self-awareness should be ultimate goals integrated within any treatment plan, in order to ensure a given treatment plan’s lifelong implications.
My proposed solution for any individual (adult or child) experiencing difficulty living with ADHD would consist of the any combination (or all of) the following treatment options; ADHD medication (low dose to start, 5-10 mg classified stimulants from either the Methylphenidate family or Dextroamphetamine family) coupled with a long-term therapy plan tailored to the individual, and or dietary changes and omega-3 supplementation (via fish oil capsules). The therapy plan would place emphasis on the establishment and celebration of long term and short term goals through daily written reflection (in the form of daily task notes), mindful meditation, and both verbal and written contemplation (verbally during sessions, written through weekly processing of long-term goals and accomplished short term goals). In addition, some therapy sessions would be devoted to developing of initial strategies to aid the individual in creating an effective time-management plan, a plan to remember duties/responsibilities, a plan to prioritize responsibilities, and a plan to nurture and maintain healthy relationships; said plans would then be reflected upon during follow-up sessions and changed or improved upon as needed. This solution-medication and deliberate therapy/life coaching-is a feasible solution that would enable ADHD individuals to tackle the social world and lead a successful life in which the individual-not the condition nor external beings or influences-is in charge.
B. Educator Strategies for Addressing Learning Needs of ADHD Students
In the classroom, teachers can help ADHD students by encouraging them to try writing down their goals; their goals for the class/semester, goals in other classes, annual goals, extra-curricular goals, career goals, family goals, and so on! If I had one such student who I knew was struggling to cope with the condition, I’d invite the student to meet one-on-one after class, share my own experiences/struggles with the condition, and suggest the student try out my method, even if at first the student starts with a ‘daily task’ list. I hope that by sharing my own experiences and offering solutions I’ve developed after years of struggle, that a student in this position would feel hopeful as opposed to shameful or embarrassed, especially knowing that anyone, even a teacher, can share a common struggle with the condition without anyone on the outside noticing. It’s important for anyone-especially teenagers and adolescents-with ADHD to know that despite the apparent obstacles posed by the condition, it’s absolutely possible to be successful in any way one wishes to be, so long as one learns to properly utilize coping strategies, and learns to appreciate the condition as not a ‘condition’ but as a different way of thinking and processing information.
People with ADHD are born blessed with a brain that operates on a different wavelength than most; a brain that wanders learns to see the world through a unique perspective, and every person I’ve ever met with ADHD has a twinkle in their eye and an extra bounce in their step. Those people I’ll never forget that I’ve met. People are not machines, and this world we live in treats people as automatons, rewards sameness, anticipates conformity. Sadly, until a mass Neo-Enlightenment occurs, and there is a widespread switch from our global mentality of industry, those with ADHD must learn to conform (within reason) and perform in order to sustain themselves and lead an independent life in society. In order to do this, they must develop effective coping strategies to reign in scattered thoughts and channel focus. They must learn when to use the condition to their advantage-creative tasks, developing ideas, relaxed social situations-and when to pump the brakes. Thus far, we’ve established that ADHD poses social obstacles by causing ADHD individuals to be impulsive-which in turn causes said individuals to act in ways that appear selfish, reckless, irresponsible, dangerous, and so forth-and to have difficulty prioritizing, managing time, and focusing. Due to these difficulties, ADHD individuals face myriad societal obstacles; from being on time to work, balancing career goals and relationships, navigating social scenarios, the list goes on and on. One of the biggest issues is of course, the inability to focus, which translates to literally a host of issues that transcend every facet of an individual’s existence. From difficulty concentrating in school, to difficulty listening to friends because one is always waiting to talk, to focusing on the boss’s goldfish instead of the boss, to difficulty focusing on a work project instead of Facebook, to difficulty communicating with a significant other because how can you focus on her Christmas party gossip when ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ is on the radio…
Encouraging students with ADHD to process their goals and daily tasks and by doing so, engage in frequent (if not daily) reflection and introspection through a written record is an excellent start to developing an effective, lifelong strategy to mastering one’s ADHD. Going back to the notion of ‘protecting’ an individual from their true ADHD ‘self’ with medication, the fact remains that in our modern world, there is a palpable pressure to perform, to focus, to have eyes on the prize at all times. To ensure that ADHD individuals don’t get left behind in the dust, medicating these individuals is a reasonable solution, albeit not without stipulation. If we are to provide ADHD individuals with an equal opportunity for ‘modern success,’ then we must accept that the cognitive deficiencies attributed to the condition-mainly those associated with focus and impulsivity-pose very real and potentially detrimental obstacles within the social world. If medication can be utilized by these individuals in a way that levels (or attempts to level) the playing field, then I believe it is right to do so; ADHD individuals can’t help that they were born with ADHD, and that modern society marginalizes those who can’t channel streamlined focus to the machine. Medication is a temporary solution, but especially for students with developing brains and identities, it must be accompanied by therapy which aims to develop lifelong, goal-oriented coping strategies. In addition, it seems that ADHD individuals (from children to adults) experience difficulties both establishing and maintaining healthy friendships and relationships due to the deficiencies associated with the condition. Because of these difficulties, ADHD individuals can have a hard time making and keeping friends, meeting people, and fostering work/romantic relationships in general; such difficulties can then of course result in a host of obvious issues, from loneliness to depression and hopelessness. Humans are social beings, and any social obstacles posed by ADHD must be addressed early on so that strategies can be implemented by said individual in order to successfully navigate social situations and relations. I believe that therapy is also a likely solution for this issue, and that along with setting ‘goals,’ a therapist can assist an ADHD individual with developing a ‘relationship goals’ list of sorts; the list can also range from short to long-term goals, from reminding said individual to ‘call John’ to ‘keep in contact with close high school friends.’ Sometimes, even having a list to remind me to keep in contact with certain people ensures that I do my part in maintaining the friendship, thus avoiding the inevitable “you always forget to call me” accusation.
C. Peer-Pressure to Build Social and Self Awareness
From the information I’ve gathered thus far on the social struggles of ADHD children and adults, the struggle is all-too real; “because ADHD is an “invisible disability,” often unrecognized by those who may be unfamiliar with the disorder, socially inappropriate behaviors that are the result of ADHD symptoms are often attributed to other causes…people often perceive these behaviors and the individual who commits them as rude, self-centered, irresponsible, lazy, ill-mannered, and a host of other negative personality attributes” (CHADD, n.d.). Because ADHD individuals often lack social and self-awareness, they might not even realize that their behaviors don’t align with the social norms in a given situation; “Pointing out that a social skill error is being committed is often considered socially inappropriate…people are often left on their own to try to improve their social skills without understanding exactly what areas need improvement” (CHADD, n.d.).
Drawing on the power of normative social influence in order to harness positive peer-pressure may provide a solution which enables ADHD individuals to effectively navigate the social world, with a little help from their peers. If ADHD individuals are to build awareness of their own behaviors in social situations, trusted peers and family members can help to reinforce awareness by cluing the ADHD individual in when necessary. Friends and loved ones, upon noticing a social blunder for instance, can pull said ADHD-loved one aside, reveal said error, and offer a course of action or advice. Because said ADHD individual is in the process of building social and self awareness, constant reiteration of social norms from loved ones can provide the ‘pressure’ needed to instill lifelong awareness of these social norms that in turn will enable said individual to effectively operate in society, despite the condition. Those responsible for regularly reinforcing an ADHD individual’s social and self awareness must be trusted peers (and ideally social group members) of said individual, and they must also be totally on board with both the individual and the individual’s treatment team (family, therapists, life coach, counselor, ect). These responsible peers should also be coached by a professional (therapist/psychologist) on the ways in which to effectively approach the ADHD individual when relaying instances of social blunders; peers must take care not to ‘blame,’ instead reinforcing the awareness building process (every blunder is a lesson to grow from). Peers should also convey positive instances of social navigation by said ADHD individual, as constant instances of ‘wrong’ can discourage said individual from the path(‘I’ll never be accepted/I never do anything right”). By constantly reinforcing instances of both negative and positive behaviors in social situations, a peer can help an ADHD individual stay on track with a treatment plan and a resolution to build social and self awareness. If the ADHD individual realizes through positive peer-pressure that their need for acceptance can be met by being aware of their own self in relation to the social world, said individual may learn to repeat the behaviors reinforced by peers in order to keep meeting these needs.
D. Learning to Think Socially Through ILAUGH Model of Social Thinking
Throughout the course of my research thus far, I’ve gathered that the symptoms imposed by ADHD affect individuals afflicted with the condition in ways that alter their behavior in social situations, their perceptions and interpretations of social situations, awareness of social norms, and awareness of the self in society. For those who habitually encounter social struggles and fail to successfully navigate social situations, the ILAUGH Model of Social Thinking, developed by Michelle Garcia Winner, can offer a possible solution for building the social skills that those with learning disabilities in ‘social thinking’ may lack (Katz, 2011). According to Winner, “those unable to think socially can have great difficulty relating socially. The key to helping them make friends and socially connect with others…is to teach them how to think socially” (Katz, 2011) which is exactly what the ILAUGH model is designed to do; the ILAUGH acronym stands for six skills of social cognition, from ‘L–Listening with Eyes to Brain’ to ‘H–Humor and Relatedness.’
Though this model may not work for everyone, the six social cognitive skills and their associated courses of remedial action proposed by the model are compelling in that the model itself operates under the notion that learning disabilities in social thinking do indeed exist, and better yet, through purposeful effort and action, they can transcend themselves, effectively manifesting into ‘abilities.’
The solution is not necessarily to employ the ILAUGH model–my solution is to prescribe to the belief that there is hope for ADHD individuals in the social world. Wherever there is hope, there are those willing to conduct research studies into manifesting that hope into a reality. The human brain is the puzzle we’ve yet to solve, if ever–the how to the why that’s haunted mankind since the two first met. Peers can help reinforce hope in ADHD individuals by praising social successes and overing help in social situations. Therapists can reinforce hope by helping ADHD patients set realistic goals and encouraging them to take baby steps and strive to achieve major goals one at a time. Both peers and therapists can reinforce hope by helping ADHD individuals celebrate instances of success along the way. But what the ADHD individual must do before any of this can happen, is to plant the seed of hope to begin with; the individual must instill hope, and fully believe that the seed will grow, before any treatment plan can progress.
To refer back to the Tao teachings, consciousness-awareness-of one’s own self in relation to the social world is key; the ADHD individual must be aware that although navigating the social world is indeed harder for them than others, it is completely possible to do and to do successfully. By consciously being aware that there is hope that one can do better and be better despite the supposed disabilities imposed by ADHD, said individual will do better and will be better. How can one instill this initial seed of hope? Myriad of avenues can help one explore and realize this notion of hope; exploration and self-eduction of the spiritual realm (especially Buddhist and Taoist teachings regarding awareness, meditation, and consciousness), researching studies and findings on ADHD treatment options, reading blog articles by ADHD individual success stories, and engaging with other ADHD individuals on online forums to discuss struggles and solutions can all instill hope that one can indeed change and employ strategies to successfully navigate society. Without hope in one’s self, there is no hope that one can change one’s self–an army of friends and counselors and family members is meaningless if one refuses to believe the self-change is an option. But with a little hope in one’s own ability to change and perform better socially, one wields the power to enact change, to follow through with a treatment plan, to find a feasible solution that works. Mindset is key, and if one is fully committed to bettering the self because they know it is possible, then better they will be.
E. Empathy Coaching
As I explored in my notes from Chapter 9, empathy–the ability to understand where another person is coming from–is an essential ability, necessary in order to successfully navigate the social world. Because of the symptoms associated with ADHD, these individuals can come across as being apathetic, self-centered, greedy, and the like, which hence pose obvious social struggles. A treatment plan which, in conjunction with other appropriate therapeutic methods tailored to the individual’s needs, employs a form of empathy coaching is a feasible solution for ADHD individuals lacking empathetic abilities.
In order for this solution to be successful, everyone-including the ADHD individual-must be on board. Family members and those close to the individual must become role models, modeling positive empathetic behaviors around said individual. As I already suggested in my Chapter 9 notes, I believe that prosocial and empathetic behaviors can and should be instilled in children from a young age, hence this solution seems most viable for ADHD children and teenagers. According to Carol Brady, P.d.D in her article, “Raising Compassionate Kids with ADHD” it’s important for parents of ADHD children to “make sure your child gets a chance to see you helping other people” (Brady, 2006). In addition to modeling compassionate and empathetic behaviors, parents must also reinforce their child’s compassionate and empathetic acts, and get into the “habit of ‘catching’ your child ‘giving back’ to others” (Brady, 2006). By providing constant positive reinforcement whenever parents ‘catch’ ADHD children committing acts of greatness, ideally, these behaviors will become ‘normal’ behaviors of the child. To help prevent ADHD children from feeding their natural impulsive tendencies–tendencies which cause others to view said child (and ultimately, adult) as being self-centered and selfish–parents must work to instill empathy and to emphasize the importance of doing things for others even when nobody’s looking.
F. Fish Oil Supplements
For some people, the idea of having to take ‘a pill’ every day in order to function ‘normally’ is a scary thought–and this is quite understandable. Given the growing popularity of natural and holistic medicine in mainstream Western society–think yoga studios and ‘mindful meditation’–some ADHD individuals and parents of ADHD children on the treatment path may wish to first try new diet regimes and vitamin supplementation before defaulting to the traditional stimulant medication route. Fish oil supplements have been steadily gaining recognition from both medical professionals and the public alike for its reported health benefits; in fact, my own psychiatrist suggested I supplement my ADHD medication with quality fish oil capsules, advice I followed, which was definitely some advice worth following. According to my doctor, fish oil capsules contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered ‘essential’ fatty acids that the brain, as well as the human body as a whole, relies on in order to function properly. She told me that the conventional American diet is largely lacking in natural omega-3 acid food sources–fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseed…spinach–and hence omega-3 acid supplementation is actually a good idea for most of us!
According to recent evidence cited in an article by Gina Pera, “children with ADHD have been shown to have low blood levels of certain long chain fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids…it has been suggested that increasing omega-3 levels via dietary supplements may enhance brain functioning and reduce ADHD symptoms” (2011). A recent Netherlands research study of the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on boys with ADHD (aged 8-14) over a 16-week period found that supplementation resulted in a reduction of attention symptoms as reported by the boys’ parents, supporting the notion that balancing omega-3 fatty acids in the ADHD brain through supplementation warrants further exploration (Rettner, 2015). Though more research is necessary before any concrete conclusions can be drawn, omega-3 fatty acids provide necessary fuel for the human body, particularly the brain, and deficient omega-3 acid levels in anyone, let alone ADHD individuals, is a recipe for failure. For ADHD individuals seeking alternative diet supplementation options or for a supplement that is safe to combine with stimulant medication, fish oil capsules are something to consider.
G. External and Self Validation
For this solution, I will model how one might integrate Marsha Linehan’s ‘six levels’ of validation into an effective ADHD treatment plan. Let’s say that *Sarah is an 18-year-old rising college freshman seeking treatment for ADHD. Sarah was first diagnosed with ADHD as a child, yet her parents didn’t want to put her on medication and back then, alternate treatment plans were essentially unheard of. Sarah has struggled her entire life with impulsive tendencies and attention/focus issues, all symptoms which have transcended every facet of Sarah’s life. Sarah’s impulsive decisions have caused her to make some poor decisions; underage drinking, reckless driving, toxic relationships/friendships, low self-esteem, self-loathing, depression, drug experimentation, to name a few. Sarah has even contemplated taking her own life several times before. One of her teachers took an interest in Sarah her senior year, and as a result, Sarah is committed to working with her school counselors, family doctor, and her new psychiatrist to develop an effective treatment plan that will allow her to take control of her ADHD, and thereby her life. Sarah is at a delicate point in her life, and the purposeful and effective use of validation in her treatment plan can drastically affect the decisions she makes from this point on. Her psychiatrist suggests during a treatment-team meeting that every member learn about Linehan’s ‘six levels’ of validation and learn to effectively use these six levels in accordance with Sarah’s treatment plan.
For this model to be effective, everyone member of Sarah’s team–teachers, counselors, parents, friends, and Sarah–must be on board. The first level, ‘being present’ insists that members of Sarah’s team must be committed to acknowledging Sarah–successes, struggles, achievements, areas of improvement, ect. Sarah herself must take care to be ‘present’ whenever possible; to do so, Sarah must agree to limit her use of social media/electronics/cell phones/laptop/ect. Sarah must agree to NOT allow her phone to be a distraction in conversation, the classroom, driving, hanging out with friends, and the like. Sarah must be mindful of her own thoughts, emotions, senses in ‘the moment’ as they come and go; by doing so, she can build awareness, and with awareness, she can rebuild the broken self.
The second level, ‘accurate reflection,’ applies more to Sarah’s team members. They must understand that accurate reflection may be used to help Sarah sort out ‘Sarah’s own’ thoughts and emotions. If Sarah approaches a team member with an issue, the team member can validate Sarah’s inner-thoughts by simply narrating back a summary of the issue at hand as Sarah sees it, providing no personal judgements or criticisms. Listening to the issue in this way can serve to validate Sarah’s own feelings, or to help Sarah identify flaws in her own thought processing methods–essentially of her own accord.
Level three ‘mind-reading’ again falls on the shoulders of the team; in this context, ‘mind-reading’ merely refers to reading emotions and afterwards making a guess of another’s emotional state. This form of validation can be used when Sarah is relaying an issue or event that has caused her stress/anxiety/pain. A team member would simply have to guess how Sarah is emotionally responding to a given situation, and relate it back to her with a ‘guess.’
Level five, ‘understanding the person’s behavior in terms of their history and biology’ is easy for those team members with knowledge of Sarah’s past, especially her parents, close friends/relations, and counselors. This form of validation is important for all applicable team members to be on board with and use frequently, as since Sarah’s past will inevitably pose obstacles along her treatment path, it is important to validate Sarah’s struggles by conveying understanding that these struggles are bound to occur given her history and ADHD brain. For Sarah, ‘self-validation’ in this regard is also important, as Sarah will have to learn to accept that many of her past negative behaviors and impulsive decisions were rooted in her untreated ADHD. Knowing that there is a biological reason for these negative experiences can provide Sarah with the self-validation necessary to take the reigns of empowerment, as she recognizes that at the very least, she’s recognized the root cause of her issues and is taking steps to address her issues and prevent future issues from manifesting.
Level six, ‘radical genuineness’ is a tricky source of validation in that level six can only be given by someone who has shared in a similar experience. In order to gain level six validation, Sarah could seek support on an online forum or group of ADHD individuals seeking treatment. If a member of Sarah’s team is a successful individual with ADHD, all the better.
The easiest levels to include in an ADHD treatment plan–which could probably be used for most individuals–seems to be levels one, two, and to a degree, five (though not necessarily easy, level five is important). Level three should ideally be tackled by a mental health therapist who is trained to read and identify emotions, however team members up to the challenge could probably learn to effectively navigate level three, perhaps with some coaching from a therapist team member.
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