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  • How to make a professional goal for teaching

    As an educator, you know you can improve your practice by reflecting on your teaching and setting a professional goal. But it’s not always easy to do. You can set teaching goals at any time of the year. Start by reflecting on the last month, quarter, or year. What worked well for you and your students who learn and think differently? What were some challenges? Then think about how you’d like to grow as an educator. What do you want to learn more about? What would you like to change? With those reflections in mind, follow these four steps for setting a teaching goal. 1. Pick a focus area.There’s only so much you can work on at once. Consider your situation and be realistic about what you can take on. Then pick one area you’d like to focus on first. Here are some ideas to get you started: Social-emotional learning (SEL)Many students and teachers experience high levels of stress. When you incorporate SEL into your teaching, both you and your students can find ways to cope with feelings and navigate challenges. To learn more about SEL in the classroom, check out these articles: Social-emotional learning: What you need to know5 myths about social-emotional learningHow SEL helps you as a teacherCollaborating with colleaguesYour colleagues are important partners. You share ideas. You talk about the best accommodations for your students. And you build community together. Think about how you can strengthen that collaboration. Take a look at these resources: 6 models of co-teaching5 tips for teacher collaboration when students struggleTeacher to teacher: How I help students see support staff as teachers2. Set a professional teaching goal.Once you’ve picked your focus area, set a manageable teaching goal. Try using a SMART goal. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound. For example, if you’re focusing on SEL, a SMART teaching goal may be to include at least one community-building activity each week for one quarter.To help you keep on track, tell your colleagues about your goals. They may have tips, words of encouragement, or questions to help you think further about your goal. You might also inspire them to set their own teaching goals. 3. Get feedback from your students. Model a growth mindset by sharing your goal with your students. Depending on their age, your goal, and the time of year, try including your students in the process. Gather their feedback about your focus area through class conversations, one-on-one chats, videos, or surveys. For example, you can meet with small groups of students to talk about ideas for building class community. Let them know you value their input. Or if it’s the end of a school year, give your students a survey to ask for feedback on your goal area. 4. Implement and reflect.Give yourself at least a month to implement your goal. Set aside time afterward to reflect on your progress. Use a notebook to jot down observations or add your ideas to a running online document. Try recording audio notes or short video reflections if those options work better for you. Ask yourself how your work has impacted your students. What challenges have you worked through? What successes have you found? Is it time to move on to a new teaching goal?At first, it might feel like you don’t have the extra time for this reflection. But once you start doing it — and see the benefits — goal-setting can become a natural part of your teaching practice. Read how one teacher set a goal to help his students give peer feedback. And get more teaching tips in our Educator Hub.

  • Sorry, I Missed This: The Everything Guide to ADHD and Relationships with Cate Osborn

    It can be hard to navigate relationships when you have ADHD. Host Cate Osborn has ADHD, a background in sex education, and a whole lot of questions like “How do I know what I want out of a relationship? How do I remember my friends exist? What can I do to handle conflict better?” Tune in to Sorry, I Missed This to learn about topics like social skills, boundaries, communication, intimacy, and sex. Join Cate in unpacking the taboo, painful, and often hilarious challenges of being in a relationship when you have ADHD.

  • In It

    All about language disorders

    Understanding what a language disorder means for your child can be overwhelming. Here’s help from an expert. Language disorders can lead to many questions, both in the classroom and elsewhere. How will the school handle it? What can you do to help at home? And what if you’re not even sure if a language disorder is what your child is struggling with?In this episode of In It, hosts Gretchen Vierstra and Rachel Bozek talk with Kelli Johnson, a Minneapolis-based educational speech-language pathologist who is also a writer and expert reviewer at Understood. Kelli explains what her job is all about, and what it means to have a language disorder. She also talks about making her work with students fun while helping them navigate this learning and thinking difference.Related resourcesLanguage disorder fact sheet What are language disorders How speech-language pathologists work with kidsEpisode transcriptGretchen: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "In It," a podcast about the ins and outs... Rachel: ...the ups and downs... Gretchen: ...of supporting kids who learn and think differently. I'm Gretchen Vierstra, a former classroom teacher and an editor here at Understood.Rachel: And I'm Rachel Bozek, a writer and editor with a family that's definitely in it. Today we're getting into language disorder.Gretchen: A term which includes receptive language disorder and expressive language disorder. Rachel: Joining us to break it all down is Kelli Johnson, an educational speech-language pathologist based in Minneapolis. Gretchen: Kelli holds a master in communication disorders and is also a writer and expert reviewer here at Understood. Rachel: We're so glad to have her helping us out today. So, Hello Kelli. Kelli: Hello. Rachel: Welcome to "In It." We're so glad to have you here. To get us started, would you mind telling us what it means to be an educational speech-language pathologist? Kelli: Well, an educational speech-language pathologist is somebody who serves disabilities in the school setting as they relate to a child's ability to participate in the school curriculum. And so, the disability areas we deal with are things like stuttering, speech sound disorders, or articulation, where kids have difficulty saying specific speech sounds.And what we're going to talk about today, which is language disorder, where kids' language development is really significantly... they have significant challenges compared to their same-age peers. Gretchen: Let's go into a little more depth. What is a language disorder, exactly? Kelli: Broadly speaking, language disorder is a disorder or an impairment that involves the ability to understand the language that's all around you. The meanings of language, the language that we get in writing or verbally, and also expression. So, how we use language to convey the messages that we want to put out there. Gretchen: How common are language disorders? Kelli: So, you know, the studies that we have available on five-year-olds — which is kind of when, language disorder tends to be discovered — is that it occurs for 1 in 14 kids. And that is the rate at which it's identified in kindergarten. But those language difficulties generally persist in some way or other, in some severity or other through adulthood. Rachel: Wow. You've touched on this already, but I wonder if you could say more about the difference between receptive and expressive language disorder. Kelli: Sure. So, receptive language is all about what you're taking in. It's language understanding or language comprehension. And so, these are kiddos that are going to have difficulty taking in, longer directions like 3-step directions. These are kiddos that, may not understand the question you just asked them. They will certainly have difficulty understanding verbal instruction. You know, when teachers are teaching a longer lesson. Expressive language is how kids or how people use language to say their own ideas express themselves. And so, these are kiddos that are going to have trouble putting sentences together in a way that is meaningful to the people around them. And so, that can look like, difficulty with grammar. It can look like difficulty with what we call syntax, which is sort of how we put all these words together, telling stories, or difficulty organizing sentences. But broadly speaking, expressive language disorder is difficulty putting the message out there in the way that you want to say it. Rachel: So, what are some of the signs? We talked a little bit about kindergarten being kind of the beginning of when this might get spotted. What are some of the signs that might indicate that a younger child has a language disorder? Kelli: Right. And I do want to just kind of clarify a little bit. We've got good studies in kindergarten that tell us that often those distinctions will get spotted really early because, you know, little children aren't meeting those really well-explained developmental milestones, you know, with their checkups with their pediatrician. So, they're not starting to put two words together at the age that you would expect them to put two words together. As they're getting a little bit older, you know, as teachers are sort of interacting with them in class, they might notice, "Wow, this kiddo is using just single words or pointing at a lot of things." They might notice that when that child is trying to say something that happened to them — you know, they have a conflict with another kiddo — they can't tell the story of what happened to them. They might have a more limited vocabulary. They tend to be not the kids that are raising their hands to participate. If it's a receptive or receptive-expressive difficulty, those are the children that are going to struggle to follow directions in the classroom setting. They're going to be the children that answer questions in an off-topic way. So, you're saying you know, "Who did you see?" And they might start telling you a story that is, you know, completely unrelated. And some of that is just a thing that children do. But as you're comparing it, you know, you're comparing it to the other kids in class you're going to find that that's much more of a trend with children who struggle with receptive language. Rachel: And how does that differ as they get older, like, is what you see different with older kids? Kelli: It is. I mean, I should say, for children with language disorder, we generally see those concerns much earlier. It's not usual to identify, say, a fifth-grade child with language disorder. However, the things that stick out are going to be different because the academic demands have been increased. So, you know, in classroom discussions, you might find that they're just not as able to show what they know. Maybe they do understand what's going on. And you can kind of tease that out if you ask questions that don't require longer responses, but they're not going to be the child that can kind of explain things in a complex way. You're going to start seeing it in their writing. If it's an expressive language disorder, those are going to be kids that really struggle with those composition assignments. In part because, you know, these are often children who also have reading and writing difficulties. You know, they're getting support in those areas, too. If it's a child who's experiencing receptive language problems, reading comprehension is going to continue to be difficult. And you may see this mismatch between decoding and comprehension. Many of these children are fluent readers. They can decode words but when you ask them, you know, just to check up on comprehension questions, they will typically have a lot of difficulty. And these are often kids that will sort of like use what they know about the subject to answer the question instead of what's really on the page. There are children who are not going to do as well under, you know, answering questions on tests. And those are also children who may start to have some social difficulties because they are not, you know, they're not able to pick up on all of the language that's coming at them from their peers. And so they're not responding in a way that their peers would expect. Gretchen: So, who would be the one at a school or anywhere to typically diagnose a language disorder? Kelli: That's me. Yeah. It goes to the speech-language pathologist and it you know, there's a process, right? The teacher or parent will identify an area of difficulty. And schools do have a process for getting everybody together and saying, "I'm concerned about this child." And there's an early phase where you sort of try to tease out what, what needs another look. But I'm the person on the team that does all of the testing to identify language disorder. Rachel: So, a quick question before my next question. When we're talking about all of this is the kind of like common terminology to say, "Kids who have a language disorder" or "Kids who have language disorder," like, that's the name of it? I just want to make sure we're kind of like, asking it the right way. Kelli: I think you're asking it the right way. Children who have language disorder. Yeah. Rachel: OKKelli: Yeah, yeah. Or a language disorder. That's really fine. Rachel: OK. So, can you tell us a little bit about what your work with kids who have language disorder looks like, and maybe walk us through, like, the kinds of exercises that you might do with younger kids first, and then we can talk about older kids. Kelli: Yeah. So, we always start with what the evaluation tells us about that specific child. And language disorder breaks down into all these little subsets of skills. Right. So, some children might have a really difficult time with using what we call morphemes. Right. How we create the past tense, how we show that something is going to happen versus did happen. So, that child, you know, obviously would have a goal in that area. Some children might have difficulties with prepositions — in, on, whatever — and then there's some variability in how every speech pathologist works. I embed those skills in play for little kids. And that can also be books. You know, we sort of want to get them interested in books pretty early because that's where we're going in the academic setting. But we might do play-based things. So, for a child that is struggling with place, right? I might read a book about — there's really, there's a book I use a lot — called "Rosie's Walk," where a chicken's being followed by a fox, and the fox keeps changing position. And so we can talk about "On top of" "Behind" "Between." And then, you know, because this play-based, I get a little toy fox at the end and we play a little game where we put the fox at different places around us. If it's a child who's working on using longer sentences, I might get a bunch of toys that that child likes. And, you know, they can practice asking me. I'll give them a little frame for, "I want the... red one. I want the... black one." And so little by little, we add these words in and we start to expand. We can also just do things where they give me an answer, and I reframe it to add a couple more words and then say, "You tell me that." But for little children, trying to tap into what they are already interested in, is where we really want to go with that, because we want language to have a payoff. It should stay fun. Rachel: Yeah, yeah. Kelli: So, older kids, we start thinking a lot more about the direct connection of language to academic expectations. I try very hard to use texts or adapted versions of those texts in the context of our language sessions, and we might work on how do we summarize that. You know, some of the kids I see because you know, they have reading challenges as well. We might do this in a verbal way. You know, stories have these parts. They have a character, they have a setting, have kickoff where the story starts. So, they'll learn all those parts, and then they learn how to tell a cohesive — what we call a narrative or a summary — about that story. And the great thing is, it kind of applies to when we're telling stories about our lives and trying to give details about, you know, what happened when I got in a conflict with this other student? We might use writing more. I do a lot with what are called graphic organizers, where, you know, they may have an assignment in their class to write a report. And so, I kind of consult with a teacher about what those expectations are. And we put that in the context of a graphic organizer. And I might supplement it with, you know, kind of the step-by-step instructions from the classroom that I can add visuals to. And then that, you know, the other piece of that is, I would collaborate with the classroom teacher a lot to see how can we sync up what we're doing. How can you use these sorts of visuals, these sorts of verbal cues or written cues to help this child be more successful when they're actually in the classroom? And how can I pick up on my end to help them understand the expectations and meet the expectations with a little bit of language support. Gretchen: That relates to this question I have, which is what are some common classroom accommodations that kids might get in their IEP if they have language disorder? Kelli: Right. So, when I'm thinking of receptive language difficulties in particular, you might see an accommodation that says "The teacher should check for understanding after delivering a direction. Direction should be given in small pieces. Check with the child within five minutes of starting the assignment to give feedback or redirection." Expressive language accommodations might look like having graphic organizers available, having extra time to complete assignments, having a visual of what the expectations are, you know, because that puts it — without getting too deep in the weeds — kids who are trying to complete something that's really, really difficult might not have the working memory, right?The ability to kind of keep one thing in their head while they're doing another thing. They might not have the working memory to remember what the expectation is, and also use their little, graphic organizer to complete the assignment. I like to do buddies — you know, so to help kids access a peer who can maybe work with them to do, like, if it's a written assignment that will be a presentation — how can we work with a buddy, and how can the teacher help divvy up the responsibilities of each part of the buddy system? And then also, there's usually an accommodation that the speech-language pathologist will connect with the teacher on the specific accommodations that are needed by that kiddo, right?Because language disorder looks different for different children. And so, what they're working on at any given time will be different. You know, they're so just sort of staying in touch with the classroom teacher and saying, "This is the specific thing we're working on right now. Here are some ways that you can practice this in class." Rachel: So, can language disorder be cured? Or is there a point at which some children are not struggling with it anymore? And those might not be the same thing, but... Kelli: Well, it might. Yeah, exactly. When children are identified really young with language disorder, sometimes it is a need for more exposure. Right? Every household is different. What every kid is exposed to is different. And so, sometimes those little people, when they end up in, say, an early childhood program, which is all language, all the time, super engaging. I have seen kids just blossom. And so, you know that in those cases, we've just come across a child that just needed some really intense stimulation, maybe a little bit of extra time and maybe the, you know, the speech therapist is no longer involved after age 5 or 6. Typically, language disorder is something that is going to persist into adulthood. People can acquire skills. You know, therapy is helpful. It can make a difference, but it doesn't really go away. It is generally the case that while folks who are adults who had language disorder as a child are very functional, it is likely going to be the case that their verbal skills are not going to be their best skill. And, you know, the best-case scenario is that they have learned ways to self-advocate. They have learned specific skills that help them be better at communicating their ideas. But it might be still an area where they feel like, "Yeah, communication is not my strong suit."Gretchen: Yeah. And it seems like you said, too. All the strategies, hopefully right, that they've learned over the years just come into play. And so, it's less of a challenge because they're used to using strategies to work with that challenge. Kelli: Right. And you know, I think too, you know, the best outcome for people who've had therapy for language disorder is that they sort of just come to appreciate the totality of who they are. Right. That there's just this "Yes, this is a thing. Nobody's perfect. This is just something that I've had to work on in my life. And, you know, I'm proud of the things I've done to work on it." Gretchen: What are some things that you encourage parents and caregivers to do at home to help a child with a language disorder? Kelli: I would say the first thing is, you know, talk to your child's speech pathologist because they are going to know specifically what's being worked on at that time. One really fun one that we tell parents to do with the littles is engage them in everyday household stuff. "Let's do this together." Usually at that age, they love it, right? As kids get older, they may not be as interested in making dinner with their mom, but at that young age they are often very excited about it. It gives an opportunity to talk things through, use vocabulary they maybe haven't heard before, and it keeps it really fun. I really feel like kids need it to have a payoff. It shouldn't feel like homework. For parents who are, you know, trying to help their older child who, has a language disorder, making them aware of maybe what supports are needed. You know, at the end of the day, when you want to talk to your child about their day, maybe we can have like a specific set of questions we go through. Maybe when the child gives a short answer, you can sort of recast that and confirm with a slightly longer answer and not necessarily have the expectation that the child's going to copy you, but keeping it natural, you know, just talking through what you're seeing with them. Keeping as much verbal communication as possible open as a model, as an opportunity, without having this huge expectation that feels like homework for the child. And there may be some specific little things, like when a child uses the present tense to express all things that happen. They might need some really specific practice, and I might send home, "Hey, you know, we're working on adding -ed to make the past tense. Maybe you can, you know, go through these flashcards during the day." But mostly just like, use it or find opportunities to say, "Oh, wait, I didn't understand that. You know? did that happen? Is that happening right now or did that happen before?" There are lots of different ways, and the best jumping-off point for the parent is to connect with the speech pathologist and say, "You know, what are you working on? How can I include that in our everyday communication?" Rachel: So, we hear a lot about how some learning differences, like ADHD also have upsides, where, you know, we hear a lot of the word lately, "Superpowers." Like they have the ability to kind of hyperfocus on things that they're really good at or that they're interested in, like we've talked about here. Is there any kind of equivalent or parallel that you've seen with kids with language disorder? Kelli: Well, I'll tell you. One thing I see — and I can't really say their causal right, that the absence of strong language skills leads to this other skill — but what I can say is that every single child I see has something they're just superstars at. Maybe they have strong math skills. Maybe they are just that kid that's got really great social skills in spite of not being really conversational. You know, I have those children that are just beloved because they are so kind and they're so interested and they want to help. I have children who are phenomenal at art, and I have among my receptive language kids with receptive language difficulties, kids who get really good at observing what's going on around them. Because when you don't understand the directions, you are looking around to see what the expectation is. So, I don't know that we can say, you know, there's a causal relationship between those things, but all of my kids have areas that are huge strengths for them. I have kids that are better than I am at lots of things, and I point this out to them all the time that, "Wow, you just taught me something today." That is not an infrequent occurrence. Rachel: That's great. That's great. Gretchen: Yeah, yeah, I think it's a good note to end on. Right. Strengths, that everyone's got their strengths. Kelli: Absolutely. It keeps me coming to work every day. Gretchen: Well, thank you so much for talking with us today. Kelli: Thank you for having me. It was a wonderful conversation. Gretchen: You've been listening to "In It" from the Understood Podcast Network.Rachel: This show is for you. So we want to make sure you're getting what you need. Email us at to share your thoughts. We love hearing from you.  Gretchen: If you want to learn more about the topics we've covered today, check out our show notes. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. Rachel: is a resource dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at  Gretchen: "In It" is produced by Julie Subrin. Ilana Millner is our production director. Justin D. Wright mixes the show. Mike Ericco wrote our theme music.  Rachel: For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. Thanks for listening. Gretchen: And thanks for always being "in it" with us. 

  • 4 ways to project calm in heated moments with your child

    Keeping cool, or “projecting calm,” may be the single most important thing parents can do in a heated moment. Looking angry or stressed can ramp up your child’s responses. But your positive actions can help turn things around for the better.“Projecting calm” is all about being aware of how your actions can impact the moment. It means making small changes to help ease big feelings. Little things can make a difference, like noticing your body language and not raising your voice. Keeping your cool doesn’t always come easily to adults or kids. But it helps if you practice together. Here are four ways you and your child can work on projecting calm in a heated moment.1. Do a self-check. Be aware of your facial expressions and tone of voice. Ask yourself: “How am I responding? What does my body show?” Encourage your child to do the same. 2. Practice deep breathing. Breathing exercises can help to bring the body to a calmer place. Together with your child, try counting backwards from 20.  3. Adjust body language. Parents and kids often show tension in their faces when frustrated or stressed. Loosening your jaw and relaxing your shoulders can make a big difference. 4. Use a mantra. A mantra is a short phrase or even a single word that you repeat over and over. Mantras can help shift your focus from what’s upsetting you to the positive phrase you’re saying. Here are some examples of mantras:“I control my actions.” “I can think calmly and be calm.”“I can stay calm. I can stay focused. I can stay patient.” Want more strategies to help with challenging behavior? Listen to What Now? A Parent’s Guide to Tantrums and Meltdowns. And download Wunder by Understood, a free app with exercises that can help you manage your child’s outbursts, track your progress, and get personalized tips along the way.

  • Parenting Behavior with Dr. Andy Kahn: Your Guide to Getting Through the Hard Stuff

    Parenting is one of the toughest things we do in life. It can be even harder when we can’t get our kids to do the things we need them to do. On “Parenting Behavior,” host Dr. Andy Kahn offers bite-size tips for all kinds of parenting challenges. From how to stay calm when your child is acting out to helping with bedtime battles, listen as Dr. Kahn shares both evidence-based and mindful approaches for helping your child.

  • ADHD Aha!

    Depression, relationships, and the myth of the ADHD “superpower” (Max’s story)

    Max Willey’s ADHD diagnosis has led him to a more stable life — and to seeing ADHD as a “glorious curse,” with downsides and upsides. Max Willey, an expat living in Norway, often found himself overwhelmed by complex tasks as a kid. There were too many moving parts, and his brain was always racing too fast. A teacher thought he might have ADHD. But it wasn’t until adulthood that Max was diagnosed “by accident.” He was feeling depressed and was struggling with some relationships. When he sought treatment, he was diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, and depression all at once. Max felt relieved. And he’s come to see ADHD as a “glorious curse.” It has its downsides — but also allows him to feel and do wonderful things.  Listen in as Laura and Max unpack this and more. Related resourcesADHD and creativityTrouble getting work done is real. Executive function challenges may be the culprit.ADHD and depressionEpisode transcriptJessamine: Hi, everybody. This is "ADHD Aha!" producer Jessamine. Before we get into the episode, I wanted to give you a heads-up that our guest, Max, shares his experience with depression. And there is a brief reference to suicidal ideation. Max's telling of his journey back from that dark period is important to his story, and we hope you will find it as insightful as we did.Max: Just recently, the realization that came to me was that I don't need to turn everything up to 11 in order for it to count. Sometimes it just needs to be showing up. These little things — they count. More than the gigantic, titanic, Herculean efforts. And with that, it's very liberating.Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host.I am here today with Max Willey. Max is a content and video producer and expat living in Oslo, Norway. Max is also a listener who wrote in. And one of the things that stuck out to me in the letter that he sent in to our "ADHD Aha!" email address was that he referred to ADHD as a glorious curse. Welcome, Max. Thanks for being here today.Max: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure.Laura: Let's get started with when were you diagnosed with ADHD? What was going on?Max: The official diagnosis occurred when I was 31.Laura: So that was a few years ago.Max: A few years ago. Unofficially, my first-grade elementary school teacher picked up on some unattentiveness, inability to complete tasks. And that was brought forth to my parents, but nothing was really done.Laura: Tell me more about what led you to get diagnosed when you were 31.Max: Well, let's see. The childhood symptoms were, I mean, a touch of hyperactivity. The main thing I remembered from kindergarten was just that complex instructions were very difficult, and I lost interest very quickly.But at the same time, I felt that everyone around me was going so slowly. Like, if it was something that interested me, then I just soaked it up like a sponge. If it was animals or planets or facts about UFOs, I just ate that up.But if it was following through on complex things, then I was hopeless. I still remember the very first project I didn't complete. It was the, you know, those little hand printed — like you traced your hand for the turkeys for Thanksgiving?Laura: Yeah.Max: There were just too many moving parts for me to really wrap my head around. I was like four and a half, five years old at that time. And I just remember having this uncompleted turkey on my desk for a week. It just sat there and it was this constant reminder of my first failure.Laura: Wow. That's kind of amazing how vividly you remember that.Max: It just stuck out to me. Perhaps because, like, I've gone back in my mind so many times, I've ruminated so many times about these things and just been like, that was a sign and I should have seen it.I remember reading comprehension and math were also big issues because it just felt like everyone was running circles around me. I just completely did not get it. Until I was put in — this was in third grade — I was put in remedial reading and math. And they just took everything at a snail's pace. And I just remember, wow, this is fun. I can do this.Laura: I wonder if there was a struggle with reading and math, or if it was the effort that needed to go into learning — the kind of, the ADHD symptoms around that? Or maybe a combination of both. Have you struggled with forgetfulness?Max: Oh, yes. That was one of the things that drove my mom crazy in particular. It has been a specter over my life — forgetfulness. And like it just built up to such a state where, like, sometimes I would forget a piece of paper. I'd forget a piece of homework. I would forget to do this thing, or I would forget that. I mean, all throughout my childhood.And it drove my mother crazy. She would ask me, "Why did you do this?" or "What happened?" I would tell her "I forgot." And she would either mock me and say "I forgot! I forgot!" like that, or say, "Max, I'm going to get you a tombstone. And it's going to say 'Max Willey, I forgot' on it."The problem was, I thought it was normal for parents to do that to their kids. It's been a point of contention for not just me and her, but me and other people. Forgetfulness is a big issue that I've had to tackle.Laura: I think a lot of times when we talk about people with ADHD and we talk about forgetfulness, I think what we're really talking about is trouble with working memory, which is related to executive functioning issues. People with ADHD, their brain makes it harder for them to have strong working memory.So you've been carrying around this information that you had been identified as potentially having ADHD when you were a kid. You remember these struggles. So what led you to get evaluated for ADHD as an adult? What was the turning point there?Max: Well, it happened actually by accident. Because I was originally being treated for depression. There was a period between 2016 and 2019 where I had a serious personal decline. I was stretching myself thin with freelance work. I was working with someone who was very cynical and exploitative, working for them almost every day, on top of working nearly full time at a part-time job. And also starting a master's degree, which I didn't finish.It was a lot. And throw in multiple failed personal relationships into the mix. That pushed me over the edge. But it was a slow decline, I would say, from the early 2010s. And I just got to a point where I was showing all the classic signs of depression. Lack of interest in things, rumination, ideation of suicide, poor sleeping habits, poor eating habits, not exercising. It all just balled into one.And I was just like — I was in such a hole that I was just like, I can't keep going on like this. I need to get help. And so I went to the doctors. My general practitioner told them what was happening and they immediately fast-tracked me to a therapist's office. I was screened for different symptoms, and they identified ADHD. Plus generalized anxiety and depression.Laura: How did it feel? That's a lot of diagnoses to receive at one time. How did that feel?Max: I felt actually relieved. As crappy as I was still feeling, I was happy that I was getting help. I have this range of like mood from like 100 being like, you're living your most ideal, perfect life. It's heaven. Zero? Dead. You're gone. You don't exist. Like I went from 40% to at the end of the treatment, around 70%. So far, more stable. Still a long road ahead.I went through group therapy for ADHD. I actually met some people that I knew that I was surprised that they were there. I was like, What, you're here? You're one of the best people in your class. Like, that's a surprise. And they're like, Yeah, like, likewise. You know, I just. I didn't expect you to be here. It was fun to have that kind of camaraderie. And it was very nice to know that a lot of the symptoms that I was having were quite normal.Laura: Right. And to see them and people, it sounds like, who you admired or were in your eyes high achieving. Probably a good reminder that you can thrive with ADHD.So one thing I remember, Max, when we had our initial interview, you were like, my view of ADHD isn't all sunshine and roses, right? I remember you talked about the glorious curse, which I guess isn't totally a negative thing because you've got this word "glorious" there. I want to hear you articulate what you mean by ADHD as a glorious curse.Max: Absolutely. In my research of ADHD, I have heard more people than I can count call it a superpower. And the term just seems so saccharine sweet and just so like Oh, we're going to have fun. Whee! You know, just like — and I just was like, it's not a superpower. I mean, it's a curse.Because here's the thing. The glorious part is it opens up vistas of creativity and energy and dynamism that people just don't understand. Like when you are fired up, you get fired up. You just can do all the things. You feel like you have divine inspiration. The gods have just shone down a light upon you, and you are at the very center of what you were meant to be. It shows you that, off in the distance, off on the horizon. This glorious city in the clouds.But between you and that is a deep valley of sharp rocks and obstacles that you have to get through to get there. It's like the ADHD part oftentimes makes it impossible — or not impossible, but just very, very difficult and tedious to get there. So that's where the curse part comes in.It's glorious in that you can see the potential of who you can be, or even just things that just light your heart on fire. Brings out the best in you. But at the same time, it's like trying to sprint up a mountain with the ball and chain. So that's how I feel about that.Laura: Very — really beautiful imagery that you use to describe that, too. It really resonates with me. I feel like a good manifestation of this glorious curse is something that you described to me when we originally talked, which you actually had mentioned as being a big "aha" moment for you: writing your thesis.Max: Yes. I took my very first bachelor in humanities at the University of Oslo. And usually you have a year and a half to do your thesis. They clear your schedule and they just say, Just do that. And I took almost three years to get it done, because it was all of the things that hamper completing a task through — following it through.It was just the task was a bit complex. I was doing it by myself. And the longer I went without contacting my advisor, the more pressure I felt to deliver. And also fear of his wrath that was just building exponentially with every week, with every unanswered email. I just felt the pressure increase. And so I delayed. And I finished it and handed it in four minutes before the deadline. And that was my last chance.And one of the biggest symptoms, one of the biggest things that stood out to me was — aside from the things I mentioned, where the putting the pressure on myself and expectations from my advisor and just this pressure to deliver this perfectionism — was it again boiled down to my reading comprehension was too slow for my brain. And it — just like sitting there in a quiet environment, just like reading sentence after sentence. And then just my brain felt like I was holding my breath underwater. And you know that feeling when you just try practicing holding your breath for as long as you can, and it starts burning in your lungs? That's what it felt like in my brain.So it was frustrating. It was very, very difficult. It was a topic that I loved, too. And it was it was just so interesting. But the thing is that when you get into the nuts and bolts of it — doing the actual work — that's when the passion can evaporate. That's when you'd be like, I have to set up a schedule to actually do these things. I have to write two pages a night. It turns into work. It goes from being a passion and an interest to being an obligation.You know, a lot of people can say like, Oh, that's childish. Then you're not serious enough. Or you know, grow up, which I've heard before. But it's like that's the point for a lot of people where they fall off. And then it's like, I can't do this. I'm giving up.Laura: This race to the finish line. Handing in your thesis four minutes before it's due. I mean, that to me is exactly what you described with the glorious curse. You're sprinting up a mountain with a ball and chain. All of this was happening during what you called that decline time period that led up to your ADHD diagnosis, right?Max: Just before, I would say. Like it was this in-between phase where I graduated from my second bachelor, in media and communication studies. It started around there where one personal relationship ended very badly. And then I just had a string of bad relationships. And it really affected me because I had a lot of guilt.But the depression part — one of the main like points where I've ruminated on in that dark period was just like, You never follow through. You never complete tasks. You're never going to be anything. You are going to be surrounded by a graveyard of dreams. And that's essentially what I was feeling at the darkest points. It was like being awake at three in the morning. So tired but my brain is just on. And I was just thinking of all the points in my past where I could have changed things. Or thinking about how I'm never going to amount to anything because I never complete anything.Laura: Wow, that's really powerful. So you've got anxiety and depression kind of feeding off of and ruminating on what are essentially ADHD symptoms. So you're ruminating about your difficulty with these kind of every day.Max: Yes.Laura: Executive function skills, completing tasks.Max: And even up until that point, before my diagnosis, I just thought it was a personal failing. I just thought it was me. I had notes dating back to like 2011. Like "goals for my life" type thing. One of which was "Learn to be consistent. Follow through on tasks." Like on sticky notes I would have on my chalkboard.Laura: Oh my gosh, I did the exact same thing.Max: Yeah. God, why are we like this?Laura: Well, these like, giant ideas I've evolved from, you know, sticky notes to, like, emailing them to myself because that doesn't put any pressure on you to have an email to yourself that says, "Figure out next five years." Or like, "Get better at focusing" or whatever. It's like kind of this all-or-nothing approach, right? Where it's like we're not allowing ourselves — maybe because it's so difficult to break down tasks — we're not allowing ourselves to take these things in chunks. And instead it just looks like this big, giant gray cloud of things we will never get to.Max: The I think most destructive aspect of it, from what I've experienced, is like the older you get, the more that you rely on friends, on your financial stability, your health. And all of these things needs to be maintained. So I mean, that has always been a challenge for me.And like especially in the last few years when I was diagnosed with depression, you know, there are times where you just want to vent to a friend. You just want to meet up with someone that you feel safe with. And you just want to talk about everything that's on your mind, talk about what's in your heart.But for me, that was difficult because I realized that I have not maintained friendships, because I was under the presumption that if you get along with someone, you know, that connection will be there. Right? And I mean, at least in my twenties, I never really considered that maintaining friendships required effort. I always was under the presumption, very naive presumption, that like, oh, we've got chemistry. It'll come back like that. No.And that really was a bitter awakening in the last few years, just wanting to talk to someone who isn't your therapist, who isn't your significant other, who is not your parents, and just dump all of the stuff out on a table. And not just like talking about your problems, but also growing, you know, becoming an adult parallel with your friends. That's something that, you know, is very, very important, I think. And no one tells you that you have to maintain friendships. Growing up, at least no one told me. So that's — that was one of the things that really hit me in the teeth.If you find people of value in your life, you do need to touch base with them often. It's just I've never been good at consistency. So it's more of just the repetition of that effort has always been difficult, because then that falls into the routine. It's less novel and interesting, and it just kind of falls into the routine. Like the thought of maintaining something is just like, ugh, work. It's automatically in a work category and then it no longer becomes fun. I mean, this limiting mindset, that's kind of how I approached friendships for a while.One of the things that I realized just very recently, and this has been in due part to therapy, is that the reason why I was so averse to things like maintaining effort, maintaining fitness, or maintaining financial health or, you know, maintaining friendships, is that my presumption of what it takes to do that work has always been skewed. It has been contaminated by a perfectionist mindset, an all-or-nothing mindset, that any effort that you do has to be turned up to 111 in order for it to count.And with that corrupted mindset, every time I thought of doing work to maintain these things, I immediately was just like, I'm too tired. I cannot do this. Because I assumed that the effort it took was this monumental effort. But something that my therapist told me was that — it was more of a rhetorical question. She asked me, like, with those things, those assignments at work or the effort it requires to maintain certain habits or hobbies. Could you have done any better there and then with the knowledge that you had? And I was like, obviously not. I mean, I did the best I could. And she's like, There you go. You did the best you could with the knowledge you had.And that changed my mind is that maintaining things, half of the battle is showing up. And just recently, the realization that came to me was that I don't need to turn everything up to 11 in order for it to count. Sometimes it just needs to be showing up. Or sending a message to a friend. Sending them a funny meme or GIF or saying, Hey, what's up? You know, just like what's new in your life? These little things, they count more than the gigantic, titanic, Herculean efforts. And with that, it's very liberating. And with that, it's more hopeful, I think.Laura: So, Max, you're here talking with me now, which means that you have a level of self-awareness. You're aware of your diagnoses. You're aware of what you're struggling with. I know that you've got coping strategies in place now. And am I right that you even can joke about some of this now?Max: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I mean, that's the best part is just like my girlfriend. We've been together for five years, and she knows better than most the struggles, but also the humor. And we joke constantly about it. Early in our relationship I told her that, like, I envision my ADHD as a tiny baboon in a control center. He's watching stuff on his phone or got like 20 tabs open. And he's just like going from one thing to the next. He pushes a button here and there. Or he gets hyperfocused on one thing and just like lets the whole thing just melt down.It's easier sometimes to laugh at it — only if you are trying to fix it. Like if you're trying to actually deal with it, then yeah, sure, you can laugh. That's the thing. Like now I'm a grown-ass man, you know, it's on me to fix this.Laura: Do you need to fix it, or do you need to cope?Max: Well, I mean, yeah, maybe a little bit of both. You know, find strategies that work.Laura: I like that better, Max. You use the language that you want, but I like that better. I'm just telling you.Max: Yeah, OK. Healthier.Laura: Max, it's been really nice to talk with you today. I really appreciate your perspective. I love the imagery, the beautiful images that you use. And I appreciate your realism. I think it's necessary.Max: Thank you for this opportunity to talk with you. Just one parting point I think I'd like to make is just that life can be very beautiful with ADHD. I'm not trying to have this like, "oh, poor me" type mentality, you know. And it can be a very powerful tool if wielded correctly.My hope for other people is that they do have an opportunity to find a balance between the gloriousness of the curse so that they can actually get to those perfect vistas that they envision for themselves.Laura: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at I'd love to hear from you.If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at"ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine.Jessamine: Hi, everyone.Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnick is our executive producer, and I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening.

  • Anxiety Mimi started with math but became much more

    I think the best way to start is to be as honest as possible. I’ve always had anxiety. I just didn’t come to terms with it until I got older. (After college, I started to go to therapy.) Now I talk about it, often. I have vivid memories of being nervous during tests in school, and absolutely dreading math exams no matter how much I’d prepared. I’ve always been anxious for things involving numbers, and math has always made me uncomfortable. My anxiety about math came into focus when I was told I had dyslexia around age 8. When doing math problems, I’d constantly switch + and ÷ signs around. It felt “normal” to me to read addition and division symbols incorrectly. In school, everyone I knew had a subject they didn’t like, so I didn’t question whether that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach might be more than just “nerves.” As I got older, anxiety was always a bit of a lingering shadow, something I noticed out of the corner of my eye, until it became all-encompassing. I had my first anxiety attack in college after a snarky remark to a rude teacher made me fear I would lose my student job. (It ended up being OK, but I spent the next five minutes in the hallway crying and hugging myself to calm down).I’ve spent hours on phone calls with friends, asking them to help me reassure myself that the text or email I just sent made sense, that the words were clear and precise and didn’t make me look weird or needy. I remember writing out a text to my now-fiancé after our first date about how great a time I had, about how I’m just bad at flirting and how I hope they had fun too. Rambling on because I wasn’t sure if I’d made that clear on the date itself. If you can’t tell by the words “now-fiancé,” we worked it out just fine after that. Subway ride home Mimi wasn’t 100 percent sure. Just this last week, I lay in bed, looked up at the ceiling, and wondered where the next few months would take me, all while trying not to cry. Anxiety Mimi, as I like to refer to these moments, gets overwhelmed with whatever thoughts are the loudest. She likes to shed some tears. Anxiety Mimi likes to linger, and some days it’s so loud I have to talk on the phone with my therapist — she reminds me that emotions are like the ocean, they change and don’t last, to just breathe and remember that things will be OK. On days when it’s overwhelming, I admit out loud it’s a bad day. Today was a heavy anxiety day and that's OK. Other days it whispers, wondering if that text or email went through or am I just being ignored? The quieter moments are easier to handle than the louder ones, I can’t help but admit that. Sometimes the anxious thoughts linger and hover around like flies, but I swat them away and things move on. Anxiety isn’t exactly something I’ve conquered as an adult, though it is something that’s gotten easier to get a handle on because I speak about it, often. I write out dialogue with it, I talk through it with my friends, my fiancé, my co-workers, even my boss (!) some days. Facing it as “head-on” as possible is scary but it helps.My best advice is to talk it out loud, write it down as lists — as what’s real and what’s not real — and remind yourself to drink lots of water. Simple things like that help me more than anything else. Having a support system helps, too, like my fiancé. On the days when it’s just you and your anxiety, remember you’ll get through it.Read 8 ways to manage anxiety when struggling with math or difficult thoughts.

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    There’s a lot to learn about learning and thinking differences like dyslexia and ADHD. Understood Explains is a podcast that unpacks one important topic each season. Season 1 covers the ins and outs of the process school districts use to evaluate kids for special education services. Host Dr. Andrew Kahn is a psychologist who has spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for schools. He explains each step of the evaluation process and gives tips on how to talk with your child along the way.

  • In It

    What is neurodiversity? An interview with the host of “The Neurodiversity Podcast”

    The term “neurodiversity” seems to be everywhere right now. But what exactly does it mean? And how does it apply to kids who learn and think differently? The term “neurodiversity” seems to be everywhere right now — in the news, the workplace, and even in your podcasts. But what exactly does it mean?In this episode, hosts Amanda Morin and Gretchen Vierstra talk with Emily Kircher-Morris, counselor, author, and host of The Neurodiversity Podcast. Emily has a unique perspective on neurodiversity: She’s a neurodivergent parent to twice-exceptional kids. Listen in to hear Emily talk about what neurodiversity means, how it applies to kids who learn and think differently, and why the language we use matters. Related resources What is neurodiversity?All about twice-exceptional students The Neurodiversity PodcastTeaching Twice-Exceptional Learners in Today’s ClassroomsRaising Twice-Exceptional ChildrenEpisode transcript Amanda: Hi, I'm Amanda Morin. I'm the director of thought leadership and expertise for I'm a parent to kids who learn differently, and I'm a neurodiverse human.Gretchen: Hi, I'm Gretchen. I'm an editor at Understood. I'm also a former classroom teacher and a mom of two. And this is "In It.""In It" is a podcast from the Understood Podcast Network. On the show, we talk to parents, caregivers, teachers, experts, and sometimes even kids. We offer perspective, advice, and stories from and for people who have challenges with reading, math, focus, and other learning differences.Amanda, I've heard your introduction a bunch of times, but I've never heard you introduce yourself as a neurodiverse human. That's a new one.Amanda: Yeah. I thought it was a good segue into our conversation today about neurodiversity because the term "neurodiversity" seems to be everywhere right now. It's in the news. It's in the business world. But we really wanted to explore what it means.And for the answer to this question and more questions, we thought it would be best to talk with my friend Emily Kircher-Morris, who's the host of "The Neurodiversity Podcast." She's also a fellow author, and her book "Teaching Twice-Exceptional Learners in Today's Classroom" came out in August.Gretchen: Oh, hooray!Amanda: Right. And Gretchen, like us, Emily has been a teacher. She's taught in gifted classrooms. She's been a school counselor. And these days, she lives in Missouri. She has a private practice as a licensed professional counselor, and she specializes in helping gifted and twice-exceptional kids.Gretchen: Emily, welcome. I'm so happy to meet you.Emily: Yes, I'm so happy to be here. Thank you for the invitation.Gretchen: And Amanda just gave a great introduction of you, but it's my first time meeting you, so why don't you tell us a little bit more about yourself?Emily: Well, I am also a neurodiverse individual, which is part of why I have the passion that I do for this field. I have three kids. The older two are identified as twice exceptional, and my littlest is only in first grade, but, you know, we'll see how that all goes. I think we can probably make some good predictions, but, you know, this is my life between the podcast and my clinical mental health practice and just kind of advocating and supporting neurodivergent and twice-exceptional people.Amanda: So, basically, what you're saying is you live this the same way the rest of us do. Emily: I do. And, and you know, it's interesting, you know, how people, like, refer to parenting experts or whatever, and I'm going, "Oh, please." I talk about it a lot, and I read about it a lot, and I'm very good at brainstorming solutions, but I do not have it all figured out. We're all in this together. We're all trying to figure it out as we go. And if we can collaborate and work together on it, then that's just best for everyone.Amanda: And we thought who better to collaborate with on an episode about neurodiversity than the host of "The Neurodiversity Podcast." Right? I mean, it's literally in the name of what you do.Emily: It's literally in the name.Gretchen: Yeah. So speaking of that name, how would you actually define neurodiversity?Emily: So. Neurodiversity really is a concept that allows for a lot of different disorders or diagnoses that people have and recognizes that it's not necessarily always a deficit.A neurodivergent person has brain wiring that is atypical compared to the normative population, but that doesn't mean that they are dysfunctional or broken. So when we talk about autism or ADHD, these are things that are innate, that are in place since a person is born; they are not acquired. And there's nothing that you're going to do, like when I have kids come into my counseling practice, who are ADHD'ers or are autistic, like I'm not teaching them how to not have ADHD. Like I'm not, I'm not going to get them to not be autistic. Like that's just part of who they are. And neurodiversity really recognizes that, just like biodiversity in the natural world, having variation is good for the world, and it just kind of normalizes some of that while recognizing that these different neurotypes might operate in the world a little bit differently, but that doesn't mean that it's bad.Gretchen: Emily, that's such a beautiful way to explain the need for this term. And I'm wondering if you can also get into a little bit about what specifically falls under the term "neurodiverse."Emily: So we're talking about, like I mentioned, ADHD; I mentioned autism. We're talking about dyslexia, dyscalculia. Um, some people would put diagnoses like schizophrenia or bipolar or OCD in that category. Most people would not put diagnoses like anxiety, like generalized anxiety or, um, you know, major depressive disorder, but there's kind of like, in my mind, I visualize this Venn diagram where we have neurodivergent diagnoses and then we have mental health diagnoses, but there's definitely some overlap, like OCD, to me, I'm not quite sure where that should really fall.Amanda: I would say neurodiversity. I actually have OCD. So, to me, it feels like it.Emily: Well, it's, it's interesting because there's not necessarily an agreed-upon definition of what neurodiversity is or is not because I also, I agree with you on that, Amanda. But I also think there are some instances where, if the premise is that neurodiversity is something that somebody is born with, OCD is not always something that somebody is born with. It's like, depending on who you're talking to, you're getting different parameters for where things fall. And so, that's kind of why I say, I think it kind of straddles a little bit, depending on the individual.And I would also say that for example, um, I would put cognitive diversity or cognitive giftedness in the category of neurodiversity, and I think that's one that doesn't get recognized quite often. And I would also say twice-exceptional individuals, who are gifted and have another one of those diagnoses or a mental health diagnosis, if they need additional supports, like, they are also then neurodivergent.It's very broad and ambiguous is my point, but why I like the term. I do talk about my clients both as a group but also individually when I'm talking to their parents, I use the term "neurodiverse" as a way to explain and normalize their experiences, you know, because I feel like what happens is sometimes we fall into this, like, "Oh, well, they're just a little quirky." And I think more than anything, what that does is it minimizes a person's struggles. It disallows them access to accommodations. It enhances the stigma that surrounds those diagnoses.And I'm very much a believer that let's just call something what it is. And if we don't know what it is, there are kids, especially in my practice, who maybe we can tell are neurodivergent, like, we just know, but is it ADHD? Is it autism? Like, what exactly is going on? It can be very difficult to tease out. Do we need a full psychological evaluation? Do we need it for an IEP or a 504? Do we need medication? If we don't need any of those things, is it useful just for the person to have a label? Sometimes that's empowering for people to know what to call something. But sometimes we can just go, you know, they're neurodivergent, their brain works differently, and we don't necessarily have to drill down much further than that. It can be kind of an umbrella term.Amanda: That's super helpful. And also, as I'm listening to you say that, I had this moment because I realized when I talk about myself now, I talk about being neurodivergent. Diagnoses, labels, how that impacts me. But when I talk about who I used to be when I was a kid, I often will say I was a quirky kid. And I never thought about the fact that, that's actually, like, what I'm doing there is I'm minimizing who I was. Right?Emily: And you were an unidentified neurodivergent learner.Amanda: I was an unidentified neurodivergent learner. I wasn't just a quirky kid. There was actually something bigger there. I need to stop saying that. I need to stop saying I was a quirky kid.Emily: You know, I also want to just address the fact, though, that there are a lot of folks who like to talk about neurodiversity as a superpower. And I think that is also kind of like talking about like being a quirky kid. I think it diminishes the needs that go along with it.And there is nobody who is a part and really active in the neurodiversity movement who denies that being neurodivergent can be a disability. And what does that really mean? You know, Amanda, it's like, you know, I have glasses as well. It's like, I can see as long as I have the accommodation of my glasses. If you take away my glasses, I can't see anything.Amanda: Right.Emily: So I am then disabled. I'm unable to function in the world as others do. And so if I am an ADHD'er and I need certain accommodations in order to be able to focus, or if I have certain sensory processing needs, I can still fulfill my potential. I can still live my life as long as those accommodations are put in place. But if the world refuses to put those accommodations in place, then I am disabled.Amanda: And that's the social model. Like that's something that you and I talk about, know about, and I think I'm just going to like, take a pause and, you know, just for the listeners who don't —Gretchen: Good idea, maybe for me too.Amanda: The social model of disability is speaking about how you interact with the environment, and that the environment is what can cause you to feel more or less disabled. And it's not that you are inherently disabled, right? It's how the environment interacts with whatever differences or, you know, challenges that you have. You know, like, if we didn't have to read, the glasses wouldn't matter, right? If we didn't have to see each other, the glasses wouldn't matter. I just think it's important to note that that's sort of where that social model comes in is, is it's different than a medical model that says there's something inherently wrong with a person, right? Emily: And the neurodiversity movement, and neurodiversity just in general, lives in the world of the social model of disability.Gretchen: Emily, I've noticed you've been talking about people who may have ADHD as ADHD'ers, right? So that, I'm noticing, is different than some other language that I've heard where it's person first, and then the difference. And the way that you've been speaking sounds to me like the neurodivergent first. Can you explain that?Emily: Absolutely. I am an ADHD'er; I have a diagnosis of ADHD. I was given that diagnosis, but without the ADHD, I am not who I am. I am no longer Emily. There is just so much of that that is inherent because it is part of my neurological wiring, and neurodivergent communities were not the first to embrace this.The Deaf community — they use identity-first language: "I am a Deaf person." I believe that blind and visually impaired people also use identity-first language, because you can't separate it from how they interact with the world and how they see themselves. Autistic individuals. I am autistic. I'm not a person with autism.It's not like you can just like, get rid of that pesky autism, and then everything's just going to, you know, work OK. And we don't want to, we don't want to get rid of those things. Like, the reason I have the ideas that I have, the reason I can have 12,000 million things going on all at once is because the way my brain works, and if my brain didn't work that way, I wouldn't be an ADHD'er, but I also wouldn't be me.And there's an ownership to that, right? Like, this is who I am. I'm not perfect. I have strengths, I have struggles, but don't try to fix me because of the way my brain is wired. Somebody who is dyslexic, for example, what are the skills and the compensatory strategies that they build, and how does that influence their personality and how they interact with the world and how they see themselves? Like, you can't extricate that.Amanda: That makes sense. I want to actually circle back to something because we touched on it a little bit — is the "twice exceptional" thing. Emily and I both are twice exceptional, which is such a strange phrase. Sometimes you hear it as 2e; I'd love for you to talk about what that means.Emily: Yeah. So maybe I'll just go back and share a little bit about my story. So when I was growing up, my mom was a special educator in the school district where I attended school. And thank goodness, because I was a hot mess. And so she was on it, but she insisted, you know, when I was in second grade, that I was screened for the gifted program. She's like, this is not typical development, you know, with the things that I was doing and the questions I was asking and how I was learning. And so. Yeah, the district tested me and I was placed in the gifted ed program. But then by the time I was in fifth grade, I was really struggling. I mean, I have teachers who tell the story about having to dump out my desk to find my work. And we could get in a whole lot of different conversations about my experiences there, but, but the bottom line is I was really struggling.And so my mom went and found a neurologist. This was at a time that ADHD was still pretty new. It was very rarely diagnosed in girls. And I had teachers who would say, "Well, we don't think she should be allowed to go to her gifted education program because she's not getting her work turned in. I'm like, "Well, you're asking me to write spelling words five times each and I already know how to spell those words." So I don't want to do that. And that was at a time that we didn't even have the terminology "twice exceptional." So, "twice exceptional" means gifted and another diagnosis. So when I started out as a teacher, I started in just the general education classroom. As far as executive functioning goes, that was a really difficult environment for me.And so I quickly moved and got a master's degree in education with gifted education certification. And I've taught at both the elementary and the middle school levels in gifted ed programs. But when I got that master's degree, we didn't even talk about the term "twice exceptional." So this is like within the last 15 years that people have even really started to understand that somebody can have cognitive giftedness and have another diagnosis, and that they can still deserve and need services both for their cognitive ability to challenge them, but also special education services at the same time. And this is like blowing people's minds in the education world. Cause they just don't know where these kids fit. And when I was taught in the gifted ed classrooms, like that's where, like I found the kids who I connected with and they were of course the twice-exceptional kids, and I wanted to do more to support them.So I went back and got a second master's, in counseling and family therapy. And that's where I specialize with those kids. My mission is to protect those kids from some of the experiences I had as a kid, because it really sucked growing up in a world that didn't understand twice exceptionality.Amanda: Absolutely. You know, there's nothing quite like knowing there are things that you are brilliant at doing, and there are things that you are falling down at doing, and not being able to know why they both happen at the same time. There are some states now that look at gifted education as special education. And I think those are states that are doing it right, right? Because they're looking at the fact that it's specialized instruction, no matter why you need that specialized instruction.Going back to the whole parenting experts thing. I do think that there's an expectation sometimes when you have a neurodiverse child, when you have neurodivergence in your home, when you have twice exceptionality, there's this expectation that you've got to get it right as a parent; that you know how to do this. And I am here to tell you, you have no idea. Like, I have no idea how to do this.Emily: It changes day to day.Amanda: It does. And I'm not automatically a better, more prepared parent because of the kids I have. I just think it's important for parents to know that just because you have a child who is neurodivergent, you have a child who's twice exceptional, it doesn't mean you have to be better at parenting than anybody. You're just doing your best, right?Emily: You're parenting your child.Gretchen: I like that. But I still will go to you for advice, Amanda.Amanda: Well, you know, now you know Emily, so there we go.Emily: There's not so much. I always feel like, people will say, "Well, what should I do?"And it's not so much advice, but it's like, well, what have you tried? What other options are there? And like, let's just brainstorm it together. I might have more ideas just because I do this every day and brainstorm with people. And I've seen things that work for other families, but I am not the expert on your child.You're going to know what might work for your personality and their personality for the specific thing that's going on. But sometimes you've just got to step back for a minute and kind of figure out, "What could I do differently? This isn't working. I need to do something different. What is that different thing?"Amanda: Well, if you just recognize that you need to do something different is a big step too. Emily: You know, one thing I would, I would say to that, Amanda — and this is another one of my soapboxes that I like to get on, especially when it comes to neurodiversity and parenting neurodivergent kids — is that so many of us were raised with very behaviorally based interventions, meaning disciplines, as far as rewards, punishments, those sorts of consequences.You will not bribe your neurodivergent child into executive functioning. Like, that's just not how it works. And so taking things away from them or promising them whatever if they are able to do X, Y, and Z, it doesn't solve the problem. It doesn't teach the lagging skill. You might get some short-term benefit, but we have got to move away from behavioral solutions for neurological wiring difficulties.I think we do so much damage to kids by giving them consequences for things that really — not that they can't control, but they don't know how to control.Amanda: That's a soapbox I will stand on with you anytime. Well, Emily, thank you so much for talking to us today. Gretchen: So great to meet you and talk with you today.Emily: Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure.Amanda: You've been listening to "In It," part of the Understood Podcast Network.Gretchen: You can listen and subscribe to "In It" wherever you get your podcasts.Amanda: And if you like what you heard today, please tell somebody about it.Gretchen: Share it with the parents you know.Amanda: Share it with somebody else who might have a child who learns differently. Gretchen: Or just send a link to your child's teacher. Amanda: "In It" is for you. So we want to make sure that you're getting what you need.Gretchen: Go to to share your thoughts and also to find resources from every episode.Amanda: That's the letter U, as in Understood, dot O R G, slash "in it." You can also email us at As a nonprofit and social impact organization, Understood relies on the help of listeners like you to create podcasts like this one to reach and support more people in more places. We have an ambitious mission to shape the world for difference. And we welcome you to join us in achieving our goals. Learn more at "In It" is produced by Julie Subrin, with special help this week from Anna Mazarakis. Justin D. Wright mixes the show. Mike Errico wrote our theme music. Laura Key is our editorial director at Understood. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick and Briana Berry our production directors. Thanks for listening, everyone. And thanks for always being in it with us.

  • Why some kids don’t listen

    It can be really frustrating when kids don’t seem to listen when you ask them a question or give them an instruction. You might wonder if there’s a problem or if they’re ignoring you on purpose. A lot depends on age. When kids are little, they often don’t seem to be listening. They may be wrapped up in a game they’re playing. Or they may hear you but not look at you, so you don’t realize they are listening. As kids get older, they typically learn a simple social rule — when someone is talking, you stop and look at the person, so the person knows you’re listening. Sometimes, though, it becomes obvious that a child doesn’t listen very well. What could be causing that? It’s possible the child has a hearing problem, and that’s the first thing to check out. But there are other reasons kids have a hard time listening.Two common cases are trouble with language or trouble with following directions. Focus challenges can also play a role. No matter what’s causing the difficulty, it’s important to know that kids don’t mean to be disrespectful. They just need help building the skills they need for listening.  

  • MissUnderstood: The ADHD in Women Channel

    From, this is MissUnderstood: The ADHD in Women Channel. It’s the first-ever podcast channel for women with ADHD. For decades, women with ADHD have been overlooked and undiagnosed. That’s finally beginning to change. But there’s still so far to go. This is where MissUnderstood comes in. We’re a channel made by women with ADHD for women with ADHD. And we’re talking about the things we want to hear. Women with ADHD need (good!) information, smart takes on ADHD topics, and so much more.Hang out with @catieosaurus and guests as they discuss ADHD, relationships, and sex on Sorry, I Missed This. Get answers to the ADHD questions you didn’t know you had from Dr. Monica Johnson on ADHD and…. Or tune in for practical tips from empathetic ADHD coach (who’s totally been there) Jaye Lin with Tips From an ADHD Coach.

  • In It

    To medicate or not to medicate ADHD: One family’s story

    How do you decide if ADHD medication is right for your child? Hear one family’s journey and get answers to common questions about ADHD medication. ADHD medication. How do you decide if it’s right for your child? It’s a very personal decision that often takes time. Learning about the experiences of other families can help. In this episode, hosts Rachel Bozek and Gretchen Vierstra talk with Amelia, a mom whose son started taking ADHD medication during high school. Amelia shares the journey that led to the decision to medicate, including the worries she had. Find out how her son feels about taking medication. And hear Amelia’s advice for families who are making this decision. Plus, get answers to common questions about stimulant medication from Dr. Kamille Williams, a psychiatrist who has lots of experience talking with families about ADHD medicines. Related resourcesADHD medication side effectsHow does ADHD medication work? Listen to this episode of Understood Explains Season 2 to learn more about medication: ADHD medication: What do I need to know? Episode transcriptGretchen: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "In It," a podcast about the ins and outs...Rachel: ...the ups and downs...Gretchen: ...of supporting kids who learn and think differently. I'm Gretchen Vierstra, a former classroom teacher and an editor here at Understood.Rachel: And I'm Rachel Bozek, a writer and editor raising two kids with ADHD. Today we're talking about ADHD medication and how to figure out if it's right for your kid.Gretchen: Later, we'll be putting some questions to Dr. Kamille Williams, a psychiatrist in Atlanta who has a lot of experience talking with parents and kids about the benefits and risks of medication.Rachel: But first, we're talking to Amelia. Amelia is the mother of a boy we're going to call Sam, who started on ADHD meds just before his first year of high school. Getting to that point was a long and winding journey, and Amelia's sharing her family's experience with us in the hope that it might help other families find their way a little bit more easily.Gretchen: We were so happy to welcome her onto the podcast.Rachel: Hello. It's really nice to meet you.Amelia: Yes, you too. I'm so happy to be here.Gretchen: So I think we're going to just start off by having you tell us a little bit about your son.Amelia: He is 14, and he has just really started to become a teen. And what I mean by that is that the irritation levels that he has with his parents have really ratcheted up an extra notch in the past few months.Gretchen: I totally get that.Amelia: So, yes. So, he's 14. He's a freshman in high school. He's really into art. He's really into television and comedy and "The Simpsons" and "South Park" and all of that kind of stuff.Rachel: So when did you first realize that he might have a learning or thinking difference?Amelia: Really, really young. But I think we were kind of in denial about it for a super long time. But I remember in pre-K, he said that school was so boring that he spent time — they had like a letter border around the edge of the room, the ABCs. And he was very proud that he not only could do his ABCs backward, but he could do the whole song. And he's like, yeah, that's what I do with my time at school.And we got called in frequently by his pre-K teacher — not because he was disruptive. He's always been very good at sitting in one place and focusing. But because he constantly asked questions. And we were young, new parents and we're like, oh, we thought that that was a good thing, right? Like kids, you know, smart kids ask a lot of questions. So we kind of like kicked the can down the road a little bit.But he really hated school pretty consistently from kindergarten on. By the time fifth grade rolled around, things were not getting better. And I remember going in, like to a math class, you know, they did one of those, like invite the parents in for an hour in the morning things. And it was a math demo. And I could see immediately sitting with him that the other children — not all, but most — were doing, you know, one worksheet and then a second worksheet and then a second one. Like it was meant to be a fun math thing. And for my son, it was just not that way at all. He was stuck on problem one and two the entire time.Gretchen: It was at that point that Amelia and her husband decided it was time to take Sam's struggles in the classroom more seriously. They set up a meeting with the school where it was recommended that they get him a full neuropsych evaluation, which they did.Amelia: And that revealed, you know, the ADHD inattentive, also mild ASD — autism spectrum disorder. So mild that nobody had picked up on it prior. Oh, and also a processing issue with writing.Rachel: All of this was a lot for Amelia and her husband to take in. But they were glad to have some answers. That said, they weren't sure how Sam would take it.Amelia: When we told him, we really tried to frame it as, you know, this is actually kind of a superpower. Like people who have ADHD can focus so intensely on the things that they love and can be so good at the things that they love. And he cried. He cried a lot. And he — it was not, it was not sad tears. He seemed so relieved to have a name for what was going on with him. And then when he heard that there was medication available, he was like, "Oh my God. Well, you know, maybe I should take that."Gretchen: So, Sam was all for trying the meds. But Amelia and her husband had a bunch of concerns.Amelia: I sort of just thought it was like legal speed, right? I thought that he wouldn't sleep. I thought that he wouldn't really eat. I think I just really had a lot of biases around it. Like it's going to make him into, like, a robot who can do school, right?Rachel: I think the concerns that you just mentioned are so common.Amelia: Oh, can I just say one other thing I thought, which is actually opposite to the truth. I thought that it would be a gateway to relying on other drugs, self-medicating in other ways. That was another thing that I really, you know, just underneath it all, part of why I resisted. Because, of course, that's something you worry about when, you know, your kid is maybe not a big joiner anyway, and maybe has rebel tendencies anyway. right? It's in the back of the back of my mind. So that was another reason.Gretchen: Despite all these reservations, Amelia and her husband were slowly coming around to the idea of trying the meds. And then midway through sixth grade, COVID hit.Rachel: At that point, Amelia says the idea of having their son taking a stimulant while being stuck at home all day just seemed like a really bad idea. She was convinced he would be bouncing off the walls. So they put it off again.Gretchen: Then a year later, Sam began having pretty debilitating health problems. He was ultimately diagnosed with Crohn's disease. And once again, trying out meds for his ADHD got put on the back burner while they adjusted to this new challenge.Rachel: Throughout this time, Sam continued asking about the medication. And so finally, toward the end of middle school, with his health issues under control, they decided to give it a go. And the results were almost instantaneous.Amelia: So he started the spring semester of eighth grade, and things improved so quickly. It was kind of a wonder. Not only was it not painful anymore for him to sit and do school, not only did he stop saying things like "I'm the dumb one in class," right? Because that had been going on since sixth grade. Like "I'm the dumb one. You guys think that I'm smart, but I'm dumb.".But that was his first experience in all of middle school of having a real friend group. And I have to think that there's a correlation. I think him finally being able to focus on conversations and just sort of not dreaming the day away, let him tune in socially in a new way.Gretchen: Wow. And what did he say about it to you? About how it was making him feel at school?Amelia: He had a few rough days, like when we first started, where he's like, I feel weird. And, you know, even then I'm like, oh, do you want to stop? And he's like, no, I want to, you know, see how it goes. And very quickly, like once we got the dosage worked out and the type of medication worked out, he was like, oh, this is what it's like for other kids. Like, the teacher tells us what to do and they just hear it and don't have to ask three more times "What are we supposed to do?" So I think it was a really big relief for him.Rachel: Have there been any negative side effects or anything you've seen that has made you second-guess this decision?Amelia: I still, in the depths of my mind, I'm like, you know, I'll ask questions of myself, right? Like, is he going to be on this forever? And then I think, well, that wouldn't be so bad because he's so much more functional on it. He doesn't want to not take it on weekends, because he just simply functions better in every way when he is taking the medication.One little concern we have because of the Crohn's just has to do with eating and growth. He doesn't have too much of an appetite during the day. So we try to get calories in first thing in the morning and at the very end of the day, you know, he'll eat a significant amount. So, you know, that's on my mind a little bit. But he almost slept better than before. It was almost easier for him to go to sleep, which shocked me. So I think that he could have had an easier road through middle school had we just started sixth grade having him on medication.Gretchen: Well, just know that you're not alone in saying that. I wish we had done it sooner. There's so many families that say that. Because it's hard. I'm sure Rachel can attest to that too. It's really hard.Rachel: Absolutely. I'm curious if you have any advice for other families, people who are going through this process and trying to figure out whether or not they should give medication a try for their child. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for how they can think about it?Amelia: I think it's really hard to see your child in pain, whether the pain is social or whether the pain is like "I'm dumb," or, you know, there is a pain inherent in "I hate school," right? That sucks. You spend all your time at school like, should you hate it?So I would say for families who have this diagnosis or even suspect that this might be lurking, right? And maybe a teacher hasn't flagged it, but something's off? To just really kind of listen to that and think, you know, could my child's day-to-day life be sort of happy and manageable if it isn't now?Not to say that, you know, it takes a lot of things to have a happy and manageable life. It's not only, you know, you take a pill and life is perfect. But to have this going on in your brain and have this possibility and kind of leave it on the table, if your child is really suffering with school, I guess I would just say to try to not pathologize what could be an amazing tool that will allow your child to sort of flourish instead of just avoid.Gretchen: Amelia, we're so thankful that you were willing to come on our show and tell your story. Thank you so much.Amelia: It's my pleasure. If it can help anybody, you know, I'm thrilled to do it.Rachel: Thank you. Amelia's story gets at so many of the anxieties I think a lot of parents have when thinking about trying stimulants for their kids. We thought it might be helpful to add some insights from an expert to help us understand these medications a little better.Gretchen: So we reached out to Dr. Kamille Williams. Dr. Williams is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Morehouse School of Medicine.Rachel: She specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry and in the assessment and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. She's also a psychiatrist with a practice in Atlanta.Gretchen: Before we turn to Dr. Williams, we want to make clear to really important things. One is that ADHD medication is not the only way to treat ADHD. There are absolutely non-medication ways to help kids with ADHD. Families can work with a doctor or therapist to figure out what's the best path for them.Rachel: And two, if you do decide to give medication a try, remember that it may take some trial and error to find the right one and the right dose for your kid.Gretchen: OK. So getting back to Dr. Williams, the first thing we wanted to ask her was, what do you say to parents or caregivers who aren't comfortable with the idea of giving their kids a stimulant because they think of it as an upper? You know, the type of thing some folks take when they need to pull it all-nighter to finish a project?Dr. Williams: I would say that their concern is definitely valid and especially with this off-market use that getting it from doctors who prescribe it. But in reality, individuals who have sort of ADHD have an imbalance that that medication actually corrects. So for them, taking the medication will actually regulate the symptoms.Rachel: So it's like they have a different starting point.Dr. Williams: Exactly. If we compared it on a scale, they would be at a two for the type of neurotransmitter that the medication regulates, whereas average people could be like a five or six. And so taking the medication will boost them to the five or six. Whereas someone who's already out of five or six would just go straight to a ten.Gretchen: Dr. Williams also confirmed what Amelia said, that while we may fear that these medications could serve as a gateway to drug abuse or addiction, research shows the opposite. Generally speaking, she says, those who deal with addiction are actually trying to self-treat for what they're dealing with.Rachel: For those families who are trying one of the stimulant medications. Dr. Williams has some advice. First of all, as was the case with Sam, they may affect a child's appetite.Dr. Williams: Let parents know when they're prescribed stimulants that it's good to have a hearty breakfast when they take the medicine, because usually around lunchtime, they're not going to have that desire to eat because they're not going to feel hungry. And then once the medicine wears off towards the afternoon and evening time, it's going to ramp back up that they're going to try to catch up on the calories that they didn't get throughout the day because of the medication.Rachel: What's right could change over time.Gretchen: Yep.Rachel: As your kid gets older and they're in high school or college or maybe working a job, they may need to take a booster dose, which is smaller than a regular dose, to help them focus in the evening.Gretchen: But it also means that kids can take a break from the medication if they want to — say, on the weekends.Dr. Williams: Definitely. We promote the idea of having what's called drug holidays. So the weekends, spring break, holiday break, things where they don't have to be focused to perform their best and do things, to not take the medication, just be. Because it works in the body for the amount of time that it's designed and it doesn't have like lingering effects compared to other medication.Gretchen: OK. So some families might wonder this: Is medication a cure-all for someone with ADHD? Like if their kid finds the pill that works best for them, do they just take it for the rest of their life and that's it? ADHD is no longer a thing to think about.Dr. Williams: I like to tell my parents and families that ADHD, like anxiety, is like diabetes, like blood pressure. You manage it. It will ebb and flow and change. The older you get, certain symptoms sort of resolve itself, but they're certain symptoms that will continue to stay. And that — it just depends on how life goes for a person if they decide to take medications versus not.There's ebbs and flows where there's periods of like I want to try without being on medications versus like, I think I want to restart medications again because it's been helpful. So I wouldn't call it a cure-all. This is a form of treatment that helps manage symptoms so that you're able to be your best self and be stable and do the things that you like to do.Gretchen: Well, we want to thank you so much for answering all our questions about medication today.Dr. Williams: Yes, of course.Rachel: Thank you so much.OK, so we know that was a lot of information and we just hope that it was really helpful to you, whether you are thinking about trying medication for your child for the first time, or maybe you've tried something and it doesn't seem like it's working and you want to look into something new.Gretchen: Yeah. And of course, a reminder that any decision about taking a prescribed medication should be made together with a doctor or psychiatrist who can help you figure out what's going to work best for your child.Rachel: And if you still have questions about ADHD medications, we have an excellent episode of "Understood Explains" where Dr. Roberto Olivardia gets into all of it. We'll link to that episode in our show notes.Gretchen: You've been listening to "In It" from the Understood Podcast Network.Rachel: This show is for you. So we want to make sure you're getting what you need. Email us at to share your thoughts. We love hearing from you.Gretchen: If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.Rachel: is a resource dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at "In It" is produced by Julie Subrin. Briana Berry is our production director. Justin D. Wright mixes the show. Mike Errico wrote our theme music.Rachel: For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. Thanks for listening.Gretchen: And thanks for always being in it with us.

  • How I make school report cards less scary for my kids

    Report cards can be a big deal for both parents and kids, especially at the end of the school year. For struggling students, getting a report card can feel like a make-or-break moment. They may dread seeing the report card comments. Each semester’s grades can feel like a great weight on their shoulders. But I’ve learned that school report cards don’t have to be this heavy — or scary. For almost 16 years, I’ve navigated life as the parent of two kids — one with learning differences and one without. As an educator and parent advocate, I try to use report cards as helpful tools. I think this is important for all kids. And it’s extra important for neurodivergent kids. Here are four ways I make report cards less scary for my kids and me. 1. I try to avoid report card surprises. At the start of the school year, I write all the important dates in my calendar, including when report cards come out. This way I’m not surprised when they arrive at my house. I also use the parent portal at my kids’ schools so I can monitor their grades in real time. A lot of schools offer this kind of access. Some of them will even send an email each time a homework or test grade gets entered in the system.There’s one other important step I take so I won’t be surprised when I see my kids’ grades. I try to build strong relationships with their teachers so we stay in touch about progress. This is especially important for my child who has an IEP. Getting frequent updates is a key part of tracking progress toward meeting annual IEP goals.2. I talk with my kids about the value of report cards.Before report cards arrive, I talk about how I view them with my kids. I see report cards as snapshots — not the whole story — of my kids’ progress throughout the semester and year. I also talk about the overall value of the report card without putting too much emphasis on the grades. I remind my kids that reading the teacher comments in their report cards is just as helpful as seeing their grades and can provide good insight. For example, my oldest son has average grades but really good relationships with his teachers. I celebrate the whole picture in addition to talking about report card grades. 3. I recognize the effort my kids made. It’s important to view the report card as more than just a reflection of final academic performance. I try to see the bigger picture and recognize the effort and progress my kids are making. For instance, one of my kids struggles with some big concepts in math. So we make every effort to celebrate his progress on the smaller ones. Those successes might not be visible in the final grades. That’s why we need to recognize those milestones along the way and praise his hard work and dedication.In other words, I give the kind of praise that helps build self-esteem. 4. I help my kids move forward and plan for what’s next.I help my kids see the report card as a road map. We look at the report card together and plan for where they might need extra help. For example, my son receives support for executive function challenges. I help him understand that it’s OK to make mistakes or have setbacks — they’re just part of the learning process. I also let him know that I understand his challenges but believe in his abilities. I use the report card to come up with a plan to tackle these challenges and set goals for the future. Our goal-setting discussions help teach important life skills like coming up with a plan and sticking to it.And last but not least, I remind my kids that no matter what grades or comments come home, every child learns at their own pace. Every report card is a chance to reflect, learn, and grow. And every setback can be reframed as an opportunity to help my kids move forward.

  • In It

    Listen to the joys and frustrations of supporting kids who learn and think differently. Hosts Rachel Bozek and Gretchen Vierstra talk with parents, caregivers, teachers, and sometimes kids, offering support and advice for and from people who struggle with reading, math, focus, and other learning differences. Comments? Email us at

  • ADHD Aha!

    Twice exceptional: Raising a gifted son with ADHD (Emily’s story)

    From a very young age, Emily’s son would have meltdowns and get intensely angry. He was also really bright. From a very young age, Emily Hamblin’s son would have meltdowns and get intensely angry. He was also really bright. He was ahead of the curve academically and scored in the 99th percentile on standardized testing. His teachers would say he was just “smart and quirky.” That didn’t sit right with Emily, though. She knew something else was going on.Then one day, a friend suggested that Emily look into ADHD. Emily was skeptical at first. But when she learned more, it was clear that this was the missing puzzle piece. Her son was twice exceptional: He’s gifted and he has ADHD. This discovery even helped Emily recognize ADHD symptoms in herself.Emily co-hosts a podcast called Enlightening Motherhood, which aims to help moms who are overwhelmed by their kids’ big emotions. Listen in to hear how Emily reframes ADHD symptoms in a positive light.Related resourcesThe challenges of twice-exceptional kids7 myths about twice-exceptional (2e) students Twice-exceptional Black and brown kids (The Opportunity Gap podcast episode)Episode transcriptEmily: I had a friend and I heard her talking to someone about her child's behaviors. And I kind of stopped in my track because it was the first time I heard someone describe my son's behaviors. At the time, I took it as, "Oh, he's just disrespecting me." But finally, that friend said, "You know, that sounds like impulsivity. Have you ever thought that he has ADHD? Because emotional dysregulation is also a part of ADHD." And I was like, "No, no, no. There's no way he has ADHD. He can sit down and read a book without blinking for three hours. If he had ADHD, he couldn't focus that long, right?" And I of course, I fought against it. Then I looked it up and was like, "Oh, my goodness."Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host. I'm here today with Emily Hamlin. Emily is a life coach and a mom to a son who's gifted and has ADHD. She's also the host of "Enlightening Motherhood," a podcast dedicated to empowering moms of kids with big emotions. Hi, Emily. I'm so happy to have you on the show today.Emily: I'm so excited to be here. Thank you.Laura: Let's start by telling our listeners and me about your son.Emily: I'm going to use a pen name for him just to keep his identity a little bit confidential. I'll call him Jack. Jack has always been so bright. He was the kid when he was one year old, and we brought him up to the light switches he would study which light turned on. We'd see him turn and predict which one it was and get this look of satisfaction when he got it right. And so he's always been really, really bright. And when he was in preschool —he was 3 years old — I remember he started to have some kind of really intense behaviors. He would have meltdowns and scream and just become so intensely angry. And I felt like it wasn't very normal, like the twos were actually OK. Everyone says terrible twos, but for us, it was 3 and 4 that was when the, those kind of behaviors started popping up. But I kind of felt that it wasn't super typical.And I went to his preschool teacher and I remember saying, "He's doing great academically, but we're seeing these behaviors pop up." And she would say, "Oh, no, he's just copying the other kids, throwing fits at school," or "Oh, he's just a little bit quirky because he's so bright." And in kindergarten, he was reading 100 sight words before kindergarten, and he went to school, and they would say, "OK, well, here's the letter 'A.' It makes the sound 'Ah.'" And so, he would start to act up in kindergarten. And again, the teacher would call me in and she said, "Well, let's just skip him to first grade. I think that will solve all of his behavioral issues." And I was like, "Oh, he's already the little kid in kindergarten. I don't want to have him be this tiny kid in first grade," but that's kind of what was offered.So, we tried a lot of, you know, sticker charts and what I could at the time, never really figuring out the underlying issue. And we got him through that patch. First grade, he had a really good teacher who recognized "OK, he does not need to sit and read line by line with us in this book. Here, Jack, you can bring this book to the corner. You can read at your own pace." And it was like the perfect fit that we've ever had for him for schooling, but he still told me one time, "Mom, we had to partner read on the rug in school, and the book was just so easy that I decided to lay down out on the rug and roll around and make noises instead."Laura: Oh, wow. So, is this about the time that you discovered that Jack was gifted?Emily: Yes. They tested him in school, and he tested 99th percentile gifted. And there wasn't really a gifted program, but his teacher was accommodating him as much as she could. And it was really great because the homework was the worst when he already knew how to do it beforehand. And he would come home with, "OK, write the word 'cat.'" And he was reading Harry Potter at that point in time. It was like pulling teeth to get him to do it, even though it would only take him about five minutes or so, right? But he would throw a fit for about 40 minutes over not wanting to do the homework. And I couldn't quite figure him out. At this point, I really was suspecting that he was neurodivergent and I went to Google.Laura: Dr. Google.Emily: Yeah, Dr. Google. And I thought maybe he has autism. I don't know. And I went to his teacher, and I said, "Do you think Jack has autism?" She said, "No way. He's just smart and quirky." And that was what they always would say, "No, he just has these little, like, behavioral quirks to him and he's smart, and the two combined," and it wasn't really explaining the intense emotions, which is the hardest thing for us as parents to handle. So, it was not until third grade, where I had a friend and we were at a workout group and I heard her talking to someone about her child's behaviors. And I kind of stopped in my track because it was the first time I heard someone describe my son's behaviors, where he made a little mistake on his homework, and then suddenly he ripped it up and then he was raging for like 20 minutes over this little mistake on his homework. And I stopped in my tracks, I was like, "Can we connect?"And I don't remember exactly where it went from there, but I just remember her being this support. And I would say, "No, I just, I need him to listen to me when I say 'stay off my phone' and he walks past my phone and he gets on my phone and it's like he just ignores me and he disrespects me because he gets on it anyways," I had no idea what impulsivity was or what it meant. But looking back, that's totally what was going on. He just couldn't control that impulse. Whereas at the time I took it as, "Oh, he's just disrespecting me." And the teachers would say, "Oh, he's just been bad in class," or "He won't listen to us." Nobody understood any of that underlying things.But finally, that friend said, "You know, that sounds like impulsivity. Have you ever thought that he has ADHD? Because emotional dysregulation is also a part of ADHD." And I was like, "No, no, no. There's no way he has ADHD. He can sit down and read a book without blinking for three hours. If he had ADHD, he couldn't focus that long, right? Or he couldn't sit still that long, right?" Of course, that's what I thought. What everyone says on your show, what we thought and what we know now.Laura: That's what we do here. Yeah, that's right. So, it sounds like that was the start of your ADHD journey. Maybe your ADHD "aha" moment for your son.Emily: Yeah. And I, of course I fought against it. Then I looked it up and was like, "Oh my goodness." Like it was the whole package. It's not just "He can't pay attention and he can't sit still." It had that whole package, and I went to his third-grade teacher who was really close to students and really perceptive of them, which was great, and I said, "Do you think he might have ADHD?" It was like, "Yes, please go get him evaluated."Laura: Wow. What happened then? How did the evaluation process go?Emily: We just found an ADHD clinic and she emailed us all the forms ahead of time. So, we only had one in-person visit, but filling them out, we did the NICHQ, and looking through those questions and filling them out for him, I was like, "Oh my goodness." He was marking pretty much everyone. I don't remember the exact scale, but like very often, I think is what the highest one pretty much everyone was very often. And as I was filling it out for him, I had my own "aha" moment where I went, "Oh my goodness, I'm checking all these boxes, too." And I never even considered that I could have ADHD. But suddenly it explained my own emotional dysregulation and my own tendency to just get lost in time and not realize that time had passed or procrastination, things like that. It was like a double "aha" moment.Laura: Your son is twice exceptional. Could you define that for our listeners? This is the first time we've had the opportunity to talk about twice exceptional or 2e on the show.Emily: So, he's twice exceptional in it that on the one hand, he is academically gifted, but he also has this additional neurodiverse side to him, which for him is ADHD. So, he has both going on at the same time. Getting that diagnosis was kind of difficult because it was almost like the giftedness was masking the ADHD. He was compensating with his ability to do so well in academics, but we didn't notice really what was going on.Laura: It's so tricky already to spot signs of ADHD. There's so many misconceptions about ADHD and how it presents. That's just got to add this extra layer of misconceptions or confusion.Emily: Yeah, and there's kind of a social conception, too, that children that are academically gifted should be quirky. And so, they would just describe all of those quirks as a result of his giftedness that it couldn't be something else.Laura: Because your son is academically gifted. I imagine there are all these expectations around what he's supposed to be able to do, and he's supposed to be extra mature and extra good at everything. Do you find that that's true?Emily: Yeah, and I had that for a long time, too. I would say "You're too smart to be melting down over brushing your teeth. Can't you see that brushing your teeth will take you three minutes and this fit is taking you 15 minutes? Why don't you just brush your teeth? Why can't you be logical? You're smart enough."Laura: Did you ever feel judged as a parent during this journey?Emily: I mean, definitely. I feel like most parents feel judged for their children's behaviors, and I just felt like it took so much more effort and people didn't realize that I was trying. I would get like phone calls home, "Oh, Jack did this again in class," and I would be like, "OK, I'm working on him and I'm trying." And he was doing his best too. For him, it was frustrating. There was one time he was probably five or six and a neighbor girl came over to invite him to go to the park and she knocked on the door and we answered it and she said, "Hey, Jack, want to come play at the park with me?" And her dad was with her. It was a really safe situation, but he didn't know how to handle it. So, he just like froze and he turned around 180 degrees and just let her stare at the back of his head, and he just shut off.Laura: Oh, wow.Emily: And then they're looking at me like, "So what's going on with your son?" And I'm looking at my poor son, just my heart breaking. I don't know if they were judging me, but at the time, I felt judged. I could imagine them thinking, "Why can't you teach your son social skills instead of realizing, "Oh, your son is trying so hard. He just had a hard time."Laura: From that moment to where you are now, what kinds of things helped you cope with feeling, judged, and what kinds of strategies maybe brought you and Jack closer together or things that you would say?Emily: Mindset is huge. Realizing that he wasn't just trying to be bad, or he wasn't choosing to be impulsive and he wasn't intentionally melting down, realizing that he was really doing his best. There was just a lot going on for him. That helped me out a lot. Also starting to see behavior as communication of something bigger. That was a huge deal. Like, that's probably the biggest thing that I tried to share with everyone.My website has a freebie on why is my child melting down and what's at the root of their intense emotions. And it's this five-step cheat sheet that I, I try to just get everyone to take a look at because the more that we understand that "My child is not intentionally being bad, it's not their fault. It's not my fault. They just need help developing these skills." Like, it just changed me from being upset and trying to get him to behave a certain way to being completely compassionate and trying to help him develop those skills.Laura: Wow.Emily: I say completely, but I'm still human.Laura: Yeah.Emily: I still mess up. I still go back to like, "Why are you doing this?" Pulling my hair out, OK I'm gonna pause. He's doing his best. And what is going on? instead of this like, "What is my child doing?" It's like, "Huh, what is my child doing?" Moving from judging my own child to curiosity, that's helped me, and then realizing other people might be judging me. And they might not be. And it's OK. Like I can be a good mom, even if they're judging me.Laura: A lot of what you just described is the reason that I just went back to therapy. I'm not kidding. I recently went back to therapy just to cope with like, "How am I reacting to my kids? How can I change my mindset about things that bother me, etc." I'm wondering if you could maybe call out a few of the areas where it's tricky to unravel what is a gifted type behavior versus an ADHD behavior. If it's helpful to start you off, I heard you talking about boredom. And from what I know from our experts that we work with, I know that boredom can be a big factor for gifted kids. But boredom is also something that a lot of kids with ADHD struggle with. So, talk to me about symptoms.Emily: I feel like there is a lot of crossover. I've never actually thought about separating them. For my son and for me, we don't see our ADHD as like a debilitating or a disability. We see it as a superpower. Because, and that's actually what I thought was going on. His mind was just always going so fast, and that helped him learn things really quickly and it helped him understand and it helped him come up with these ideas. But it also leads to like acting really fast and you can't wait your turn to speak. You just have to blurt out your answer right now because it's fresh on your mind and you can't wait to share it and interrupting conversations, acting without thinking. I always thought it was just the super-fast brain.But a lot of things like impulsivity is a symptom of ADHD. And I'm like, "But being spontaneous," that's what we always call it, "is really fun and it can be really creative," right? So, is that the giftedness, or is that what most people think is ADHD actually having a good spin on the same symptom?Laura: How does Jack identify? Does he use terms like 2e year or twice exceptional, gifted, ADHD, or just not a thing for him?Emily: It's not really a thing for him. Once in a while, he'll say, "Hey Mom, so I was at school..." and stop mid-sentence, and then he'll come back and say, "Is that because I have ADHD?" Like, he's asking why he just stopped mid-sentence.Laura: Wow. Good for him. I love that curiosity.Emily: And so, we approach it from like, "Yeah, it's likely and it's OK, right? And so, we were totally accepting of it in our house. And rather than, "Oh, that's what's wrong with me," we use it as, "Oh, that explains that quirk."Laura: So, let's talk about your "aha" moment, Emily. When you were going through the evaluation process with Jack, which symptoms stuck out to you? Which symptoms in particular that really spoke to you and who you are as a person?Emily: There are a lot. I think interrupting was an obvious one. When I was first married, I would interrupt my husband a lot to the point where he thought I just didn't care what he was talking about and he thought I didn't care about anything he had to say. And that wasn't it at all. I cared a lot. It was just like the thought came into my head in my mouth opened up, and I didn't realize I was doing it until he stopped me. One day he was like, "Do you realize you just interrupted me like five times in this conversation? You didn't let me finish my sentence." And I stopped and was like, "Oh, really? And why am I doing that?" I was like, "Oh, OK. Well, that's one of my quirks."When I was younger, I did really well in school, but in college, for example, I thought everybody had the same struggles I did with sitting down and reading a textbook. I had to go to the gym to read a textbook. I had to get on a treadmill and walk or ride a bike, or I had to find an empty classroom and stand at a podium and read it out loud or pace around the classroom while reading it out loud, just to get myself to focus on it. So, I did really well in school, and I thought everyone had those struggles. And I honestly, I was graduated, and I was dating my husband, who was still in school, and we sat down — I sat down to grade papers. I was a teacher at the time — and he just put out this super boring history textbook and he sat there, and he read it, and he was turning pages. And I said, "Are you actually like paying attention to that?" He was like, "Yeah." I'm like, "No, like, you didn't have to go back and reread that first page six times?" And he was like, "No, I'm just reading it and paying attention."Laura: Oh my God. It boggles the mind. I mean, for sure I can't. I see people do that too, and I'm like, "What are you doing? Aren't you like, how are you just not moving around?"Emily: Yeah, he wasn't like twitching in his leg or like flipping a highlighter lit or like anything that I do to cope. And I was in my early twenties and was like, "Wait, that's possible? I really thought everyone struggled to read something boring like that."Laura: What about impulsivity? You mentioned that Jack has struggled with some impulsivity or some spontaneity. He has the luxury of being spontaneous. What about you?Emily: Oh, yeah. I'm a teacher and a mom, and it makes for a really fun teacher role. I'll just be sitting with the kids and be like, "You know what, kids? Let's go on a turkey hunt." And we had nothing to do with the lesson plan, but I just looked at the kids and they were fidgeting and the idea pops in my head and suddenly we're acting out a turkey hunt in the classroom and it's so much fun. But I do have to temper it because we want to be wise with that.It's easier as an adult. I think as a child, when my upper brain wasn't fully developed, it was my classic example. I was five or six and I was at my grandma's house visiting her. She had this beautiful — it was probably a handmade doily — on one of her end tables, and there was someone had set a pair of scissors on it. You already know what happened.Laura: Oh, my God.Emily: I didn't even think, I was just like, "I wonder what it's like to cut through that doily." And so, I picked up the scissors and I just cut right through. I don't even know if I cut through it. I just remember cutting it and feeling I was just curious to know the texture of when the scissors went through it. I honestly wasn't trying to be bad. I didn't even think it through. I was just like, "I wonder what it's like to cut through that doily." And I try to remind myself of that when my kids do things that I'm like, "What in the world are you doing?" And like, they probably weren't thinking. They probably just had a thought pop into their head, and they acted on it.Laura: Oh, my gosh. Emily, this is reminding me of something. When I was a kid, I remember that I didn't feel like I had enough shelves in my room, so I just went in, got some shoeboxes and some super glue, and I glued them up to the wall. And they were obviously, they were not perfectly straight either, so they were tilted, so the shelves didn't really work, but I just super glued a bunch of shoeboxes to the wall, and I was like, "Why are Mom and Dad so mad?"Emily: I think that's incredibly creative, which I feel like people with ADHD are incredibly creative. We have these out-of-the-box thoughts who would think to go and grab shoeboxes and super glue it into the wall? Like we could say that negatively, like “Who would ever think to do this?" But we can also think, "Oh my goodness, that is brilliant." You saw a need in your room and you just went for it and you totally thought of a solution that nobody else would have thought of. That's incredible.Laura: Thank you, Emily. And that's very, that's very validating. I appreciate it. Can you call my parents after we record?Laura: Has your son getting diagnosed with ADHD and now you knowing that you have ADHD, has that created a unique bond in any way? Is that brought you closer together? It sounds like you've always been close, but just curious.Emily: Yeah, it's helped me be a lot more empathetic, like where I realized, "Well, I wasn't trying to interrupt my husband," and when he interrupts me, I'm like, "He's not trying to do this. It just kind of that that in his head, in his mouth opened up."Laura: Right.Emily: I'll say something like, "This is our superpower." And his little brother was recently diagnosed with ADHD also. And I'm a little bit suspicious that the third one might have it, but he's not quite old enough yet for us to get him evaluated. And so, yeah, I just, my poor neurotypical husband, he never understands why we're like so creative and so spontaneous and just...Laura: I bet he loves it. That's got to be really exciting, right?Emily: He does, I mean, he married me for a reason, right?Laura: That's a lot of spice of life that you're going to have that you already have in your house.Emily: It is.Laura: You're like "It is, I'm tired."Emily: It's fun. It's fun. I really, I mean, I wouldn't want my kids any other way, but it is a lot of work. Yeah, it really the hardest has been the emotional dysregulation part of it that I had to learn to temper myself. I would just flip a switch and get angry so fast when they were doing something that I thought that they shouldn't and learning to catch myself before I get to that ten.Laura: That is so hard. I find that to be the most difficult thing about parenting. You know, I'll be fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, being a quote-unquote model mom, and I'm just I'm responding calmly to things and gently nudging and teachable moments. And then I just get to this point and I'm just like, "Just go to bed," and I just want to lose it. I'm like, "You got to get out of here. I can't answer this question again." And the way I just said it, it's putting it mildly. So, I feel you and I'm working on it. It's a journey.Emily: We're all working on. It sounds like you're human. Isn't that great?Laura: Thank you.Emily: And we were talking about like ADHD being a superpower. A lot of things list oversharing as a part of ADHD, and I was a little bit mind blown when I read that because I was like, "I've always called it being authentic." And I realized a lot of my really close friends also have ADHD, and a lot of us didn't know until we were in adulthood. And I realized like I was being authentic, they were being authentic.Maybe people were a little bit weirded out because they called it oversharing, but we connected with each other and just felt like we were totally open. And when people come to know me, they know the real me. I can't hide it very well. It's just who I am. And so that it's another spin on "Sure, you might be able to call it oversharing," but for me, I'm like, "I'm just telling it how it is, and now you know who I really am."Laura: You are so good at spinning this. So, I'm going to run down what I've heard so far, and then I may ask for more. So, oversharing, reframing that as authentic. Impulsive, reframing that as spontaneous. Can I try out a few more on you and see what you come back with?Emily: Sure, let's.Laura: Hyperactivity. Hyperactive.Emily: Energetic.Laura: Yeah. Distracted.Emily: Overly attentive.Laura: Oh, this is great. You're so good at this. Let me think. How about disorganized?Emily: I'm still struggling with that one.Laura: Creative.Emily: Human.Laura: Human, there you go. Forgetful.Emily: Oh, learning to use tools. Using a phone alarm all day long.Laura: Got it. Oh, my gosh, procrastinating.Emily: Oh, yeah. You're hitting some of my pain points right now.Laura: Sorry.Emily: Yeah, I don't have a creative spin on that one.Laura: So, you've learned to flip the ones that are primarily maybe your kid's symptoms, but tougher when it's things that are more about us.Emily: Well, yeah, I think just learning to flip the ones that I really do see as being able to be helpful. I can't, procrastinating is just one of those hard things we have to learn to find ways to deal with it, I guess.Laura: That was really good. I'm really impressed with your ability to do that. It's just like you really, your mindset is really lovely.Emily: Thank you.Laura: What's one or two things that you wish more people understood about ADHD?Emily: I think the biggest thing is that people with ADHD are really doing their best, that we're not interrupting you because we don't care about you. I guess that's the biggest one. People with ADHD are doing their best and that might look different than someone's best that doesn't have ADHD, but it doesn't mean that the efforts are not there still. And in fact, many times we're trying two or three times as much to do the same thing.Laura: Tell our listeners about your podcast.Emily: As you said, it's called "Enlightening Motherhood," and our goal is to help moms who are feeling overwhelmed with their children's big emotions, which often lead to big behaviors, too. And it's meant to help empower them so that we can turn that overwhelm to confidence so that they can confidently parent their children. It starts with us with our mindsets, with being able to handle those difficulties, and then we learn a lot of tools that we can apply to parenting.Laura: Emily, it's been so great to talk with you today. Thank you so much for doing this and just for your candor.Emily: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. And I love the work you're doing with this podcast and with Understood. I love to follow you on Instagram and just the compassion that you have for not only people that are neurodivergent, but also trying to get the information out there in the world so that we can all understand each other a little bit more. I just love your mission and what you're standing for.Laura: Oh, thank you so much. You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at I'd love to hear from you.If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine!Jessamine: Hi everyone.Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnick is our executive producer, and I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening. 

  • Download: Feeling stressed? Try the 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness technique

    When you’re anxious or stressed, it can be hard to focus. Taking a moment to breathe can help. There are brief techniques to help you manage anxiety and stress throughout your day. One is the 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness technique. With this method, you use your senses to focus on the present moment. It gives your mind a break from difficult thoughts and feelings. As with any mindfulness technique, make adjustments as you need. It’s all about making it work for you.Download the instructions above to get started. You can also print the instruction sheet. Place it somewhere at home, in your workspace, or wherever you might need a reminder to pause and breathe. Looking for more? Read this article to learn about the difference between stress and anxiety. 

  • ADHD Aha!

    Listen to people share candid stories about the moment it clicked that they, or someone they know, has ADHD. Host Laura Key, who’s had her own ADHD “aha” moment, chats with guests about common topics like ADHD and shame, mental health challenges, and more. Through heartfelt interviews, listeners learn about the unexpected, emotional, and even funny ways ADHD symptoms surface for kids and adults. Comments? Email us at

  • ADHD Aha!

    “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and ADHD

    Laura talks with film writer and editor Ariel Fisher about Best Picture winner Everything Everywhere All at Once and its many connections to ADHD. Laura talks film writer editor Ariel Fisher Best Picture winner Everything Everywhere many connections ADHD. making movie ADHD “aha” moment director Daniel Kwan. film feels like depiction ADHD brain. characters film show ADHD behaviors. Fisher, ADHD, also talks film reflects ADHD journey — getting evaluated diagnosed taking ADHD medication. Related resources Read director Daniel Kwan’s ADHD “aha” momentCheck Ariel Fisher’s piece Everything Everywhere ADHDLearn ADHD brainEpisode transcriptLaura: Understood Podcast Network, "ADHD Aha!," podcast people share moment finally clicked someone know ADHD. name Laura Key. I'm editorial director Understood. someone who's ADHD "aha" moment, I'll host. I'm today freelance writer editor Ariel Fisher. Ariel ADHD she's written number online film television publications, including piece wrote last year Slash Film called "Everything Everywhere Once, Stopped Fighting Learned Love Brain." Welcome, Ariel. Thanks here.Ariel: Thank much me.Laura: I'm excited here. I'm going lie. I'm little bit nervous, you, different approach us "ADHD Aha!" bonus episode; going talking "Everything Everywhere Once." film critic. know are, not. going centering episode around film, won huge Oscars recently, took home seven statues, including Best Picture. allow little bit preamble, Ariel, jump in.Ariel: Absolutely.Laura: want ground audience we're going talking today. So, I'm hoping go three things. third one important it's you, Ariel. first thing want chat creating movie, "Everything Everywhere Once," "aha" moment one directors film Daniel Kwan. So, chat that.I want talk movie portrays ADHD, whether that's intentional not, also movie kind feel like inside ADHD brain people reacted that. think third thing want get is, story parallels see film experience ADHD. So, I'm excited talk that. first thing want chat saw film, know creating film ADHD "aha" moment Daniel Kwan?Ariel: part, hearing look intergenerational trauma families passed much pressure specifically Chinese families. Obviously, focus this. co-worker Hana, brought felt like ADHD. like, "Oh, OK, I'm sold." mean, really intrigued, like, "OK, go see this. see what's going this."Laura: yet point, movie many things. mean, hence title especially articulately summed there. ADHD is, know, don't want imply movie ADHD intention creating film. want read quote article kind took breath away. author article asking directors, Daniel Kwan Daniel Scheinert, Daniels, ADHD influence film, Daniel Kwan replied said making film, aware ADHD connection.So, started researching it, quote writer article. "I stayed like four morning reading everything could find it, ADHD, crying, realizing that, "Oh God, think ADHD." So, movie reason got diagnosed. So, freaked read is, that's "aha" moment show called "ADHD Aha!" mean, think that?Ariel: So, remember hearing hearing interview talked connection ADHD, struck much. Like was, genuinely wasn't really prepared, also familiar sensation, moment brain lights go, "Oh, me. this."And think it's fascinating started place wanting respectful. Like, like, "Well, brain everywhere once? kind sounds like ADHD probably look respectful order portray accurately like stereotype."So, starting main reason even started investigating first place, wound giving really interesting foundation make something legitimately good representation invisible illnesses, ADHD specifically, like idea something like never forefront minds. was, guess background Daniel Kwan's mind, became forefront project.And watch this, I'm digressing, course, I'm going tangent. look rest work like music videos stuff, kind makes sense. kind go, "Oh yeah, no, definitely ADHD. Yeah, sure."Laura: Yeah, think remember reading Michelle Yeoh, plays Evelyn also won Best Actress, fabulous, kind almost like avatar ADHD behaviors. notice that? come mind you?Ariel: Oh, yeah. Well, watching movie, was, actually really surreal. got diagnosed 33, I'm 35 now, so, watching like watching pre-diagnosis. Watching her, like watching Michelle Yeoh's character, specifically watching Evelyn, watching pre-diagnosis Ariel. interesting watching Michelle Yeoh kind this, like father. Like saw traits saw ADHD older generation hasn't yet diagnosed, resistant it, isn't really, kind dismisses like, "Well, no, that's me."And, know, kind like line movie says, "Well, no, that's know, know am. You're young. brain still changing, you're still figuring things out. know am." that's, know, know clue time. that's what's much is.Like depictions ADHD became kind ineffable qualities ADHD I've kind started realize whole life. like Jobu head tilt thing clicks back she's able kind tap different parts multiverse simultaneously. It's, makes think every single time I've gone, "Oh, wait, learned that. Yeah, totally, know, zero specific thing or, know, access part mind something learned taught hyper-fixation moment like 10 years ago, knew hyper-fixation was."And like, kind comes together really beautiful, chaotic, confusing fusion knowledge, experience, everything. Michelle Yeoh kind moment, also kind translates way. Michelle Yeoh kind really interesting fusion hope younger generation getting diagnosed kind realizing superpower disillusionment denial older generation thinking there's nothing done it, ignore it. "Oh, it's bad. Oh, it's so. It's that." Whatever.Laura: love Jobu head tilt thing mentioned. hadn't thought way. that's, really interesting way putting it. felt lot ADHDness, guess, Evelyn character she's sitting desk Jamie Lee Curtis works she's totally, guess could say, zoning she's multiple rooms people like, "Are here?" comes back room like...Ariel: Yes, yes. I'm here, I'm here.Laura:...this kind of, I'm here, dissociating maybe, like, just, distracted. So, mean, catch well? I'm sure did.Ariel: Oh yeah. Oh, sure. moment where, like middle thought sudden, you're wondering pasta dinner. And...Laura:Right, right.Ariel: ...then snap back you're like, "Wait minute, talking about? Oh, shit." It's weird kind coexistence mind feel like it's everywhere once.Laura: Yeah, exactly. mean, title itself, Ariel, it's like blows mind. "Everything Everywhere Once." therapy session kind rolled tongue describing ADHD challenges had. like, "It sounds like brain chaos." like, "Yeah, brain chaos right now. can't compartmentalize."I mean, actually really appreciated separated film three thirds, even though, like we're going talk Everything. we're going talk Everywhere. Now, end, we're going talk Once. needed

  • The Opportunity Gap

    Kids of color who have ADHD and other common learning differences often face a double stigma. But there’s a lot that families can do to address the opportunity gap in our communities. Host Julian Saavedra is a father of two. He's also an assistant principal who has spent nearly 20 years working in public schools. Join Saavedra as he talks with parents and experts and offers tips to help you advocate for your child. Comments? Email us at

  • ADHD Aha!

    Executive function and ADHD shame in women (Katy’s story)

    Women & ADHD podcast host Katy Weber felt like she was in suspended animation during the pandemic. Then she learned about executive function. Katy Weber’s ADHD symptoms took center stage pandemic. stuck “waiting mode” experiencing “time blindness.” learned executive function dug signs ADHD women. pandemic, stereotypes surround ADHD never felt relatable Katy. diagnosed, started talking women ADHD found community. Now, sees ADHD shows children, she’s getting support need — earlier got it. Katy ADHD advocate coach host Women & ADHD podcast. Katy Laura podcast, it’s Katy’s turn hot seat!Related resourcesLaura Women & ADHD: Laura Key: Anxiety, perfectionism, ADHD “aha” momentsADHD girls: Overlooked?How explain relationship ADHD executive function challenges7 tips talking child’s teacher ADHDEpisode transcriptKaty: really struggling complaining therapist felt like suspended animation time. ideas didn't ability felt like literally sitting couch phone hand, knowing next time going interrupted. like first time ever even heard term executive functioning.Laura: Understood Podcast Network, "ADHD Aha!," podcast people share moment finally clicked someone know ADHD. name Laura Key. I'm editorial director Understood. someone who's ADHD "aha" moment, I'll host.Laura: I'm today Katy Weber. Katy ADHD advocating coach, founder Women & ADHD, LLC, host "Women & ADHD" podcast. Oh, gosh, start, Katy? start? Well, we've before. Katy got chat show — fabulous, recommend everybody check — I'm excited Katy today answer questions story "aha" moment. So, welcome, Katy.Katy: Yeah, thanks me. I'm excited get chance sit chat again.Laura: like start guest asking: diagnosed ADHD happening life point?Katy: Yes. So, like call pandemic diagnosis. officially diagnosed November 2020, think kind self-diagnosis journey really started fairly soon lockdown really struggling complaining therapist felt like suspended animation time. kids home, husband home couldn't get anything done like waiting next catastrophe happen around remote learning Wi-Fi Zoom like things. next thing know, kids needed eat again. felt like suddenly this, like many mothers time, like full-time butler chef housekeeper, yet time, know, heightened anxiety, felt like doomscrolling time couldn't go anywhere. difficult time many us.When describing therapist, really kind zeroed inability anything right kind waiting mode felt like unstructured time ability really feel like accomplishing anything. therapist, diagnosed ADHD years ago middle schooler diagnosed, she'd gently kind suggesting look years, dismissive like, "I don't know you're talking about." stereotypes hyperactive little boy, like, kind offended. like, "Do really feel like immature, petulant child?" think was...Laura: I'm sorry.Katy: ...right? Like, totally offended. like, "What talk... ADHD?" didn't relate level really didn't take time think connection making conversations. lockdown, like, "Dude, like, really look looks like, especially manifests women." that's remember like taken online ADHD test, generic one adults, things kind related to. lot DSM questions like, "Do feel like you're run motor?" like, "I don't know even means, guess? Don't all? Like, even that?" so, scored kind moderately didn't really think much it.And took one specifically women ADDitude Magazine, one written Sari Solden, like wasn't talking fidget spinners need move, right? Like talking core shame around clutter and, know, questions like, "Do hate people show unannounced?" know, really sort got lot social emotional elements ADHD never occurred me. that's hit realization — many us — like, "Oh, OK, I, right, see is." that's, kind like, yeah, spring summer 2020.Laura: ADHD symptoms think struggling pandemic? Walk typical day like maybe point symptoms experienced throughout day, time.Katy: Oh, yeah. mean, think mean, we... it's often called like waiting mode. feel like hear called even think it's element time blindness feel like can't start something know there's appointment looming, doctor's appointment 1 p.m., can't anything leading that. didn't realize focus issue anxiety issue. sort something never thought much about. think going time early pandemic lockdown internalized hyperactivity like, "Oh goodness, time, myself, right?" people like baking bread. And, know, see projects, people like home projects time everybody things. impulse, right? Like ideas. like, "This great time invest business start new one."And like, know, ideas didn't ability felt like literally sitting couch phone hand, knowing next time going interrupted. like first time ever even heard term executive functioning. Like, never heard term diagnosed realizing executive functioning plays sort decision-making kind knowing next step is. So, felt like divide thoughts ideas percolating mind, also feeling like ending day, accomplished virtually nothing.Laura: feel slightly relieved I'm person struggles "Oh, something's happen like hour. So, can't focus anything else moment." happened yesterday. daughter going playdate waiting friend show up. so, hour friend showed up, started get super anxious, things wanted do. kind like creepily waiting doorway needed to. struggling much, waiting event start could start next event. I've never heard anyone else explain like that. So, thank you.Katy: Well, remember also, too, another wonderful thing ADHD is, time blindness, like moment realization sitting down, pick kids school — pick three — around 2 o'clock, kind started waiting mode sitting around parsing phone like, "I don't want start anything I'm going leave hour." literally 5 minutes leave, coat one shoe saw dog food kitchen floor something, started sweeping mopping kitchen floor 5 minutes leave decided done right then. So, ended late pick kids.And even though literally done nothing hour, 5 minutes like, thought head, something could easily 5 minutes. think that's another thing lot us struggle with, like, long task take us? so, moments I'll sit around hour nothing, we'll late, thought would take 5 minutes completely reorganize kitchen cabinets.Laura: feel like better understanding personally run motor phrase means?Katy: mean, yes no. guess still don't. mean, use example still don't really understand means. think lot sometimes comes idea many us, we're diagnosed adulthood, don't realize everybody thinks way operates way. Right. so, term, feel like you're run motor? like, who? Everybody feels way. Like, felt like was, like, akin asking breathe oxygen. Like, it's like, yeah, right? heart beats.And so, think,

  • 4 myths — and facts — about working from home

    There have been negative myths about working from home for many years. People with disabilities have asked for this accommodation in the past. But they’ve often been denied. The coronavirus pandemic showed that remote work is possible. And that working from home can help employees to thrive. Now, employers are more likely to allow work from home as a reasonable accommodation. Still, many employers see in-person work as essential.Here are some common myths about working from home — and why they don’t measure up to the facts.Myth #1: Employees working from home won’t be as productive.Many managers worry that employees who are working from home will be distracted. Or that they’ll simply choose not to work. Fact: Evidence suggests that employees have gotten better at working from home since the start of the pandemic. Most employees report the same or better productivity when working from home. Recent studies note that remote workers tend to work more than their in-office counterparts. But they often struggle to “unplug” at the end of the day.Also, for some people with disabilities like chronic pain, working from home gives them access to more workplaces. The commute or physical accessibility issues no longer get in the way.Myth #2: The technology is limiting.Some managers believe that remote work tools are too tricky to get right. Fact: The pandemic has proven that businesses can adapt to using online tools. Most companies now have systems in place to support remote work. And this study from Deloitte showed that 80 percent of employees are satisfied with the collaboration tools they can use for remote work. Myth #3: We can’t do it unless everyone’s working from home.Some managers may worry about the appearance of “playing favorites” if only some employees work from home. Fact: For people with disabilities, working from home can be a reasonable accommodation. This is according to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC).The EEOC provides detailed guidance to help employers craft work-from-home policies to support people with disabilities. JAN also has a resource on concerns about morale and fairness. Myth #4: Employees who work from home won’t be as engaged with the team.Some managers fear that remote employees won’t feel like engaged members of the team.Fact: During the pandemic, people found creative ways to bond with their teams. And with good leadership, this can continue. Inclusive workplace practices, like working from home, are now more common because of the pandemic. But in-office mandates are on the rise. It’s important to know that for people with disabilities, working from home is a tool for accessibility. Looking for more information on workplace practices? Check out our guide to workplace supports and accommodations.

  • Understood Explains Season 2

    There’s a lot to learn about learning and thinking differences like dyslexia and ADHD. Understood Explains is a podcast that unpacks one important topic each season. Season 2 explains ADHD diagnosis in adults. It’s hosted by psychologist Dr. Roberto Olivardia, who answers common questions and shares stories about when he was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD and the myth of laziness (Rebecca’s story)

    Rebecca is a high achiever who’s always pushed herself to work around and compensate for her ADHD challenges. And yet she still thought she was lazy. Rebecca Phillips Epstein has ADHD. But as with many high-achieving girls, her symptoms were missed early on. Then, during the pandemic, it finally clicked: She discovered a Twitter thread about people who beat themselves up for being lazy when clearly they’re not. Rebecca has always been aware of her challenges — procrastination, being late, and having a million great ideas that never get finished. As a screenplay writer and essayist, she’d overcompensate so no one would be the wiser. Hear how an ADHD diagnosis helped her rethink what she used to call “personality failures” or “laziness.” Also in this episode: How depression treatment before her ADHD diagnosis helped her tread water but never “surf.” Rebecca also talks about her decision to stop breastfeeding her second child in order to stay on her ADHD medication. Related resourcesADHD and the myth of lazinessADHD and the brain8 common myths about ADHDYou can also check out Rebecca's Washington Post article on ADHD medication and breastfeeding. Episode transcriptRebecca: I was scrolling through Twitter and came across a thread written by a woman who talks a lot about ADHD and writes a lot about ADHD. And she said that in her experience, the thing that causes her to pause and suggest to someone that they might want to talk to someone about this is when she hears people describe themselves as lazy when clearly they are not. She wrote, "If you're sitting around thinking that you're lazy, thinking that you're a failure, please allow me to suggest that maybe you're not." And it was like all those years of not understanding myself just suddenly made sense. All of the near-misses and the failures and the frustrations just clicked into place.Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host.I'm here today with Rebecca Phillips Epstein. Rebecca is a screenwriter and essayist who lives in Los Angeles. She's worked on a bunch of shows, including "Roseanne" and "Emily in Paris." She's also written for a variety of publications, like the Washington Post's On Parenting blog. Hi, Rebecca. I'm so glad you're here today.Rebecca: Hi. Thanks for having me.Laura: So let's dive right in, Rebecca. I would love for you to start by telling me when you were diagnosed with ADHD and what was going on in your life at that time.Rebecca: I was diagnosed with ADHD in June of 2020. And what was going on in my life at that time? The majority was what was going on in a lot of people's lives, which was the pandemic had totally changed every aspect of my life and career and family life. I had two young children. One was in his last year of preschool and the other was 6 months old. And in May of 2020, I was on Twitter and stumbled across a thread by a woman named Erynn Brook, who writes a lot about ADHD and neurodivergent brains. And it had been retweeted by a friend of mine. And because I care about this friend and I'm always interested in what they post, I clicked through.And it was a thread talking about speaking to people and helping them realize that they have ADHD. It happens a lot. And that she says when people are talking to her, the things she listens for that makes her say "you might want to talk to somebody about this" is when they tell stories about things they want to do, that they know how to do, that they care a lot about, that they just can't do. And they write themselves off as lazy or terrible people.And she wrote that the thing about lazy people is they don't actually care that they're lazy. They don't care that they're letting people down. They're fine with that pattern, truly lazy people. So if you're sitting around calling yourself lazy because you can't understand why you can't get things done and you're beating yourself up about it, perhaps you're not lazy. Perhaps it's something else. And it was like 30 years of tiny "aha" moments all of a sudden just exploded.I often compare it to at the end of "A Beautiful Mind," when Jennifer Connelly walks into the murder shed and he has all those pictures with the strings connecting everything, and the room starts to spin. That's what it felt like for me, because I had two very close near-misses to getting diagnosed throughout my life. But it hadn't happened. And in this one moment, just this one Twitter thread, I realized, like, it made everything make sense.I immediately emailed my therapist and said, "When I see you in two days, I need to talk about this." And we talked about it and she said, "I think this is undeniable." So I called my psychiatrist. I was incredibly lucky that I had known my psychiatrist for years, because she had treated me for postpartum depression when my oldest was a baby. So we had a long relationship. So when I went in there, I had a shorter diagnostic evaluation because she had years of notes on me and knowledge about my life. And she just said, "Yes. You meet the entire diagnostic checklist. You are a textbook example of how this gets missed in high-achieving girls."And similar to your story, Laura, I was a perfectionist. I fell back on my AP classes, my top 10 university degrees, being 15 minutes early for everything, because if I wasn't 15 minutes early, I was going to be extremely late. I knew what my shortcomings were, and I overcompensated for every single one that I could so that no one would know. Because I knew I wasn't good enough. But there was no good reason why. So I just had to hide it.Laura: Yeah, so you were overcompensating all this time and — but yet feeling like you were lazy. And that's — it's so interesting because one person says one thing in one particular way, and it just clicks. And you had that "Beautiful Mind" moment. So what were you feeling lazy about?Rebecca: Oh, God. Procrastinating everything. Being late on everything. A million terrific ideas that never got finished. You know? And as a writer, writing is hard even for neurotypical writers. It's like the Dorothy Parker quote, "I hate writing, but I love having written." And with ADHD, you never get to the point where you have written. You have the ideas, you know how you want them to be. But getting them out — getting started — is a nightmare. And I came up with some tricks and some tips and deadlines, of course, pressure.But for me throughout my life, I was just always that kid whose paper was a day late. And so all through high school it was, "Oh, my printer didn't work." "I emailed it to you. Didn't you get it?" And things that every teacher knows what that is. And because I was good and smart and accomplished, they let me get away with it. And I never learned that lesson when I was young enough to learn it. And so instead the lesson I learned was that I could get away with it. And it had that effect of me thinking that if I did put in an effort, then it meant that I wasn't good at something. So I had this, like this double bind of I'm naturally gifted, so I shouldn't have to work that hard. But even when I do work as hard as I can, sometimes I can't even produce anything.Laura: Yeah. Yeah.Rebecca: And in graduate school, it just got worse and worse because there was less oversight. I wasn't living with my parents to provide that structure, and so I would just stay up all night and wait. And I would have a paper that really I should have spent two weeks working on, and I would do it in 8 hours. And I would do almost as well as I could. And at the time, of course, I chalked it up to imposter syndrome and fear of failure. And "Oh well, if I work as hard as I can and I don't do well, what does that say about me? So that must be why."You know, there was always another explanation. "Oh, I'm depressed. That's why my house is a mess." And I was treated for depression a couple of times throughout my life. And I remember saying to the psychiatrists who were treating me, "I feel like I'm not drowning anymore, but I don't feel like I'm surfing." Like I'm never ahead of it.Now, looking back, I recognize that that's because I wasn't dealing with a serotonin deficiency. I wasn't dealing with standard depression. I was dealing with a dopamine deficiency, which is different. I was dealing with ADHD and the depressive behaviors that sometimes come with ADHD. So it looked like depression, right?Laura: Yeah. ADHD and depression can kind of mimic each other. Hats off to you for going into a writing career. I know exactly the feeling that you're talking about when — there's a reason that I'm an editor and I'm not a writer. I love when I have produced something — to go back to your Dorothy Parker quote — but getting there is just impossible. But I'm really fast when I can edit something.Rebecca: I didn't start out as a writer. I sort of tried to do everything, but — and when I look back, it's like, I don't know how I missed it because in college I did improv. I didn't do sketch in graduate school. I went to theater school, but not for playwriting, for dramaturgy. And the job of a dramaturg is to basically read drafts and give notes. To sit next to a director and just say thoughts to them. The job was immediate. It was very in the moment. A lot of the job was sitting and bouncing thoughts around and bringing my sort of academic background into a rehearsal room, which could be done live in the moment.And I noticed that I always thrived in environments where the only prep was being really smart or being really competent, and where the actual work was something I could do live — where it wasn't about homework, it wasn't about preparing, it was about showing up prepared. And that the bulk of the work was happening in the immediate sense. So there was no way to procrastinate. You know, I instinctively chose this path that leaned into my skills as a person with ADHD and where I could be creative but be in the moment.But when I moved to Los Angeles, I started working at a talent agency as an assistant. And a lot of the job was making phone calls, managing calendars, sending materials. And my boss has had upwards of 50 clients who all had submissions going out, who all had meetings to attend that I had to schedule. And everything gets rescheduled a million times. So there were hundreds and hundreds of emails every day and dozens of packets that had to go out. And so much to keep track of. And I recognized very quickly — this is pre-diagnosis — that I was going to forget everything unless I figured out a way to not allow myself to. So I created this enormous tracking spreadsheet where every single step had its own — put the email together, send the email, get response to email, check with my boss about response. Follow up with the same.Laura: Reminder to check the spreadsheet.Rebecca: But it was like every single step of like receive email, reply to email, was its own step, right? Everything so that I would know what step I was at and what I needed to do. And then I structure my day of, in the morning and the afternoon, there were 45 minutes where I would go down and see what can be followed up on. Where am I at? What have I left hanging? And this spreadsheet was so useful to me during the busy times of year that I — people started asking me for it. Other assistants in the department. And I am told that years later it's still a thing that assistants use in staffing season so that they don't lose track of things. Now, I had a pile of six months of contracts to be filed that I kept under my desk that nobody knew about. And then when I left the agency, the person who took over for me just had to do it as part of her training.Laura: Oh, my gosh. Rebecca, that is like some intense coping mechanisms there, but I'm really glad that it worked out for you and that now it's helping other folks at the company.Rebecca: Everybody knows what that's like to lose track of things, to forget things, to be overwhelmed. And it's not like these systems wouldn't help someone who's neurotypical, you know. And I think that's part of — they know that's part of — what's so tricky with ADHD is that all of the symptoms taken on their own are common. Everybody forgets things. Everybody loses things. Everybody interrupts people. Says things they shouldn't. But it's how much of it are you doing? Can you stop it? And how much of an impact is it having on your ability to live your life the way you want to?Laura: Right. That's something I talk about with a lot of guests is the ubiquity of the signs and how that leads to so much like excuse-making. Sure, everybody struggles with it every once in a while, but like the severity and the frequency with which you struggle is huge. But because they're such common things, people tend to blame themselves. Again, going back to the laziness thing, I'm just being lazy. Or I should just — I just need to try harder. Or I didn't exercise today or whatever.Rebecca: And before I knew why, it was very difficult to make changes. Because if the only reason that I had for why I was doing these things was personality failures, then I couldn't solve it, right? Because if it's just, oh, this is just who I am and I am a failure. I'm lazy. I'm weird. I have a hard time making friends. I am obnoxious in group settings. You know, if it's just me, if I'm just terrible, then there's nothing to be done. And it was really not until after the diagnosis that I could give myself that grace of like, let's look at this a different way. Which I had not been able to do my whole life.And an example I talk about a lot is like vacuuming the floor. I, like many people, especially people with ADHD, housekeeping and cleaning is impossible. Because it's drudgery. It's not fun. There are so many steps, and I'd rather be doing other things. And for some reason, vacuuming was really the one that bothered me the most — that I could not make myself do. So I just would sit there after I put my kids to bed and watch the chunks of mac and cheese just drying on the carpet, going, "I have to vacuum. I have to do it. Just get up and do it." And I wouldn't. And I just wouldn't. And I would think, "Oh, I'm like, I'm a piece of shit. I'm a piece of shit. That's the only possible reason." And then after the diagnosis, it was OK. I have been spending years and years trying to force myself to vacuum because that was the only solution I could come up with to the problem of I don't vacuum. But the real problem is my floor is not clean, my carpets are not clean.So if I say like, let's just assume I'm never going to be a person who vacuums. Let's assume that my ADHD will never allow me to vacuum. Because what's really hard about it is the number of steps. The vacuum cleaner is like in a closet behind the garbage can in my small kitchen. So I have to move the garbage can, open the closet, take it out, unwind the cord, plug it in, move the table, move the chairs, push the thing around. It's like 15 steps and it's really annoying.So I said, "OK, so what if I'm never going to do this? Do I have to vacuum or do I have to have a clean floor?" And I bought a Dustbuster and it sits on a stand on the bookcase within arm's reach of my chair at the dining — I don't even have to get up. So now my floor is clean because I asked a different question. The fact that I couldn't even give myself permission to say "Maybe I should do this a different way" — that's one of the hardest parts of living with undiagnosed ADHD is, I think, the pressure you put on yourself to do things the same way everybody else does. Because you don't have, or I didn't have, a good enough reason to make those accommodations for myself.Laura: Exactly. The way that you described laziness was really important, because I don't like when people are critics of ADHD, say, OK, we're just making an excuse for laziness here. Because to your point earlier, it's not real laziness that we're talking about. We're not talking about we're not giving a damn about doing the things. Like there's a deep care — like you want your floor clean. You really genuinely care. You just could not get to it for whatever reason. I think that that's really interesting and important.Last time we chatted, you mentioned that when you were 7 you were almost diagnosed with ADHD. I would love to hear what was happening at that time.Rebecca: So I was in the second grade and I have no memory of this, so I'm kind of cobbling together what my parents told me. I have no memory of any of this, and I didn't find out about it till I was in my early 20s. But from what I understand, I was doing like a fine job in second grade grades-wise. And my teacher called my parents and said some version of "Rebecca is having more trouble in my class and she should given how smart she is. You might want to get her evaluated for ADHD." And so they took me to the pediatrician, who was like this old-school Manhattan pediatrician, who evaluated me and said unequivocally, "She does not have this. She is reading at a sixth-grade level. She can sit still and color for hours. Like that's not ADHD. Sounds like she's just bored and the teacher needs to work harder."Laura: Well, bored might have been true.Rebecca: For sure.Laura: Yeah, that's — again, ADHD is not related to intelligence.Rebecca: So I went back to school. And what I do remember is that I started meeting weekly with this teacher, and she created a chart for me. And every week there were check-ins of how I was doing on the different markers that would show up on the report card. From what I remember, it was more about just finishing everything, you know, and staying on task and not letting myself get distracted by other things. And so what she was doing was the kind of behavior modification that we know works now.And my grades improved. And it's funny, the reward. My parents said, if you get — I don't even remember what it was — you know, all satisfactory pluses, I was going to get a Game Boy. And I did it, and I got my Game Boy, and the game that was on it was Tetris. Which is kind of an amazing metaphor for what the 30 years that followed that were like. Because, you know, as you're playing Tetris, it starts out with the blocks are falling slowly, you have the whole screen to work with, and you turn them to make lines. And as the levels get higher and higher, they start to fall faster. And when you're not able to make straight lines, then you have less space to work with. Right?I was so smart at like the game of Tetris in life. But even though my pieces were falling so fast and I had so little space to work with, I was beating level after level. I did it! But I knew it was harder for me than other people. And if I'm supposed to be this smart, why is this hard for me? And what I didn't realize was that, like, my game was busted. Like other people had more space to work with. Their pieces were not falling as fast. And I was holding myself to the same standards that everybody else was. But I was working with a totally different system.Laura: Shout-out to that teacher, by the way. She sounds fantastic.Rebecca: Mrs. Bronsky, if you're listening, she really was my favorite. Mrs. Bronsky. She was just a sweet, gorgeous, funny. I loved her. But she saw it. She saw and she believed in me. And she built my confidence. She didn't punish me for these things. She found a way to reach me, which was really special, and it really made that year possible for me.Laura: So I really like this Tetris analogy. I love the way that your brain works. It's a very visual, creative image, and it's helping me understand, like, the pieces of your life, actually, as we listen to it. So at that point then, you're in your 20s, and they're like, "Well, it wasn't a thing." So you're like, "OK, bye. Bye, ADHD."But then you have your second child. It sounds like it just started storming Tetris pieces at that point. And not all of the "ADHD Aha!" listeners are going to maybe be as interested, but I would ask that they try to be interested in this aspect of it, because it's very interesting to me as a mom who breastfed. I believe you were breastfeeding your second child and you were at the same time like getting evaluated and diagnosed with ADHD — and potentially going on medication. So I would love for you to talk me through your thought process.Rebecca: You know, the recommendation that my obstetrician and my psychiatrist at the time made was to avoid it. Because the way that it is described is it should only be taken if the benefits to the parent outweigh the potential risks to the infant. And so for most people who are breastfeeding and have ADHD, it's like who would say that any potential risk to your baby is worth it? I mean, I went through that moment of like, well, I've suffered for 30 years without meds. Surely I can do six more months to get to a year.Laura: Get to a year of breastfeeding, you mean?Rebecca: Yeah, because with my oldest, I had done 14 months. It was not always easy, but it was easy-ish, you know? And it was because I had terrible postpartum depression with my oldest. Breastfeeding felt like a thing I could do. So I was like, I was going to do one thing well. And with my second, I did not have postpartum depression, like, at all. So for the first three months of his life, pre-pandemic, I was like, I love being a mom of two kids. Like, this is going well for me. I'm good at this. I am managing this in a way that I never could before. I had found a rhythm that works. I finally felt like I was getting the hang of it.And then the pandemic and everything shut down. And it was emotional overwhelm and a totally different schedule. And everybody was trapped in a thousand square foot apartment and all the things that have happened to so many people. So then when I got diagnosed and the question arose of what was I going to do? Sidebar: I would certainly recommend that any listeners speak to their doctors about the risks, about the benefits. And this conversation seems to be evolving. But at the time that I was diagnosed, it was presented to me as rather binary.And I will say that my psychiatrist was very flexible in that she said, you know, there might be a way to take short-acting medication and kind of pump and dump around it and minimize the risk as much as possible. But the amount of pumping I had to do before I took the 4 hours of medication, and then the pumping and dumping I had to do during to keep my supply up, and then after to get rid of any residual meds. And then I still had to feed him. Within a month of trying to do this, it became obvious that this was not going to work.First of all, I was miserable. And the whole time I was on the meds I was spending attached to a breast pump. And the difference for me, the first time I took the medication was so immediate and so obvious. You know, I compare it to like the first time you get on an airplane and put on noise-canceling headphones and all of a sudden you realize just how loud it was. You had no idea. And within 30 minutes of taking my very first dose of short-acting medication, I walked into the living room where my husband was sitting and I said, I'm going to have to quit breastfeeding. I am — there is no — I cannot not feel this way. I cannot — I feel normal. I feel quiet. I can't go back. This is — there's no way. I can't. No way.Laura: Clearly, you made a very informed decision. You did your research. You know, you did what was best for both you and for your baby. Like, if you're not in good shape, then how can you care for a child? And I'm curious about any feelings that came with that. Because we put so much pressure on moms to breastfeed. And then there's — you've got the shame feelings maybe around ADHD, and then the shame feelings around mom. I mean, did that just like concoct into like a cauldron of, like, crazy shame?Rebecca: At first, it was torturous getting him to take a bottle even of pumped milk at first. And there was this part of me that was going, "Why am I doing this to him? How can I be doing this to him just so that I can, like, have an easier time remembering where I put my keys down? That's not fair. It's not fair to him." But also because of what my constellation of symptoms are, my issues with emotional regulation and getting overwhelmed. I mean, all parents get overwhelmed, right? So when you already have an issue with getting overwhelmed and your go-to response is anger and freak-outs, which mine was, marriages suffer. Parent-child relationships suffer. And if it was me and a baby in a vacuum, that would be one thing. But it was me and a baby and a 5-year-old who had had everything taken from him. He was about to go to kindergarten. His fifth birthday was March 10th, 2020, and so his was the first birthday party that was canceled.So, OK, even if breastfeeding is what makes you a good mother, which it's not, but let's go with that for a second. Let's say breastfeeding makes you a good mother, OK? To a baby. But I had two kids. And I had to be a good mother to both of them. And on my meds, I am a better mother to both of them in the day-to-day activities of being a mother. Breastfeeding is a very passive, often, activity, which is wonderful when it works. But there is so much else that happens during the course of the day.And my oldest was old enough to remember. He knew what was going on and he needed me. And the bar for what I needed to do every day had gotten higher, because I needed to be able to shift between virtual schooling and infant care and dealing with our financial issues. Because my husband and I both work in TV and film and the whole industry was shut down. There was so much going on that required not just my active attention, but for me to be really at my best. And also I had already been breastfeeding for six months. That's a long time. I made it a long time.Laura: You did! Kudos to you.Rebecca: It just really wasn't a choice.Laura: I love when smart, strong women make thoughtful choices about what's best, not just for the people in their lives that they take care of, but also what's best for themselves. Because that ultimately makes us better mothers, better friends, better co-workers. So I think that it's really beautiful how you've navigated your diagnosis and motherhood. I mean, there's — you've got so much going on and you are, like, you're thriving. You're like a badass lady out there in L.A., let me say. So, I mean, cheesiest thing I've ever said.Rebecca: I mean, you know, I think so. And I think knowing that it's genetic and knowing that there is a high chance that one or both of my kids will have it, I've been able to lay that groundwork of — well, my youngest is young to understand. But my oldest, I told him about my diagnosis. I told him what it means. I told him how it shows up in my life.He knows I take medication. And I said, "It's kind of like how I wear glasses. I can't see as far as other people. I wear my glasses and I can. My brain can't organize itself the same way other people's can. I take my medication and it's easier." So that if and when the day comes, when that becomes his story, he will not see it as something being bad or wrong. He will see it as, oh, everybody has things about themselves that are harder for them than they are for other people. And maybe this is mine, and mine happens to have a name, but that doesn't mean it's worse or bad, it just is.And so it's been not just a gift to me in my parenting that I now know myself better and am more capable, you know, and mostly calmer. But it's been a gift to me that I get to consciously pass those things along to my children — however their brains are organized — and give them permission to do things in a way that works for them.Laura: That's beautiful. It really is. And I'm going to carry that with me when I go home and see my kids this afternoon. So. Rebecca, thank you so much for being here today. I really appreciate it.Rebecca: Thank you for having me. I loved talking to you. I mean, this type of conversation was life-changing for me in my own journey. So I'm so thrilled to be a part of it.Laura: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at I'd love to hear from you.If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine.Jessamine: Hi, everyone.Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. Margie DeSantis provides editorial support. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. And I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening. 

  • 6 models of co-teaching

    As more schools move toward inclusion, integrated co-teaching (also known as collaborative team teaching) is becoming more common. However, not all teachers are familiar with co-teaching models, the planning and collaboration it takes, or the different ways it can look in a classroom.Co-teachers are often general education teachers and special education teachers working together in the general education classroom. You plan lessons together and teach together to support the diverse academic and social-emotional needs of all students — those who have been identified as having a disability and those who haven’t. Studies show that this co-teaching can successfully meet the needs of all learners when the co-teachers: Have ample time to build a trusting relationship with one anotherHave shared planning timeEach have the chance to use their expertise in the classroomThere are six basic models of co-teaching. Read on to learn how each model works, what it looks like in the classroom, and when to use it. You’ll also learn about the benefits and challenges of each co-teaching model. 1. Team teaching In team teaching, both teachers are in the room at the same time but take turns teaching the whole class. Team teaching is sometimes called “tag team teaching.” You and your co-teacher are a bit like co-presenters at a conference or the Oscars. You don’t necessarily plan who takes which part of the lesson, and when one of you makes a point, the other can jump in and elaborate if needed.Team teaching can make you feel vulnerable. It asks you to step outside of your comfort zone and allow another teacher to see how you approach a classroom full of students. However, it also gives you the opportunity to learn about and improve your teaching skills by having a partner who can provide feedback and — in some cases — mentorship. In team teaching, as well as the five other co-teaching models below, a teacher team may be made up of two general education teachers, two special education teachers, or one of each. Or in some cases, it may be a teacher and a paraprofessional working together. Some IEPs specify that a student’s teaching team needs to include a general education teacher and a special education teacher.Here’s what you need to know about the team teaching method:2. Parallel teaching In parallel teaching, the team splits the class into two groups and each teacher teaches the same information at the same time. Parallel teaching works well to differentiate instruction when the content being taught is particularly challenging. Students can benefit from learning difficult material in a smaller group. Parallel teaching can be a comfortable way to start co-teaching. You and your co-teacher plan together to make sure you’re covering the same material. And since you’re teaching your half of the class, you’re less likely to feel closely observed by your colleague. Here’s a closer look at parallel teaching:3. Station teaching In station teaching, the class is divided into three or more groups and the classroom has multiple learning centers. As the students rotate through the stations, the teachers teach the same material in different ways to each group. For example, fractions may be taught with a fraction line at one and with cubes at another. If there are more stations than teachers, some stations may be student-led and at least one will focus on independent work or practice opportunities. Both you and your co-teacher are responsible for planning and teaching an in-depth concept that helps meet the overall lesson goal. Learn more about station teaching: 4. Alternative teaching In alternative teaching, one teacher instructs most of the class and the other teacher teaches an alternate or modified version of the lesson to a smaller group of students. Alternative teaching is also sometimes described as “big group/small group” teaching.Small groups are often put together based on students’ learning needs. You and your co-teacher will need to find time to look over student data. This will help you figure out which students need support filling in gaps in background knowledge, which students need remediation, or which students could benefit from accelerated learning because they already know the content or have mastered the skills of the large group lesson. Here’s more of what you need to know about alternative teaching: 5. One teach, one assistIn the “one teach, one assist” model of co-teaching, one teacher teaches a full group lesson, while the other teacher roams and helps individual students. This is sometimes called “one teach, one support,” because the second teacher often provides additional support for learning or behavior management. This model of co-teaching can be difficult to negotiate because it may leave one teacher feeling more like an assistant. Building a strong relationship with your co-teacher and talking through when it makes sense to swap roles can make it easier. That’s key to making sure that both of you have a chance to teach content and to provide support to students one-on-one. Debriefing after a lesson is also key. Both of you need to know which students needed extra support during the lesson, what that support looked like, and what each student was struggling with. Here’s what you need to know about this co-teaching method: 6. One teach, one observeIn a “one teach, one observe” setting, one teacher serves as the primary instructor, while the other is simply observing students’ learning and collecting data, which can be useful in:Determining what instruction takes place nextSeeing which students need additional helpDeciding what co-teaching model may be used next to address any identified needsIdentifying and tracking helpful school services, such as IEPs, 504 plans, functional behavioral assessments (FBA), behavior intervention plans (BIP), or response to intervention (RTI)Making co-teaching workCo-teaching definitely has benefits, but it can also be challenging to implement. It can be especially hard for new teachers who are paired up with teachers who have more experience, or for co-teachers whose teaching philosophies differ from each other. But there are several steps you can take to help make co-teaching work:1. Plan who’s doing what. No matter which co-teaching model you use, you and your co-teacher need to thoughtfully plan out which responsibilities each of you will have. Planning is vital to your success as a co-teaching team.2. Agree on expectations. Having a conversation before the year begins about your expectations for students, behavior, homework, bathroom use, etc., can help you work out any differences you may have and come to a consensus for how your shared class will run. It’s also essential that both teachers share behavior management equally. Avoiding a “good cop/bad cop” situation can make it easier to maintain a positive classroom culture.3. Understand the needs of all of your students. It’s critical that both you and your co-teacher understand the needs of all of your students, including those who learn and think differently. Knowing how to read an IEP or 504 plan, implement accommodations, and participate in IEP meetings is a shared responsibility. 4. Use signposting. Making sure both of your names appear on the door, on assignments, and in the classroom can also help your students see you as the team you are.5. Keep setting aside time to collaborate. Planning and reflecting on the lessons you teach together is especially important. Keeping lines of communication open, raising concerns respectfully, and having a supportive and involved administrator can help bridge any gaps. 

  • Understood Explains Season 3

    Want to know how special education works and get IEP tips for parents? This season of Understood Explains covers the ins and outs of individualized education programs. Host Juliana Urtubey is the 2021 National Teacher of the Year and has helped many families develop IEPs. So you can learn from a pro in this limited-run series. Episodes drop weekly in English and Spanish, starting March 21. Escuchar en español.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    Lessons from a chief marketing officer with ADHD and dyslexia

    Nathan Friedman is the co-president and chief marketing officer of And he has dyslexia and ADHD. Learn how he got into the C-suite. It’s the last interview for How’d You Get THAT Job?! For this special episode, our guest is Nathan Friedman, co-president and chief marketing officer at Nathan was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia as a child. Early in his career, he didn’t openly discuss his learning and thinking differences. But now he recognizes the value of being vulnerable and embracing them. Today, Nathan is helping shape the world so people with learning and thinking differences can thrive. Nathan went from a political science degree at Washington University in St. Louis to the world of marketing. He started as an assistant account executive at Ogilvy and at 27 became their youngest managing director. He went on to start his own company before joining Understood, where he oversees marketing and provides operational and strategic support. Listen to Nathan’s insights into the power of advocacy, finding relatable role models, and creating a supportive network. Related resourcesWhat is an inclusive workplace?What is self-advocacy?Nathan’s Adweek article: How learning to navigate dyslexia landed me in the C-suiteEpisode transcriptNathan: How do you build advocacy? It starts with people having others to look up to in this space. It's somebody that you can relate to. So, how do you find those everyday heroes, people that are inspirational to you and understand how they got there?Eleni: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "How'd You Get THAT Job?!," a podcast that explores the unique and often unexpected career paths of people with learning and thinking differences. My name is Eleni Matheou, and I'm a user researcher here at Understood. That means I spend a lot of time thinking about how we find jobs we love that reflect how we learn and who we are. I'll be your host.This will be our last episode with a guest before our final summary episode. I'll be chatting with Understood's co-president and chief of marketing Nathan Friedman. Nathan was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia as a child. He's since learned what coping skills work for him, how to self-advocate, and how to advocate for others. He started with a political science degree from Washington University in Saint Louis and then leaped into the world of marketing. Starting as an assistant account executive at Ogilvy, he worked his way up from there to be the youngest managing director when he was only 27. Nathan stayed Ogilvy for over 15 years before moving on to create his own company and then coming to Understood to be our CMO. He's passionate about our mission to shape the world so that those that learn and think differently can thrive. I'm so happy to have him on the show today. Welcome, Nathan.Nathan: Thank you for having me, Eleni, and honored to be your last guest on the penultimate episode.Eleni: So, why don't we start with who you are and what you do here at Understood.Nathan: Sure. Nathan Friedman, co-president and chief marketing officer of Understood. And my role really spans not only marketing but a lot of the operational and strategic support for the organization. So, it starts with brand and strategy all the way down to creative production. How do we engage and reach and deliver impact to audiences, both on platform and off?Eleni: So, taking a step back, rumor has it that you are a poli sci major. I did my research internally.Nathan: Is that a rumor or is that what you looked at on my resume?Eleni: Actually, I just asked around what things that I should know about you. So, what made you go down the marketing route? What was interesting to you about marketing, communications, advertising, whatever it was? What piqued your interest?Nathan: You know, it's an interesting journey that I had to get that first job. I, as you mentioned, was a political science major at WashU in St Louis. I wanted more of a liberal arts background, and I thought I was going to go into law or something of that nature. I did not come from a long line of lawyers and decided that was not the right path for me.Eleni: Do you think there was anything about your experience with dyslexia and ADHD that kind of shaped or influenced your decision to go down that path?Nathan: Back then, it was more about how do you get that first job. You know, whatever you need to pay the bills. I worked two jobs at first. I worked at a retail store, and I worked at a large goal agency because large goal agencies at that point didn't pay any money. So, in order for me to pay rent and go out and, which was going to be more important than just eating, you know, I had to work two jobs.Eleni: So, it sounds like you casted a wide net at the beginning. But then, was that first job in marketing or advertising?Nathan: Yes, it was in marketing communications. So, I really focused on that area at first because it was one of the more interesting areas at the time. And I think it was really about how do you get that first meeting with somebody and perseverance and then kind of just trial and error. I was picky about the type of areas I knew the first job would not necessarily be my last job, so, how do I get a job and then I can learn on that job and get transferable skills so I could do what I wanted to do?Little did I know that I would be in that first job for 17 years, and so, that was a huge growth opportunity clearly for me. And I think I leveraged the abilities that I had gleaned from my differences to my benefit within that role. But it didn't come until I was actually in the role that I could understand how they could be of importance.Eleni: It sounds like you weren't as intentional about where you wanted to start off, but once you got there, there were things about that role that made you stick around for a really long time. So, what was it that led to you kind of sticking with that, that made you realize that it was actually for you and worth pursuing and like continuing down that path?Nathan: So, there were a few reasons. Let's put a couple of things into context at that time, right? I think as I got that job, one year into it is when everything started to fall apart in the economy, followed by the terrible and tragic events of September 11th. So, there were no jobs for a while. So, I held on to the job that I could, and that was a very difficult time personally because you saw every single one of your friends get laid off and try and find new jobs.And a lot of people were out of work for a while, I think what it enabled me to do, though, is leverage my skill sets and innate curiosity to grow, raising my hand for new challenges, working around and through the opportunities I had to gain skills and knowledge and my abilities or superpowers to able to digest complex problems and sort them and in my own mind, to sort of get it out as quickly as I want to, was a benefit in a client-driven organization. I think my upbringing combined with my differences, allowed me to engage and build trust in people that were well above my tenure.Eleni: Do you want to talk a little bit about how you feel your upbringing influenced that?Nathan: Everybody's upbringing plays a role in where they are, what they do. I think, you know, my parents encouraged me to work at a young age, so it was always about, what do you want to do? How do you want to live your life? And so, you know, I got a first job at 15 at a hardware store, and I always worked. One could say it was an avoidance and one could say it was more of an opportunity for me to keep me busy. I needed multiple things. I couldn't focus on one thing or another.So, I had four jobs during the summer, three internships, or it was just a drive that I had. And I think that led me to have a variation and understanding of what different types of roles would be. So, I worked at a record store, and back when record stores were a thing. I worked at a hardware store being a cashier, I worked at Banana Republic, I worked at Sony Music. I thought I wanted to do music for a while, and then I sat around at 14 concerts in one week with earplugs in, and I'm like, "This is the worst thing ever for me." So, I decided that wasn't for me.So, you know, it's trial and error and then finding out what in listening to yourself and being like, "This actually doesn't excite me. This doesn't interest me." And that's why I've always encouraged people to try internships because then you actually get a little inside peek into what people are doing on a day-to-day basis, because what people say they do and what people actually do are two different things.Eleni: You mentioned that it wasn't until you were in that first job that you recognized how your differences and your upbringing could play into strengths for that role. Was there anything else that kind of stands out to you that were big like "aha" moments in terms of how your differences could be strengths in the agency world?Nathan: Yeah, I mean, and an agency world, I think back then is very different. So, I want to preface it with that, right? I still had a, I mean, ironically a typewriter on my desk as well as a computer. So, like there are differences in the way things work now than then. And there's a lot of differences in awareness of things like ADHD, dyslexia, etc. I think I knew my writing wasn't as strong as it could because I didn't quite grasp, or I didn't see structure and sentences and things like that. So, I had people review my writing a lot and that helped me get better.But also I explained, "Hey, I need help. I need someone to proof this for me because I'm not as strong in this area." Not everybody's as vulnerable as that. And especially in work environments where it's more competitive. I think that helped. I think I also had an innate ability to understand what people were saying when they really weren't saying it. So, they said they want bananas, and I'm like, "No, they actually want peaches. Like that's not what they want. They don't want bananas." And it's like, "You don't know what you're talking about." And we go in there and they'd be like, "Where are my peaches?" And I'd be like, "Told you!" So, I think those are a couple of examples.Eleni: That's interesting.Nathan: Yeah. And also, finding the right rhythm helped me because, you know, in agency environment, you're tracked by the hour. So, there's a lot of pressure to deliver things on time, which then leads to a whole bunch of complications. And when I found I did not have the deadlines, I found I would just like wander off in my mind and not necessarily be able to complete a task.Eleni: It's interesting because, you know, you always hear about agency environments being incredibly fast-paced and pressure. There's a lot of pressure to deliver. But for you, actually, the deadlines is what made it work. I've heard you mentioned like you have really high bandwidth, great output than like the average person. You're the youngest managing director at Ogilvy at 27, which is impressing that you've won a bunch of awards. Like, how did you become aware that you have a faster processing speed or don't think similarly to other people? And like, how were you able to adapt your working environment and your communication style and your differences to others?Nathan: It takes a while, and it took a while. It wasn't great off the bat. It's still a work in progress. I've always been able to process quickly and understand things differently and that my ability to do that in front of senior people earned me the trust that I knew more than my tenure, or I was able to do things differently. And I was lucky enough to have mentors who saw that and believed in me and gave me the opportunities.Eleni: So, you said that they were aware that you thought differently. Did they know why?Nathan: They're aware I was different.Eleni: Yeah.Nathan: And I think I talked about the outcomes of it, not the ADHD or dyslexia. I talked about, "Hey, I need X" or "I need some more time to think about this," or "Let me come back to you." Like, it wasn't like, "Hey, I have ADHD, let me do it." That wasn't the case. And again, a very different work environment. You could still smoke in offices. There was no generation above me to look up to whether it was LGBTQI, so there was no one really who had talked about it because you kept that stuff to yourself.Eleni: It's interesting to think about how visibility has made such a big difference. And yeah, as you said, having older mentors.Nathan: Well, we talk about that a lot here at Understood, right? With ADHD or dyslexia, whatever the difference is, the first step is awareness and issue awareness when you know about it and you can relate it to somebody, you know, that reduces stigma and then drives advocacy.Eleni: So, you mentioned that you would talk more about like the outcome of what your need was as opposed to naming the difference. I'm curious how things have changed for you now compared to then.Nathan: I think being at Understood gives you an opportunity to be more vulnerable with those things and those things being like having differences. In the past, I haven't had the space to do so because it was more of a yes or no environment in a lot of different companies. I truly believe that if you have a difference or no matter who you are, you need to find a job that suits you and then work to be the best you can in that role.I think I need to be more aware of myself and self-awareness of, "OK, I've already answered the question that you're asking me in two seconds in my mind, but you're going to continue to go on for three minutes. And I and I just like I'm lost, and I have no idea what you're saying anymore." Like, that's where I have to catch myself. And so, a lot of it was more around self-awareness and I think understanding that people do have differences, and then me adjusting my style to the individual has been another important element.And nothing's perfect. I'm not perfect. I'm far from perfect. And I think I'm lucky enough to have direct reports and the team that give me direct feedback that I can incorporate into how I work with them.Eleni: How do you lead by example on your team? Like in terms of appreciating different working styles, accommodating for different working styles, whether officially or not, like in the way that you mentioned, where it's talking more about like outcome than like specific diagnosis.Nathan: So, I think that goes back to understanding what motivates people and how people work and having that conversation directly. I think it's all grounded in what the role is and what the role needs to do. Shared expectations. And maybe this is a unique point of view, but it's important not to use your learning difference as a crutch or an excuse, because for me that invalidates the actual importance of having a difference. So, this has not happened, it's just an example, somebody is like, "Well, I can't do that because I've ADHD," that's just to me seems like, "Well, if you can't do part of your job because you have ADHD, why are you in that job? Let's talk about what supports you need."So around this day I can't do that, the conversation would be "Hey, can I talk about how I can get this done? Because I have a difference." And I want to see people thrive and advance and work. But nor do they have to lean in to figure out what your strengths are, what accommodations you need, or even what assistive technology or anything. I've shifted people's work schedules, we changed people's hours, we've moved people's desks, we've given people technology, we've given a whole bunch of things that aren't necessarily technically accommodations, and some of them are, but some are really easy and, you know, they need to work in a brighter area near you, whatever it is.Eleni: Yeah.Nathan: You know, and I think that's....Eleni: It's like being creative.Nathan: It's being creative about it, but it's also having the person have the ability to say, "This is what I need to get the job done."Eleni: What would you say to individuals that are struggling to find like the right place to work for them given their differences and you know, how they might kind of discover and also leverage their unique strengths and skills to be successful?Nathan: There's a few things people can do in order to find the right environment for them. One is understanding what it is, what environment are they looking for, and then doing research. Research, both looking maybe there's some lists about most inclusive employers or talking with people who potentially work at some of the places that they're considering. It's really hard because a lot of times what you see is not what you get.And so, you know, how do you feel comfortable if you see other people more comfortable talking about that? Generally, it means that there's a more accepting and more belonging effort in the culture. Look at their, do they have a DEI&B program? Do they have initiatives regarding groups and inclusive environments? Those are telltale signs of people who are putting that in the forefront of the business and making sure that the people feel like they belong.Eleni: I've heard you talk about how, like your differences have shaped your leadership and decision-making approach and have helped you succeed as a leader and also in your role as a co-president and Understood. Could you give some specific examples of skills or strategies that you've developed specifically around leadership that you can relate back to your differences?Nathan: Sure. So, I think, you know, carving out time, very distilled, quiet time for me, I carve out an hour every day. I kind of have an idea of what I want to focus on, and I just kind of let myself go within that space. How I structure the meetings, what I put in the afternoon versus the morning is also another ability for me to structure and oriented the day that is more beneficial to me and my personal style. And then making sure that there's enough time to digest materials beforehand.Eleni: I'm curious to hear what you have to say to leaders that have differences themselves and you know, how they can kind of leverage their positions to further the goals around like awareness and advocacy.Nathan: I think what you're really asking is like, how do you build advocacy? And it starts with people having others to look up to in the space. It's somebody that you can relate to. So, how do you find those everyday heroes and everyday people that are inspirational to you and understand how they got there? And I think that also relates to your own personal growth and organization, knowing what your strengths and opportunities are. How do you make sure that you have people around you that can do some of the work that you're not great at? Whether it's subject matter or skill, that is another thing to realize is it's not just about you, but it's like, how do you form part of a team to get the work done?I think, you know, I've never done anything traditional in my life. I think it's important to show that there are people who have different backgrounds, different skills. I mean, I have two beautiful kids with a lesbian couple that is not traditional, right? And so, talking about that has opened the door to other people asking about that. So, if I opened the door to people talking about it, they can come up to me and talk about my experience as well. And from there they can drive what will help them in the working world.Eleni: I know we talked a little bit about intersectionality. Like, is there anything else that you'd like to talk about from your experience as someone who is again, neurodiverse, how that's kind of fed into your experience? Nathan: Yeah, it's fascinating. I think I've become more aware of this now than I have been before. It never really factored in in the past, and I didn't even think about it in that construct until recently. And I think there's a lot of different struggles and differences between having a learning thinking difference and being LGBTQI+. But I think the similarities are around coming out and disclosure is a coming out and people don't realize that it can be traumatic for people if it's not handled correctly.And it just starts with that driving issue awareness. Being gay 15, 20 years ago was a lot different than it is today. I am aware that people who do have ADHD or dyslexia in way more severe cases that I do, struggle in different ways. And so, it's important to realize that not everything is the same. If you have an invisible disability, some people can do things and not other people with the same disability can or cannot do. So, it's incredibly complex, it's incredibly personal, and there's a lot more that we all can do as individuals, family members, friends, co-workers to help people.Eleni: I think this was a great conversation. Thank you.Nathan: Thank you, Eleni, for having me on your podcast, and congratulations. I appreciate you having me. Thank you so much.Eleni: You've been listening to "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" from the Understood Podcast Network. This show is for you, so we want to make sure you're getting what you need. Email us at with your thoughts about the show, or maybe you'd like to tell us how you got THAT job. We'd love to hear from you.If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. Also, one of our goals at Understood is to help change the workplace so everyone can thrive. Check out what we're up to That's the letter U, dot org slash is a resource dedicated to help people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" is produced by Margie DeSantis and edited by Mary Mathis. Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. And I'm your host, Eleni Matheou. Thank you for listening.

  • Video: My experience with ADHD and parenting

    Listen to Lee talk about the advice he shares with his son, who also has ADHD. Find out how Lee advocates for him in school, and what he wants others to know about ADHD. Lee’s story is part of Understood’s “The Many Faces of Learning Disabilities.” For more stories, check out this collection of resources.

  • Understood Explica el IEP

    ¿Le gustaría saber cómo funciona la educación especial y obtener recomendaciones para padres sobre el programa de educación individualizado, conocido como IEP por sus siglas en inglés? En esta temporada de Understood Explica se explica en detalle el IEP. La presentadora Juliana Urtubey es la Maestra Nacional del año 2021 y ha ayudado a muchas familias a desarrollar un IEP. Los episodios se presentarán semanalmente en español y en inglés a partir del 21 de marzo.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    Horse saddles, leatherwork, and ADHD

    Heath Howes struggled in school with reading and focus. His passion for art and working with his hands led to a unique career in saddle making.Heath Howes has built hundreds of custom horse saddles for riders. Growing up, he had trouble with reading and writing and struggled with ADHD. Hear how he found his strengths in art and three-dimensional thinking. And get his advice on how to find a career working with your hands.Listen in. Then:Watch Heath working on a horse saddle on his YouTube channel.Check out a video of a jeweler with dyslexia who found his strengths. Episode transcriptEleni: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "How'd You Get THAT Job?!," a podcast that explores the unique and often unexpected career paths of people with learning and thinking differences. My name is Eleni Matheou, and I'm a user researcher here at Understood. That means I spend a lot of time thinking about how we find jobs we love that reflect how we learn and who we are. I'll be your host.So on this show, we like to talk to a wide range of people with different jobs and careers. In that spirit, I think today's guest would have felt right at home in the Wild West as he does in the modern city. Heath Howes is a saddle maker. He had challenges reading as a child and also has ADHD. Welcome to the show, Heath.Heath: Well, hello. Thank you. Thank you for having me.Eleni: So you're a horse saddle maker and also a leatherworker. What does a saddle maker do?Heath: I am a saddle maker. I make saddle trees. My job is putting leather on a hard form that is called a saddle tree. And we adapt it to shape for a horse so that the rider can be suspended on that animal and not get thrown off and not slide off, but also be able to work on that animal and rope cattle and other animals off of it. And that is the saddle construction. I've probably made about 500 saddles and 1,200 saddle trees.Eleni: And can you actually explain what a saddle tree is?Heath: Traditionally, a saddle tree is four pieces of wood, specifically shaped and then mounted together. A fork, a cantle, and two bars. Usually it's bound by rawhide. What I make it in is a high-density polyurethane, and I put it in a mold and then fill that. You form the tree to match the horse, the back of the horse, on the bottom side. And then you match the rider when you're constructing the saddle on the top side. The thing that I do for the majority of my job is making the saddle trees, and I send them off to saddle makers.But when I can get a chance, I make the saddles themselves, and I do custom ones. So I'll end up hand tooling or what we call carving, where you take a swivel knife and break the grain or cut the grain of the leather. What everybody wants is the thing that takes the most time, which is hand tooling. And you take these little stamps that are like an eighth of an inch by an eighth of an inch, all the way to like a half inch by half inch. And you can make flowers, you can make human faces, you can make portraits, dogs, cattle, and stuff like that, or huge geometric patterns. And anything you can think of, you can pretty much put into leather. So what I do is just dress those trees and then make belts and other things like that.Eleni: You mentioned often people are looking for custom saddles. I don't know if there's anything else that you'd like to add about why people are looking for custom saddles, like why that's important and, like, what are the kinds of things that they are looking for when they seek out a custom saddle?Heath: You know, this type of work, ranch work, is very hard on horses. So you want something that's going to be comfortable for them and yourself throughout the day so you can continue to work. And longevity is what we're looking for now. So you want a custom saddle to allow you to work not just all day long — or days being like maybe eight hours at the easiest, you know, 14 hours from dusk till dawn — but all the way into your 70s.For people that want a comfortable ride, because it's hard on your joints, it's hard on your hips, it's hard on your knees and your ankles. And so my dad's 70 and is still able to ride because of the production method that we have, you know, so we can relieve the joints with a custom saddle.Eleni: That's super cool. That's something I've never thought about.Heath: Well, who does? You just get on a horse, right?Eleni: You mentioned, like, some people ask for specific imagery or carvings. Do you have a story in mind or maybe the strangest request that you've had?Heath: I didn't get this request. It was one that I heard from in the shop, my dad's shop. And my dad's name is Mark Howes, and his shop is the Double H Ranch Saddle Shop, which is the shop that I learned and grew up in saddle making and leatherwork. A gal came in, and she was very interested in a fully floral carved saddle. And she had a particular flower set that she wanted. And when it's floral, it's the petals and then the vines and the leaves that go with it.She wanted a little animal on it too. She wanted a tree frog, and not just any tree frog. There's a specific type of tree frog that she wanted. And she starts explaining it. My dad's like, "Well, OK, so what's this, like a toad, like a bullfrog?" And she's like, "No, no, no. A tree frog." He's like, "If you could just show me a picture." She's like, "All right, I'll show you the image." So she pulls up her shirt. And she's not wearing a bra and she has two tree frogs tattooed to her breasts. And she's like, "Those, I want those frogs on my saddle." And he was like, "I think I can do that."But anyway, yeah, that was the most interesting story of someone who was like, "I want this." I just don't know.Eleni: That is very interesting. Cool. So what does a typical day look like for you? And what is your favorite thing about the process or about the work that you do?Heath: For my day, I have to structure it. I start with the small projects first, the ones that I don't like doing, and it's easier to pile that on at the beginning of the day with the small stuff, because then you can get through it. So sweeping, prepping, cleaning, and there's a lot to clean when you're messing around with plastics in its liquid form, because as soon as it hardens it cases out, what's cool is like, it's like living sculpture. It looks like just a drip all over the place, but it's hard. With COVID and everything going on right now, I've had to release the two guys that worked with me that I hired on.And for me, my mind, it was easier to talk out the process with individuals in the shop. Now it's just me. So I've got to, like, start music or a podcast or something like that. And I have something that my subconscious can work on. Otherwise my processes are just thrown out the window because I tend to overthink if I don't have something that my mind is working on. Eleni: So you said it was actually helpful to you to verbalize what your day would look like when you had colleagues around. Do you want to talk a little bit about why that's helpful to you and perhaps how that might relate to some of your learning and thinking differences?Heath: For me, it's a systematic approach to things. So I talk about it, but I guess with the ADHD, there's some compulsionary issues, but I'm also an oral learner and teacher. It's easier for me to sometimes explain something, but I gotta get it out first. You know, if I don't know what I'm doing, I have to talk about it. I'm, like, "I'm going to go do this thing; I'm going to go put this on," because if you have a good idea, say it out loud. And if it's still a good idea, then go do it. And you're like, "Oh, no, this is great idea." But when you say it out loud and it sounds horrible or awful, then just don't do it. "I said it now, and that is something bad. I'm just not going to do that."And with my process, it does change, especially now I've had to reconfigure an entire process because since it's only me, I can only make one tree a day and that mistake ratio is greater. So if I don't talk about it and think about the next step of my process, then I may screw up a tree, which is $400 a piece for me. So that's the entire day. I'm, like, oh well, that day's scrapped, but it does two things: Solidify it, the process in your mind, and assurance — confidence during the day. If you feel more confident about what you're doing every day, then showing someone else or telling someone else or doing something that's very new to you is not as daunting.Eleni: So we haven't really talked about like what your differences are. So could you describe, like, how you identify or, like, perhaps how you would describe your own learning and thinking differences to, like, a friend or a family member or a colleague, and how maybe it actually shifts depending on who you're talking to? Heath: Yeah. I have had better success at talking about my issues with my friends rather than my family. And I'm not certain that that's going to be for everybody. It just happens to be, my folks tend to think that whatever difficulties I have has a bearing on how they taught me or my upbringing. And so I don't tell my folks that. I was just recently diagnosed with ADHD. Although I know that I have had it for a long time because the struggle has been real. It's just when I was in school and I broached this subject with my folks the first time, and I was, like, "I think I have that." And my mom's, like, "Even if you do, there's ways around it, you don't have to take it, because I don't want you to take anything chemically."I'm, like, OK. And that was one conversation many, many years ago. And that was it. That was the end of it. No bringing it back up. But I can talk to my friends and say, I think this is a problem. So when they suggest books to me, you know, when I was younger, it was, "Is it entertaining or is it educational?" Because if it's educational, I will struggle through it, most because of the larger words; because as I read, I don't read left to right. I look at the center of a word and then assimilate the letters that way. Is it something I'm familiar with? Like, is that word recognizable as it is just physically written?Otherwise it doesn't look right. And then, like, fonts usually throw me off. If it's the same word and it's written in a different font and it doesn't look right, I won't know the word. I'm like, Tucson. What is that? Or I'll say "Tuckson." I don't know. That's still Tucson. It's still spelled Tucson. You know, but for me, I just recognize a word like a face. Is your face familiar? Is that word familiar and then reading right to left, I just assimilate the idea of "What is the sentence trying to tell me?" But now, I mean, it's easier nowadays. I can read books if it is exactly a book that I want to read. Writing, for me, even though I know what it is I want to say, my mind is still going too fast and my hands are too slow. Just can't do it. It takes me a full day to write a page of thought. I don't understand why, for me, I just can't do that. But I know that some individuals can put those ideas together and then they see that idea and then they can run with it and they can just type it and go along. I knew that I wasn't able to sit down and write and type at a computer; it just takes me forever.I was like, even though these things are fun, I cannot do it. Now, the one thing I was able to do, and this is the weirdest thing, in my creative writing class. It came to our poetry writing. One of the things we had to do, and I was like, "Oh, poetry."And the teacher was like, "Just write in freeform." I was like, "Crap." OK. Freeform, not going to do it for some reason. My mind needs a type of structure. It needs sequence. I decided to look into French strict form. French forms are some of the hardest in order to follow. That was easy for me. The rhyming schemes, well, you just got to figure out what's going to happen, but I can follow that. I can follow that system, but I can't do freeform poetry to save my life. Eleni: So you mentioned that you were diagnosed later, and you know, when it came up when you were younger, your parents kind of dismissed it or didn't allow you to pursue that further. Do you think that your differences, like, influenced either your interest or where you decided to go with your career, even without having that diagnosis? Heath: Absolutely. When I was learning in school, I would keep at least a notebook with me that wasn't for writing. It was an art book, but for the most part, it was drawing circles while the teacher talked, or triangles, or Xs, and things like that.But it would just be a form of making the muscles do something, the subliminal mind do something. And, uh, the first few times I did that, my teachers did not know, and they thought I was being disruptive. And I was like, "How am I disrupting you by drawing? You know, anybody who's taking notes is still going to be scribbling on a page, but you're upset that, like, there's circles happening." There's a disconnect there. They think I'm not connecting to them. And I was like, "This is for me to listen to you while not like losing my s*** in class," you know?So, the tangible arts became easier. Drawing became easier. So, as I went into specific classes of education, I did art class, a sculpture, and those came easy; three-dimensional thinking became easy. So, I did architectural design while I was in high school. So, model building — part of that class was using CAD programs as they first came out. I could see all of that because my hand was already building those things. But because of the limitations, I wasn't able to just sit and listen. I had to do something and to clear my mind, you know, so I could pay attention.So making an art piece at the end of the day, and then rather than make model kits, I just decided to start making models myself, carving woods and pieces like that into something else. Which leads to what my dad was already doing. I just, you know, would do that every now and then, but I got into construction and art and everything, and that went into theater, like actual theater, all the backstage stuff, lighting, set painting, prop making, and things like that.All the tangible stuff that you don't think about when you're watching a movie. Being able to do that and look at it and see things three-dimensionally and see it as someone's describing it to me, someone's like," I want it like this," and they're very vague, but I can see it three-dimensionally already in my mind and then do a partial draw or a thumbnail sketch of it.Eleni: Like, in terms of your story around the types of things that you are interested in, it sounds like, you know, right now you're working with your hands and that seems to be like a big part of what you were drawn to in terms of sculptures and creating 3D objects. And you mentioned earlier, working with plastic and working with leather, I'd love to hear more about what you really enjoy or not about working with these materials. And then also, like, how this process, like, engages your other senses. You mentioned bringing music into it, but I'm wondering, like, about texture and scent and, like, other sounds.Heath: When you're working with leather, there is a term, "gaining your hands." The leather is a bio material. Once it's tanned, it's not all hard. You still have armpits. You still have neck. You still have stomach. You still have these areas where this very flexible bilateral cell structure makes for weaker points, when you want stronger leather pieces.Now, the thing is when you're trying to shape leather into these convex and concave areas where there's four different shapes and sides that it all has to go on, some of that knowledge you do need to utilize, but reading the leather as it's just a side of hide, just looking at it, you don't know. Touch the leather. This guy that used to work for my dad would be like, "Make love to the leather," but you're still using your hands to see how that structure is moving because you still can't, if you're looking at it, you still don't know what it does. Does it feel boardy? Does it move with your hands? But there's a ton of smells go in there. And plastic, sometimes stuff reminds me of cinnamon, which is weird because none of it is chemically balanced, chemically made to smell like cinnamon or chocolate or vanilla. Eleni: So Heath, uh, many of our listeners didn't grow up on a ranch, um, but you know, they might be interested in saddle making or leatherwork, or just like some of the other hands-on work that you mentioned, like sculpture making, prop making. How do you suggest that people get into this type of work?Heath: If someone's wanting to get into saddle making, find a professional. There's a lot of videos out there on how to carve and stamp leather on YouTube. And I myself just started one for specifically saddle making, but there's a few YouTube videos out there for individuals that want to find out more. If you want to try making something with your hands and you want to try clay, buy some modeling clay and just do some basic figures, a full human form. It does not have to be detailed, but just building a body, and then build a head. If you want to start a three-dimensional thought, start with models, car modeling, or even those 3D puzzles, because you want to fulfill your creativity and curiosity. Just do a 3D foam puzzle. Watercolors are very, very cheap. Paints are very, very cheap. You can get them at any big block store, but the thing is to start.No matter how confident or lackluster you are in your abilities. You're like, "Well, I have a hard time drawing stick figures." It doesn't matter. Just draw the stick figure, then add more to that stick figure. But for those individuals that want to start, just start. Eleni: Thank you so much for chatting to me.Heath: Thank you so much. It's been wonderful talking to you and telling everyone about my story.Eleni: This has been "How'd You Get THAT Job?!," a part of the Understood Podcast Network. You can listen and subscribe to "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you like what you heard today, tell someone about it. "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" is for you. So we want to make sure you're getting what you need. Go to to share your thoughts and to find resources from every episode. That's the letter U, as in Understood, dot O R G, slash that job. Do you have a learning difference and a job you're passionate about? Email us at If you'd like to tell us how you got THAT job, we'd love to hear from you. As a nonprofit and social impact organization, Understood relies on the help of listeners like you to create podcasts like this one, to reach and support more people in more places. We have an ambitious mission to shape the world for difference, and we welcome you to join us in achieving our goals. Learn more at "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" is produced by Andrew Lee and Justin D. Wright, who also wrote our theme song. Laura Key is our editorial director at Understood. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. Seth Melnick and Briana Berry are our production directors. Thanks again for listening.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    Explore the unique (and often unexpected) career paths of people who learn and think differently. Listen as host Eleni Matheou talks with people about finding a job they love​ — and how it reflects who they are and how they learn.Comments? Email us at

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    What to expect during a special education evaluation

    What happens during the evaluation? And what role do families play? Learn how to help shape the evaluation plan and help your child get ready. What happens during an evaluation for special education? Who plans the assessment activities? And what role do families play? This episode of Understood Explains covers all of this and more.Host Dr. Andy Kahn is a psychologist who has spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for public and private schools. His first guest on this episode is Brittney Newcomer. She is a nationally certified school psychologist. Andy and Brittney will explain:What to expect during an evaluationWho plans the assessment activities How you can help shape the evaluation plan for your childAndy’s second guest is parenting expert Amanda Morin. They’ll share tips on how you can help your child get ready for the evaluation. (Hint: The answer does not involve any studying.) Related resourcesPreparing for an evaluationThe school evaluation process: What to expectWho’s on the evaluation team at your child’s schoolShould your child study for a special education evaluation?Download: Sample letters for things like accepting or rejecting an evaluation planVideo: Inside a dyslexia evaluationEpisode transcriptJaime: I am Jaime. I am living in Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania, which is right outside of Philadelphia. My son is Jonah; he has ADHD. He has a visual impairment, and he has just a general learning disability in basically every subject. So, the whole process of getting Jonah evaluated and acquiring all the necessary materials that the school needed was a complete mess. Every time I thought I was done, and we were good to go, they called me up and said, "Oh, we need another document" or "Oh, we need another record." It just felt like it was never-ending.Andy: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains." You're listening to Season 1, where we explain evaluations for special education. Over 10 episodes, we cover the ins and outs of the process that school districts use to evaluate children for special education services. My name is Andy Kahn, and I'm a licensed psychologist and an in-house expert and I've spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for both public and private schools. I'll be your host. Today's episode is about what to expect during the evaluation itself. We're going to explain how you can help the school get ready to evaluate your child and how you can help your child get ready. No, I promise this won't involve any studying. First, let's hear more of Jaime's story.Jaime: So, the only way at all in which I was involved in his evaluation and planning process is they sent home basically like a questionnaire that the parent has to fill out in terms of behaviors that happen in the home with our child — I guess that was tight tied more towards the ADHD diagnosis, you know, asking all sorts of questions about impulsivity and social interactions with other people. I actually did remind them several times, "By the way, Jonah is different than most children in that he does have a visual impairment, and please test him to see if he qualifies for vision therapy because I know that you can get vision therapy at public schools." And also, I had said to them, you know, "At his previous school, he had speech therapy." I did remind them of that and pushed hard that I wanted to make sure that he got tested for all of those things and got those supports if they found that they were necessary.Andy: It's very common for families to wonder about or worry about what happens during an evaluation. There shouldn't be any surprises for you or for your child. As a member of the evaluation team, you have a right to know about and help shape the evaluation plan for your child. My first guest is going to help me unpack all of this. Brittney Newcomer is a nationally certified school psychologist based out of Houston, Texas. Like me, she’s been in schools quite a long time. She's also a mom of two and an Understood expert, who has a master's degree in special education. Brittney, welcome.Brittney: Thank you, Andy.Andy: So, let's start with the big picture. Different kids need different evaluation plans, right? So, for example, some kids need to be evaluated for speech therapy, and some kids don't. But many evaluations tend to have one thing in common. And that's an educational evaluation, or sometimes you hear it called psycho-educational evaluation. This is where psychologists like you and me, Britt, we do some cognitive testing in areas like reasoning, memory and processing speed. We also look at like academic skills, reading, writing, math, and we look at social, emotional, and behavioral functioning. So, with these key areas in mind, academic, social-emotional, behavioral, how do you go about personalizing an evaluation plan for your kids?Brittney: Yeah. So, when I approach planning and evaluation, you start with the referral reason. So why are we requesting this evaluation? And once we have that really clear picture of what the referral reason is, that's where I start to plan my evaluation. So, I gather as much data as I can first, you know, school records, information from the teacher, I typically talk to the parent. But then I sit down, and I plan the evaluation, which is essentially looking at some broad measures first, so to really give us a big picture of how the student is performing. So, when I say broad measures, I'm talking about things like behavioral scales that look at a broad spectrum of behavior.Andy: So, like questionnaire kind of scales?Brittney: Yeah, exactly.Andy: All right, so let me try to sort of break some of this down. So, when we talk about like referral reasons, what are some of the questions that you're trying to answer?Brittney: So, the first referral question that I usually ask is, in what ways is the student struggling? And then I also ask, on the flip side, in what ways is the student being successful? Where are they not struggling? I also look at factors that could be contributing to the student struggling. So, this could include things that are going on at home, this could include global pandemic, so just really looking at those factors that could be influencing the student's performance at that time.Andy: So, I think you know when we use the word like comprehensive, you know, the idea that we're looking at a lot of bits and pieces of what this child's whole life is about. And for some families, that's a little bit anxiety-provoking, right? If they're having challenges, let's say in school, but you come in with a big broad question like this, how do you navigate that with your families when you're looking at the big picture? And they might be thinking, "Oh, I thought you were looking at my kid's reading" or some other specific challenge.Brittney: I try to approach evaluations and working with families and how I sometimes explain it to them, is that you know, if we're using an analogy, like a jigsaw puzzle, so when we know what that problem is, at the end of the evaluation, we really want kind of a comprehensive, full picture of what's going on in the child. And the only way for us to get there is to have different pieces to put together to be able to see that full picture of what's going on with the child. So again, emphasizing we're not just talking about areas of need, and disability, we're also talking about strengths as well. And so, I do emphasize that with families right off the bat. But in order for us to get that comprehensive picture, we have to have their side as well, and what could be impacting the child. Because that's, in my opinion, one of the most important pieces is the input from the family.Andy: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. When you talk about your evaluation team, do you also have other members like teachers in the team? Or who else is at the table outside of those, you know, multidisciplinary, other evaluators, perhaps?Brittney: Yeah, ideally, teachers would be at the table. Speaking in reality, and teacher schedules, it's often difficult to get them at that initial meeting. But their input is always provided; teachers can provide their input via writing, or we can call them into a meeting via Zoom and allow them to share their input with the classroom teachers are seeing on a day-to-day basis. It's a huge piece of that puzzle that we need to just consider during that initial referral meeting.Andy: Absolutely. And depending upon your state, there may be requirements for the people who are around the table. So, for example, in the state of Maine, we are required to have a regular education teacher, a special education teacher, and an administrator around the table. Brittney, what are some of the timelines that you guys are honoring in Texas? You know, in Maine, we have a 45-day timeline from the day the referral is signed to having a completed evaluation. And I think the federal law, maybe 60 days, what do you folks use for your timelines in Texas?Brittney: We have 45 days to complete the evaluation and have the report written, we then have an additional 30 calendar days, so not 30, school days, 30 calendar days to have that first meeting, IEP meeting, to review the results and determine eligibility.Andy: So, for folks who are concerned about this for your individual states, you know, take a look at our page for this podcast and you'll see we've got some state-specific information there for you folks. As we can see, there's a little bit of variation across states. And it can be a little bit confusing, but you can certainly get some of that information from your own school staff. So, let's move on to some of the, you know, we had some, some brief conversation about the kinds of tests that you've been using. And maybe we can talk about how the process might look somewhat differently for different kids. You know, they don't all take the same tests. And because we're looking for different things, maybe we can talk a little bit about some of those specific kinds of tests.Brittney: As a school psychologist, I have given many different types of cognitive intellectual tests. So basically, you know, one-on-one evaluations that look at how students learn. And I have, I know the differences and the different types of tests, like I do know that some are more hands-on, I know some that are heavily weighted in verbal input. And so, for a younger student, I really do, most of the time, like a very hands-on interactive type of testing, then sitting down one on one looking at an easel is very difficult for them. So, an easel would be just like, you know, cardstock with a card that a student would respond to, but there are certain tests that are very hands-on, and I know that's much better for my younger students. So, I'd say that's my first difference that may occur is what testing could look like for a younger student than what it would look like for an older student.Andy: Sure. And I think when you talked about intellectual or cognitive, you know, for some people, we're looking at things like getting IQ scores, and I think it's very important to keep in mind as a parent, that these scores are really just designed to look at how your child is solving problems engaging in some of these very specific learning tasks. And as Brittney was saying, some of them might lean to more hands-on activities at times, some might be more language-like question and answer that are verbal tests. And again, for most of our, especially for our young kids, we're trying to establish something that we call a baseline. A baseline is getting like that first score. Okay, where is this child starting right now on the scale? And we look at it over time, because so much of our testing is a moment in time, it's a snapshot. Brittney, talk to me a little bit about the educational part. We've sort of talked a little bit about the IQ testing, or the cognitive testing, fairly similar words. But what else tweaks that sort of educational piece? Because you've described a lot of big-picture stuff. What about some of those specific pieces?Brittney: Yes, so we also look at how the student is performing academically and with their achievement. So, when we look specifically at achievement, there are standardized tests that you can give that gives a snapshot of how the student is performing in reading, writing, and math. It's not the only piece though when you're looking at how a student's performing academically, and that's something I stress to parents. We're also looking at grades, we're looking at the student's response to the interventions that have been put in place by the school. So, for example, if a student is struggling in reading, and they've had a very specific reading intervention put in place, how have they responded to that intervention? Observations is actually a big part of this as well — seeing the student in the class where they are struggling, is a big piece of this.Andy: So, we've been talking about the cognitive and educational parts of the psycho-educational testing, how do you approach the behavioral or social-emotional parts of psycho-educational testing?Brittney: Specifically, when I approach the psychological component, this involves a lot less of one-on-one testing of the student, it involves a lot of observation, so seeing the student in different parts of their day. So how are they in the cafeteria? How are they in their classroom during a reading lesson? How are they during a more, or a time when it's less structured like music class? So really seeing a comprehensive view of their day in different settings. Observations are a huge piece of a psychological evaluation. It also includes interviews, so talking with the parent, talking with the student, and then also talking with the teachers.Andy: So, what do you think families can do to help plan and get the right testing for their child?Brittney: So, when we obtain consent, so consent saying we can move forward with testing, we typically talk about the major categories and some proposed testing measures that we'll use. This is where I really, really advocate to families to ask questions, find out exactly what type of what we mean, when we say cognitive testing. I really try to encourage families to ask questions throughout the process. So, making kind of checkpoints with the family. Okay, here's where we're at, here's what I'm thinking about in terms of next steps, what do you think? And just get, making sure, that their input is a part of that process.Andy: Britt, let's talk a little bit about ADHD. Now, many families want to know if a school evaluation can diagnose their child with ADHD. But typically, school psychologists can't make a clinical diagnosis. So, you need a specific type of licensing like the one I have to make a diagnosis.Brittney: When the referral question is around attention, impulsivity, when I am thinking that ADHD needs to be considered, I do have the ability to give scales rating scales, observations specific to ADHD. However, when I write in my report, I write about the characteristics that I'm seeing of ADHD versus the child has ADHD. In Texas, ADHD falls under Other health impairment and an Other health impairment has to be endorsed by a clinical doctor. If the child has an outside diagnosis already, it's a fairly simple process to where we send this form to the doctor, the doctor signs that yes, the student has ADHD, and that becomes part of their eligibility in special education. Now, when the child does not have an outside diagnosis already, that's where it becomes a little bit more complicated. So, I will describe what I'm seeing, I will describe the characteristics that I'm seeing, and then it is up to the family at that point if they do want to pursue the actual diagnosis of ADHD. So, they would then take the step to talk to a doctor about getting that official diagnosis.Andy: Yeah. So, Brittney, you mentioned that schools need to get parents' consent; parents need to agree to the evaluation plan before the school can move forward. So, let's talk for a minute about parental rights. This season of "Understood Explains" has a whole episode about evaluation rights. But for now, I want us to touch on parents' rights during the planning part of the evaluation process. You know, when we think about English language learners, or homeschooled or private school students, are there any things you can share about their rights? Or how this part of the process might be different for them?Brittney: Yes. So going back to that informed consent. For our English language learners, their families have the legal right to have that information presented in their native language. So super important and pretty obvious that we would want, you know, them to be informed in the language that they understand. But it is something that not all families know is a legal right. So, the other piece for our English language learners, is that there has to be a specialist that knows about English language acquisition. So, second language acquisition as part of the evaluation team. So, this was actually recent, I believe it was November 2021, federal guidance that they asked for a member of the evaluation team to have expertise in second language acquisition because we shouldn't be making a determination about why a student is behind academically if we aren't considering where they are acquiring English as their second language.Andy: Yeah, that's absolutely huge. The idea that being able to evaluate somebody's reading or writing skills, for example, when they're not a primary English speaker is an unfair set of criteria. The reality is that not all standardized tests are fair for people who don't speak English as a primary language or people who are from a different culture, other than the dominant culture that created that evaluation tool. And we'll talk about the idea of culture-fair evaluations in other episodes, but this is what we're referring to here. You should not be at a disadvantage because you are not a predominant English speaker, or you're in the process of learning English as your second or third language for that matter. So huge. Thank you for that, Brittney. One other population group that I've dealt with in terms of the evaluation process was homeschooled and private school students within my public schools. Those students maintain the same legal right to free evaluations. And yet we within the public schools typically provided that assessment. What's that process been like for you? Have you had to do those within your school systems?Brittney: So yes, it is the same process where the public school is responsible for providing that evaluation. We provide the evaluation for the family and the school, but the school isn't necessarily legally obligated to provide all the services that we recommend, based on what the student’s needs are. So that is a nuanced thing that I've experienced with private school evaluations.Andy: Brittney, thanks so much for being here today. I can't thank you enough for all your expertise in time.Brittney: Thank you so much for having me.Jaime: So in order to prepare Jonah for the evaluation process, and the fact that there might be people sitting in and observing him, I basically just said to him, "Listen, you're starting a new school, you know, they're looking to see if you need vision therapy, they're looking to see if you need speech therapy, there's probably going to be some people coming in to either do some testing or just kind of watch you as you're learning. And I just want you to just be yourself and do what you normally do and let them do what they have to do, and they will find the best possible plan for you to make sure you get the best education possible." So, I just kind of laid it all out for him just so he knew what was happening, but he was a champ through the whole process and didn't even basically mention it at all, because he's so resilient.Andy: We've been talking about how a team of adults does a lot of planning before the evaluation. What can adults do to help kids be ready for the evaluation or assessment process? My next guest is Amanda Morin. She co-hosts Understood's "In It" podcast about the joys and frustrations of parenting kids who learn and think differently. So, in talking about what to expect during this process, how do you help your child know what to expect? What kind of things do you suggest that we do to help them through that process?Amanda: I think it's really important to really dial down anxiety for kids because they feel like they have to perform. I mean, regardless of how old a child is, they always feel like they're on display, and they have to perform. And especially when to get into middle school kids always feel like that anyway, right? But, when they're singled out in a way, they feel like they, they have to do a certain thing. And so, I think it's important to be able to say to your child, "There's really no expectation of you here; the expectation is that you're here, and you're going to participate." And it's really great to be able to say, "You know what? You don't have to study, these are not the kinds of things you have to study for; we're not expecting you to know all the capitals of all the states, there's no expectation that you have to know certain things."Andy: Yeah, I'd say that, you know, when I talk to kids about the testing process, I'll always say to them, these activities are designed for kids through this entire age range. So, if I have an eight-year-old in the room, I'll say — so when we get to things that maybe a 10,12,14-year-old is supposed to know — "We're pretty sure that they're going to be hard for you, you might not even know what to do. So, keep in mind that as we go, sometimes things are going to get harder, sometimes things are going to be frustrating. And when you find that's happening, we know that it's working, and none of those things last forever. I will tell you, you're only going to be frustrated for so long until we move on to something else. We're going to do that for maybe three or four minutes, and then we'll move on."Amanda: I think that's really good information for parents to have too, to be able to say to your child, there's going to be times where you're frustrated, there gonna be times when the person you're talking to can't tell you whether it's right or wrong, no matter how many times you ask them, they're not going to be able to tell you. And that's because that's their job. And I think sometimes, it's really important for parents to make sure that they are proactively saying to kids, "This is not about how smart you are, this is about what you're really good at, and what you have some trouble with. And we want to really know that so you can feel better about yourself, right?" And that's part of this. It's not just about what can we do to support kids in classrooms? It's also about what can we do to make sure kids feel better about themselves? And so, I think proactively addressing that is really important, too.Andy: Yeah. You know, I think one of the pieces on the anxiety front — I want to dial back here for a sec — routinely, I will ask a parent, how does your child need preparation to know in advance that I might come in, grab them on such and such a day? Or is your child the kind of kid who would prefer to go with the flow and not have to anticipate this? Because some kids might ruminate about it and think and think and think, and not be able to focus on anything else. So, I think that's always an important thing for me when I talk to parents in advance of bringing their child in.Amanda: So, really good point, I think the other component of that, too, is if you have a child who's going to think about that over and over again and be like, wondering about it, and then your schedule changes. So, you know, working in schools, schedules change periodically, and things change up. And if you're not able to go into the classroom and talk to that kid that day, that's a child who might worry, what happened? Why did that not happen today? So, I think that's a really good point, is to make sure that you understand whether or not your child's the kid who needs that advanced warning. When it comes to anxiety, too, it's also important to separate your own anxiety from your child's anxiety, right? It's really easy as a parent to say, "I'm anxious, so my kid is anxious." But that's not always the case. And so, tuning in to whether or not your kid is actually pretty laid back and is not going to worry about this, you can just say, by the way, remember, we may have talked about evaluation, you may have already told them this is coming you may not have, so this may be the first conversation you're having. But to be able to say to them, "Oh, just wanted to give you a heads up," instead of like, "This is a thing that's happening today and I'm very anxious about it and I'm going to impart that anxiety to you."Andy: So, I think Amanda, you've really covered a lot of this. Is there anything specific though, that you think maybe we haven't covered about things you would avoid saying to your kids about what to expect in this process?Amanda: I would avoid saying to your child, "This really matters. This is really important." Right? That's a lot of pressure. That's a lot of pressure on a kid. And I think that kids who have been in school for a while, are used to taking tests or doing homework assignments. And knowing within a couple of days how well they did on that. And so, I think it's really important to let your kid know, your child know, that we're not going to know right away, right? The evaluator may have or the person you sat down with into those activities with may have an idea of what this means, but we're not going to have that information right away. Don't worry about it. You know, don't worry about it, you did the best you could do, and we'll see what comes out of it.Andy: So, we've talked about what happens during an evaluation, how you're part of the team that plans it, and how you can help your child get ready. If there's one thing you take away from this discussion, is that you can play a very active role in helping your child and the school, get ready for the evaluation. Don't be afraid to ask questions about what will or won't be part of your child's evaluation, and why. As always, remember that as a parent, you're the first and best expert on your child. In our next episode, we'll dive into what the evaluation results may look like and explain key terms to help you understand what the results mean for your child. We hope you'll join us.You've been listening to Season 1 of "Understood Explains" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we've mentioned in the episode. And now, just a reminder of who we're doing all this for; I'm going to turn it over to Lee to read our credits. Take it away, Lee.Lee: "Understood Explains" is produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, who also did the sound design for this show. Briana Berry is our production director. Andrew Lee is our editorial lead. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. Seth Melnick is our executive producer. A very special thanks to Amanda Morin and all the other parents and experts who helped us make this show.Andy: Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at

  • 8 inclusive ways to rethink your interview strategy for people with disabilities

    Traditional job interviewing strategies can be anything but inclusive. That can mean lost hiring opportunities for the 68 percent of Americans with disabilities who are “striving to work,” (either currently working or looking for work) and employers eager to tap into this vastly overlooked talent pool. If you’re part of your company’s hiring process, there’s plenty you can do to make your interview strategies more disability-friendly. And it might not be what you‘d expect. “Inclusive interviewing is not really about How do I make this blind person more comfortable? or What should I ask this person with Down syndrome?” says Claire Odom, senior program manager at Understood. “The bigger question is this: How can we make interviews inclusive and welcoming for every applicant, regardless of their disability or whether they have a disability at all?” Rather than looking at job interviews as a way to screen people out, consider them a great opportunity to help screen qualified candidates in. Here are eight ways to make that happen. 1. Check your own personal biases right up front Fear and stigma about engaging with job applicants who have disabilities is common. “We see it more in job interviewing than just about anywhere else in the hiring process,” says James Emmett, a disability inclusion expert and Understood’s lead workplace strategist. An important part of addressing preconceived notions about disability is recognizing it — not merely among your colleagues, but within yourself. For example, you might think that a person with ADHD will fidget or not stay on topic during your meeting. This is unconscious bias. And it’s human nature, especially if you’ve had limited exposure to people with disabilities. (But you probably have had more exposure than you realize. A 2017 study found that among white-collar, college-educated employees with disabilities, 62 percent identified theirs as “invisible.”) As you begin to explore your own fears and biases, get the facts. Be open with superiors about your concerns. They may offer valuable feedback from their own experience. They can also connect you with a disability inclusion consultant if your company works with one. Whatever the case, take steps to educate yourself about implicit bias. 2. Adjust your expectations We’re conditioned to expect certain things from people we interview: a firm handshake, good eye contact, a ready smile, easy conversation. But people with autism spectrum disorder, for instance, often have trouble with such traditional “people skills.” That may make them less-than-ideal interview candidates by stereotypical standards. “Are ‘people skills’ really important for every job? What do they mean for engineers, accountants, or someone who works on an assembly line?” asks Emmett. When interviewing, put your personal social preferences on the back burner. Then do your best to evaluate a candidate’s behavior based on the needs of the position that’s being filled. 3. Set the stage for success Only a small percentage of job applicants volunteer that they have a disability. And by law, employers can’t ask. So how can an interviewer be prepared from a practical standpoint? Start with using a space that gives every applicant equal advantage. “We have a room at the front of our building near a parking lot that is easily accessible,” says Kris Martel, vice president of human resources at Tufts Health Plan in Watertown, Massachusetts. “It is away from noise and other distractions. Once a person is there, our hiring managers come to them.” If your business can’t set aside space just for interviews, that’s OK. But put some thought into where you might interview job candidates. Is it away from the kitchen and free of odors that could be challenging for people with sensory issues? Can a wheelchair fit comfortably at that conference room table? Book the space as far in advance as possible so there’s no last-minute scrambling. When setting up the interview, it’s perfectly fine to ask the applicant if there are any accommodations they will need during their visit. If they request something, your earlier thinking about the interview space should make any adjustments relatively easy. 4. Rethink interview questions How do you define success? What’s your biggest weakness? How do you accept criticism? Abstract interview questions can be a roadblock for many potential — and qualified — hires with disabilities. This is especially true for applicants with autism spectrum disorder who tend to think quite literally. “We train managers and leaders to ask the kind of questions that will help them make sure a person meets the requirements for a particular job,” says Martel. To that end, if a question doesn’t directly relate to the core duties of a job, why not ask in a more concrete way that’s fair for everyone? Here are some examples of how to ask interview questions in a more inclusive way: Instead of “Tell me about a problem that occurred on your last job,” ask “In your last job at XYZ company, describe a situation where you had some difficulty.” Instead of “Tell me your five-year plan,” ask “What are three things you hope to achieve in this job with us?” Instead of “Tell me about your career experience,” ask “Can you tell me about your jobs at company X and company Y?” Instead of “Tell me about your biggest weakness,” ask “At your last job at company Y, what was the most difficult part?” Some other tips related to disability-friendly interview questions: If an applicant has a disability that you think could affect their performance on a job, don’t ask if it will be “a problem.” Instead, ask the candidate to describe how they see themselves doing the job. People with disabilities learn to navigate the world with the skill set they have. Your applicant may have an answer that surprises and impresses you. Think about providing an agenda before the interview. “It can be helpful to send ahead information about the schedule, who will attend and what you’ll be talking about so applicants know what to expect,” says Emmett. If providing questions isn’t appropriate, it’s still a good idea to let candidates know what the schedule will be and who will be attending. 5. Take cues on language People with disabilities have different preferences in how to identify themselves. Some like to use person-first language. For example, instead of saying “diabetics,” they refer to “people with diabetes.” Others embrace disability as part of a person’s identity and prefer identity-first language, such as people with autism spectrum disorder who call themselves “autistics.” Those who are hearing-impaired may prefer being called “deaf.” The best way to navigate this situation, says Emmett, is to put your own idea of “correctness” aside. If an applicant refers to their disability during or before the interview, follow their lead and make a note in your records. 6. Consider alternate interview formatsNot everyone is comfortable sitting across the desk from an interviewer. And interviewers can’t always tell if a candidate is right for a job while sitting in a conference room. So why limit your interview? There are other more inclusive options you can consider: Invite the applicant on a tour of your workplace. It’s a good way to ease conversation. And applicants have a chance to size up the noise, energy, and physical setup of your facility. Pay attention to how your applicant responds to your workplace. Concerns you might have had about that person’s disability may not turn out to be an issue. Consider a “working interview.” A growing number of employers are also including “working interviews” as part of their hiring process, says Odom. That way an applicant has the chance to actually demonstrate how they’ll do certain tasks. Assign a project instead of an interview. Some employers do not even require traditional interviews at all for certain positions. Instead, they may ask a programmer to complete a project or take an assessment test. There are many ways to make your interview format more inclusive. You will need to decide what works for your company and for the job that needs to be filled. 7. Respect silence Many people with invisible disabilities like ASD and ADHD are visual learners. That means they learn best through their eyes by reading, watching, and observing. Traditional Q&A interviews are based on verbal questions. So it can take a visual learner time to think about what you are asking and to formulate their answers. This can lead to lulls in conversation. Resist your urge to fill them. “Get comfortable just sitting there while giving the person a chance to process,” says Emmett. “Good interviewers embrace silence. They don’t run from it.” 8. Be yourself Yes, being more inclusive means adjusting your interview strategies. But don’t go overboard in your quest for inclusiveness. If you are interviewing a candidate with Down syndrome, talk in the same tone you use with other candidates. “Interview applicants with disabilities just as you would anyone else. If you tend to use humor, use humor. If you are more straightforward, stay that way,” says Emmett. Part of being yourself is also acknowledging when you’ve felt uncomfortable during an interview or struggled to react to the unexpected. If someone discloses she has mental illness during an interview, do you ask questions? Say “I’m sorry”? Plow right ahead with the conversation? “Process what happened with supervisors so you have a better idea of what you should do next time,” says Emmett. “Especially in the beginning, inclusion is a learning process.” Employing more inclusive interviewing strategies opens up more possibilities for your company to connect with talented candidates. Understood can partner with you to make your disability inclusion program as robust as it can be, from recruiting candidates to creating a workplace that is inclusive, supportive, and inspiring to all.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    A wastewater engineer cuts the crap about ADHD at work

    Scottie Donovan is a NYC wastewater engineer with ADHD. She thrives in this interactive civil engineering work, and uses tools to help along the way. Scottie Donovan is a New York City wastewater engineer with ADHD. When she entered the field, being on the frontlines of a pandemic wasn’t what she expected. But since wastewater helps determine positive COVID-19 cases, she’s played a vital role in public health information. She’s also heard enough poop jokes to last a lifetime.Scottie chose to study civil engineering because of how interactive it is. She’s worked in water treatment plants, and eventually found herself at a desk job in a consulting role. This transition wasn’t the easiest for her ADHD. But with tools like lists and time chunking, she makes her days work for her. In this week’s episode of How’d You Get THAT Job?!, get Scottie's tips for being honest about how much work you can take on. Plus, get a history lesson on how the sewer system advanced our civilization.Related resources4 ways I stay organized with ADHDADHD and sensory overload30 examples of workplace accommodations you can put into practiceEpisode transcriptScottie: And then there's all these large red buttons that you're not allowed to push for some reason. Like it looks like a video game, sometimes you're like "There's a button right there. I need to push it. It's flashing." But, you know, you can't. Eleni: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "How'd You Get THAT Job?!," a podcast that explores the unique and often unexpected career paths of people with learning and thinking differences. My name is Eleni Matheou and I'm a user researcher here at Understood. That means I spend a lot of time thinking about how we find jobs we love that reflect how we learn and who we are. I'll be your host. Today we're talking about poop. Let me explain. My next guest, Scottie Donovan, is a civil engineer. Scottie was diagnosed with ADHD in high school. Today, she's got a hands-on job that really fascinates her. She specializes in treating wastewater in New York City. During the COVID pandemic, wastewater has been a really important tool in figuring out how prevalent the virus is in our communities. And did you know you can track other diseases through waste as well? I don't even want to imagine what a world without wastewater engineers would look or smell like. Scottie will help explain how it all works. Welcome to the show, Scottie. Scottie: Thanks for having me. Eleni: I'm really excited to learn more about this topic. It's like, not really something that I had thought about and I was like, "Oh, it's so obvious, you know, that I know." But, I know that you can learn some interesting things from studying wastewater. So, could you talk about maybe what some of those things are? Scottie: I always like to start with my fun fact of the biggest improvement to public health in history is the invention of the sewer system. It completely changed how humans live and completely cut back on diseases and filth in general, really advanced our civilizations, and just we wouldn't be where we are today without that simple or seemingly simple infrastructure. And now that we already have that, it's kind of cool, especially right now — I always feel weird saying it's cool in regards to a pandemic — but, you know, it was something that we used to improve public health and now we can also study public health with it. We can learn about, you know, COVID numbers, what percentage of the population actually have it, and also other diseases. So, you're getting raw data in a kind of gross way, but very cool. People who don't want to go get tested or don't even know that they're sick, it will already be there. Eleni: What is your role in that process? Scottie: So, I am a civil engineer and I actually just design and, you know, help construct the infrastructure for distribution and treatment of wastewater. So, I work at the place where they would sample it or I'll design the infrastructure to get it to where it needs to be and hopefully treated to get that disease or whatever stuff is in that water out and made into fresh, clean water that will be not polluting the oceans anymore or our country's and world's waterways, not just oceans. Eleni: It's interesting because, you know, we've had a mechanical engineer on the show and, you know, I have a bunch of friends that are civil engineers. You know, when I think of infrastructure, I think of like what they focus on, which is like building roads, bridges like trains like that kind of thing. I've never actually heard it, like, also including wastewater infrastructure. Scottie: Yeah. Civil engineering — you know, my sector is the smaller branch off — but I like to think of civil engineering being anything having to do with making a city run. So, it really is any infrastructure a civil engineer will touch. Like you said, there's the trains, there's roads, there's buildings, there's all of that. But all the underground stuff as well are different options of civil engineering.Eleni: What made you decide to focus on water treatment and wastewater management? Scottie: I kind of lucked into it in a weird way. I took just a couple of intro courses to civil engineering and had a professor that I really enjoyed, and her focus was water and wastewater. I thought it was an interesting subject. I like the concept of taking something dirty, making it clean. I like the environmental aspects of it. I did an internship in college working at a drinking water plant and really enjoyed that. I mean, I got kind of lucky, really, to find something that I actually am passionate about and really enjoy doing. Eleni: Do you think that your interest was driven in any way by your ADHD? Scottie: I don't know. I think that is what drew me to liking working at a plant because it was fast moving and you know, there was so much that you could just see. It wasn't like conceptual. And I think that's what drew me definitely to civil engineering versus other types. I liked that it's a little bit more hands-on, it's, you know, like I'm seeing it happen right in front of me when I do it. I can hold up dirty water and then I can hold up clean water. And it's right there. Eleni: What is what is like the most interesting or like surprising thing that you've learned about working with wastewater? Like, what makes it more interesting to you than the drinking water? Scottie: You're starting with a harder product. You know, like you want kind of the same result. In theory, every wastewater plant would come in with really dirty water and it would be drinkable by the time it's out. That would be the end goal. Whereas, you know, a drinking water plant takes something that's like probably fine, or depending on where you are, fine, and then makes it even better. Yeah. It's not because I love the smell of it. That's for sure.Eleni: Do people ask you that?Scottie: They ask me more of how I deal with the smell or if you ever get used to it. And the answer is no, you do not get used to it. You will always know it. It makes you less nauseous over time, but you don't get used to it. Eleni: Yeah. I was actually going to ask about, you know, what field visits are like from that perspective, from like a sensory perspective. Scottie: From a sensory perspective, it's an overload, especially because you can't touch anything or you shouldn't because it's all kind of gross. And then there's all these large red buttons that you're not allowed to push for some reason. Like it looks like a video game sometimes you're like "There's a button right there. I need to push it. It's flashing." But, you know, you can't. And then obviously the smells because there's so many of them, it's not just, you know, what you would think because there's also chemicals, there's different byproducts at different steps and different additives at different steps, and they all are different. So, it's a lot when you're walking around. Eleni: Is it a dangerous environment to be in?Scottie: It can be, depending on what you're working with and depending on the step, I guess, that you're in. Yeah, I mean, you wouldn't want to get any of it at pretty much any step except for the end on you at all. That would be pretty bad. I don't know if it's folklore or if this actually happened, but at one of the plants I worked at every time they ask you to wear your eye protection, they tell a story about how their old CEO had one drop get in his eye and went blind. I only needed to hear that once, because I don't want to lose my sight. And again, not sure if it's real or not, but it is a possibility. At one point in time, I had to actually sample water at a job — it was only for like a week or so because we were starting up a brand-new facility — so we had to prove that what we built worked. You know I have a really funny photo that I used to keep on my Tinder of me in like head-to-toe like Tyvek suit, and they only bought like Triple XL because most of the construction guys are pretty big. And there I am, I like at the time, probably a 100-pound, 5'2" girl in this thing that I'm swimming in, holding this like gross water. And I just thought it was really funny. So, I always kept it on like on dating profiles just to see it, to see who was interested in that. But yeah, you definitely do have to be careful. It's not a nice environment then. It's, I mean, there's a reason we're trying to get it out of the water. Eleni: There's so much involved that like I never would have considered. It's not something you think about, you know, it's like "That's gone."Scottie: Yeah. And, I mean, that's kind of what I, that's also another weird thing that I like about it. I like that no one thinks about it, but I can be a silent hero here. Eleni: Yeah. As you said, super necessary for, like, progress and public health. So, I was going to ask you, I know you've mentioned a few things that you really like about your job, and you know how that kind of vibes with the ADHD in terms of like things being really tangible and like seeing a result and you know, being able to visit plants and not always be like at a computer. On the inverse side, like, do you have any challenges that come up at work and how do you manage them? Scottie: Yeah, I definitely have some challenges. I'm not sure how many are specific to people with ADHD, or specific to me, or specific to my role, but I used to always work at plants like in construction roles or just like, you know, in roles that you had to be more active. So, about almost exactly four years ago, I think this week, I switched over to consulting, so, it's more of an office role and that was an extremely hard transition for me, just it was my second job out of college and I had never worked in really a professional atmosphere because working at a wastewater treatment plant or on a construction site, it's a very different attitude. Like, everybody carries themselves differently. I had never owned, like, professional attire before, ever, like I wore jeans and a t-shirt every day with my hair in a baseball cap. Just never had to, you know, impress people or do anything like that and just, you know, sitting at a desk all day, I just had never done that. I mean, it was just very weird for like six months to have to completely revamp how I did everything at a job that I was pretty confident in going into. And like, "I know like a decent amount. They're, expecting this from me, I know how to do that. Cool. Got it." And there were so many little things that I did not realize. Like, I didn't realize how long it would take me to get ready every morning even. That was a big one, panicking because I couldn't find anything that was right in front of me. Eleni: Yeah, I relate to that. I always put my clothes out the night before because I spent too long in the morning. Yeah, my morning brain looking for things. Do you want to talk a little bit about, like what some of you know, maybe the routines or like other like coping strategies that you came up with during that transition time? Scottie: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. Eleni: Things that you're still doing now? Scottie: That routine definitely was a key factor, not just only like you mentioned, I did learn "Set out your clothes the night before because you will not have time in the morning." That's a big one. And I also kind of made routines during the day, you know, like during my 9 to 5, you know, got there at 8:45, I would give myself 15 minutes to have coffee and just, you know, get all settled, you know, and things like that. Like I would, you know, up until 9:30, you can answer emails and then, you know, go get more coffee or something if you need it. So, like organizing my day a little bit differently was definitely something that helped, and then planning out my day as well. I gave myself 15 minutes every morning to, you know, make a list of what I felt I could accomplish that day, you know, versus what needed to be done, you know, just break it apart a little bit and putting in that time to organize yourself every morning, really, definitely was helpful. I'm a big list person now as well. I have a calendar, but then I also have an agenda. I have to have both because I need to be able to see both because that's just how it works. Because I need the big picture and I need what's due today is what or what I'm doing today. And I think it maybe just took also a level of maturity in me growing up to be honest with myself and with other people about how I work and working with people that understood that was nice. Eleni: Yeah. Do you want to give an example of how you might phrase that or what you might say?Scottie: Yeah. So, first was me asking someone like, "Hey, can you get me this spreadsheet? OK, how long do you think that will take?" Like I always ask, what are their expectations? Because people don't always, you know, just tell you things because that's life. But they'll get back to me with "I think that this is how long it will take." Yeah, it's nice when you get a person that's like when they actually ask, "Is that reasonable?," because that makes it easier. But if they, you know, tell me, "I think it'll take an hour." Like, OK, I'm like, "All right, let me go look a little bit more into this in, you know, whatever time frame I think. And let me make sure that that is how long it will take me," because if it's something I've never done before or if it's just something that I knew right away would take me longer, just got to be blunt and say, "OK, would it be OK if it takes me about an hour and a half? Because I think that it would give me the space to work the way I find efficient." And I've never had someone say no, but I have had some people say, "OK, I think I'll find someone else to do it then." And the first time that happened, you know, you build yourself up to like, "I'm going to just be honest myself, I'm going to do it," blah, blah, blah. And is something like "Damn, like I just lost that." But you didn't really lose anything because you weren't going to fulfill their expectations anyway. It would have been worse if it took you twice as long to do it, or if it was late and it was something they really needed. You know, it's better to be honest. Eleni: Yeah, I think normalizing that is pretty cool. You know, it's like, you're not always going to get it right, but trying things out and seeing how people respond and if it gets you somewhere, that's great. Scottie: Agree. Eleni: So, usually we like to end with like, what advice do you have for people wanting to get into the space, like particularly for women or people with ADHD? Scottie: My advice would be if you're interested in the space and if you just want to learn more about it, there are so many different, like, volunteer organizations that you can actually go be a part of and do a cleanup and they'll introduce you to different aspects of the water resources world. And that way you don't have to like go get an engineering degree first because that would be insane. Also, a lot of places will offer wastewater treatment plant tours. If you just reach out to them, if you really are interested in seeing what it's all about and it's fun. So, if you do have ADHD, there's a million things to look at. Just don't press the big red button. Eleni: Good advice. Scottie: Keep your hands to yourself. Eleni: Thank you for talking to me about poop. Scottie: Any time. Eleni: I feel like we could do so many more poop jokes.Scottie: Oh, it's a big part of the industry. Eleni: You've been listening to "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" from the Understood Podcast Network. This show is for you, so we want to make sure you're getting what you need. Email us at with your thoughts about the show, or maybe you'd like to tell us how you got that job. I'd love to hear from you. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out our show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. Also, one of our goals at Understood is to help change the workplace so everyone can thrive. Check out what we're up to at That's the letter U dot org slash workplace. is a resource dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" is produced by Grace Tatter. Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. Margie DeSantis provides editorial support. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. And I'm your host, Eleni Matheou. Thanks again for listening.

  • Printable: Back-to-school update to learn from families

    At the start of the school year, it’s important to gather information about your students. Asking a few questions can help you build positive relationships with your students and their families. What were the challenges? What were the successes? What changed in kids’ lives? And how are they feeling right now? Share this one-page questionnaire with your students’ families. Families can download it on a computer or phone, and then type answers into the form. Or they can print it out and fill it in by hand. The form is also available in Spanish.Responding to families’ concernsAfter families return their questionnaires, follow up as needed and plan for how you can partner with families throughout the year. Some families may mention new behaviors that concern them. You can direct them to Take N.O.T.E., a step-by-step tool Understood developed with the American Academy of Pediatrics to help families spot signs of learning and thinking differences. The tool includes resources on frustration, stress, and anxiety, and it empowers families to seek support. Ready to dive deeper? Find out more about the benefits of strong family-teacher partnerships.

  • Understood Explains Season 2

    What happens in an ADHD test for adults?

    Find out how doctors test adults for ADHD. What kind of questions do they ask? How long does it take? Know what to expect in a thorough evaluation. How do doctors test adults for ADHD? What kind of questions do they ask? How long does it take? Understood Explains host Dr. Roberto Olivardia breaks down the process and explains what to look for in a thorough evaluation. Get an overview and answers to common questions: What does an ADHD evaluation look like? [00:51]So, what are ADHD rating scales? [03:48]How long does this whole testing process take? [04:59]What is the diagnostic criteria for ADHD in adults? [06:02]Why is it so important to be open and honest during an ADHD evaluation? [07:42]Key takeaway, next episode, and credits [08:31]Related resourcesHow do doctors test for ADHD in adults?What are ADHD rating scales?The 3 types of ADHDEpisode transcriptYou’re listening to Season 2 of Understood Explains: ADHD Diagnosis in Adults.Today, we’re going to talk about what happens in an ADHD test for adults.My name is Dr. Roberto Olivardia, and I’m a clinical psychologist with more than 20 years of experience evaluating people for things like ADHD. I’m also one of the millions of people who have been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. I’ll be your host.My goal here is to answer the most common questions about ADHD diagnosis. Along the way, you’ll learn a lot about ADHD in general. We’re going to do this quickly — in the next 10 or so minutes. So, let’s get to it.What does an ADHD evaluation look like? [00:51] First, I want to tell you what the testing doesn’t look like. There are no blood tests, no hooking you up to a machine, no brain scans — nothing like what you might see in other parts of a medical facility. In a nutshell, an ADHD evaluation tends to involve some multiple-choice questions and a wide-ranging conversation with a trained professional, like the kinds of providers we talked about in Episode 2. OK, so now let’s drill down into five key components of ADHD testing:The first is patient history — getting to know your past. The provider will ask for information about your childhood, including your birth weight and developmental milestones, like when you learned to walk and talk.This is also when it’s good to share details about any hospitalizations, as well as any ongoing health issues you might have. The second big part asks open-ended questions about different aspects of your life, like school, work, relationships, sleep patterns, appetite, etc. This is all essential for the evaluator to know, because ADHD can impact so many different aspects of daily life. But it can also affect different people in different ways. Let’s look at sleep, for example. If you say you don’t get enough sleep, the evaluator can really dig into this area: Do you have trouble falling asleep, but then you sleep like a rock and it takes four alarm clocks to wake you up? Or do you have trouble staying asleep because every little noise wakes you up? Is your sleep disrupted because you’re drinking too much and keep getting up to go to the bathroom?  Another example is the evaluator asking open-ended questions about school. If you say you were an A student, the evaluator might ask what went into getting those A’s.Did you have to pull a lot of all-nighters? Were your parents very involved in structuring your schedule? Did the wheels fall off when you went to college or got your first job?The third part is a questionnaire that asks a bunch of quick questions using what’s called an ADHD rating scale, which we’ll get into in the next section. But before we jump to that…Another really important part of an ADHD evaluation asks about other conditions. For example, maybe your symptoms are pointing to something that looks a lot like ADHD or that often co-occurs with ADHD, such as anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. That’s really, really important to keep in mind. And the last big part of the process that I want to highlight is meeting again with the provider to go over the evaluation report. This report is typically several pages long and should sound like whoever did the testing really got to know you. The report should also include recommendations on how to help. If you notice any inaccuracies or need clarifications, you should raise those concerns with the evaluator right away. And if you need certain recommendations spelled out so you can get accommodations at work or maybe for college or grad school, talk with the evaluator about that too. So, what are ADHD rating scales? [03:48] You’ll probably hear the phrase “rating scale” quite a bit during the ADHD diagnosis process. Essentially, it’s a questionnaire — a series of brief multiple-choice questions that you might fill out at home, or in-person with the evaluator. These scales ask you to rate how often you experience behaviors related to ADHD, like running late to important events or making careless mistakes when you’re working on a boring project.The answers you’re choosing from are typically something like “never,” “occasionally,” “often,” or “very often.”There are several different versions of rating scales, but they’re all working toward the same goal and are a key part of a comprehensive evaluation.  Generally, different providers tend to use whichever questionnaire or rating scale they like best and fill in any gaps during the one-on-one conversation or clinical interview. Sometimes, an evaluator may also ask someone who knows you very well — like a spouse or roommate — to fill out a questionnaire. Getting other people’s perspectives is commonly done when kids are being tested for ADHD, but it can help with adult diagnosis too.How long does this whole testing process take? [04:59] The length of time an evaluation takes can really vary from person to person. I’ve had some thorough evaluations take an hour to complete. Others have taken four or five hours. Some could be finished in one visit. Others need to be spread out over a number of visits.But in general, the process tends to break down like this:The ADHD rating scales typically take anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes to fill out.The patient history and other open-ended questions may take an hour or so.And then there’s the follow-up, where the evaluator explains the results and recommendations. This typically takes an hour too.There are lots of possible reasons why some evaluations take longer than others…Like if there’s a lot of personal history to review, or if there are any co-occurring conditions to go over in addition to possible ADHD.The timing also depends on how quickly the provider and patient are able to move through these conversations.What is the diagnostic criteria for ADHD in adults? [06:02]There are three official types of ADHD, and each has a different threshold that patients must meet for a diagnosis. There’s the inattentive type of ADHD, which used to be called “attention-deficit disorder,” or ADD. Patients need at least six symptoms of inattention for a diagnosis.To be diagnosed with the hyperactive/impulsive type of ADHD, a patient needs at least six symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity.Many folks have a third kind, which is called the “combined type of ADHD,” where you qualify for both types I just mentioned.The official diagnostic guidelines are part of a big manual that’s called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM. The DSM lists the criteria for the three kinds of ADHD. These guidelines are also looking to see if you started having symptoms before a certain age and if you’re having symptoms in two or more settings, like home and work.But these criteria are all really nuanced, which is why it’s so important to talk one-on-one with the evaluator. For example, it may seem like you’re mainly struggling in one area, like time management. But that one area could have a huge, negative impact on your life — like getting fired, losing friends, not achieving goals, etc. Context is also really, really important. For example, are you noticing fewer symptoms in some settings because you’re getting more support in those areas? A highly trained evaluator can suss out these kinds of things during your one-on-one conversations. Why is it so important to be open and honest during an ADHD evaluation? [07:42] As you’re going through the ADHD evaluation process and you’re filling out the rating scales, it’s pretty easy to guess which “often” and “very often” answers lead to an ADHD diagnosis.But I want to caution you against trying to answer in a way to ensure you get a diagnosis. If you don’t truly have ADHD, then getting treated for ADHD may not help you. And it could be dangerous if you’re incorrectly prescribed ADHD medication. It might actually make it take longer to figure out what’s really going on, like if you have a sleep disorder instead of ADHD. Different conditions require different treatments. So try to be as open and honest as possible. Key takeaway, next episode, and credits [08:31]OK, that’s all for Episode 3. The key takeaway I’m hoping you remember from today is why ADHD evaluations need to be so thorough.Evaluators ask so many questions to make sure that you do, in fact, have ADHD and not some other disorder that looks like ADHD. And since ADHD often doesn’t travel alone, it’s also really important to tease out any co-occurring conditions so your provider can develop a comprehensive treatment plan. Thanks for listening, and I hope you’ll join me for Episode 4, which explains what you need to know if you’re thinking about getting online testing for ADHD.You’ve been listening to Season 2 of Understood Explains from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources, as well as links to anything we’ve mentioned in the episode. One important note: I don’t prescribe ADHD medication and I don’t have any affiliation with pharmaceutical companies — and neither does Understood. This podcast is intended solely for informational purposes and is not a substitute for a professional diagnosis or for medical advice or treatment. Talk with your health care provider before making any medical decisions.Understood Explains is produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, who also edited the show. Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show.For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD, loving intensely, and impulsivity (Ange’s story)

    An ADHD diagnosis helped Ange Nolan understand her intense romantic relationships and career hopping. Find out what led to her ADHD evaluation. Ange Nolan once suspected she had ADHD, but she was dismissed by her doctor. Years later, she saw an ADHD iceberg infographic and related to almost every ADHD symptom it listed — including forgetting to use the bathroom. That’s when she decided it was time to approach a different doctor about ADHD.After getting diagnosed with ADHD last year, Ange realized how it had been affecting her many romantic relationships. She’d crave the chaos of an intense connection and become a “chameleon” who fixated on her partner’s interests and happiness — until burning out. Hear how Ange’s ADHD diagnosis helped her notice her own patterns, including hopping impulsively from one career to another. And stay tuned for a mini “aha” moment from host Laura Key on why she likes to be alone so much.Related resourcesADHD and emotionsUnderstanding impulsivityADHD and marriage (Rachel and Jon’s story)Episode transcriptAnge: So the ADHD iceberg infographic that's floating around social media. I was reading it, and I was able to check off almost everything on there. But the one thing that really stood out to me was the line that says "forgets to eat and go to the bathroom." And I thought maybe somebody can relate to almost all of these at some point in their life. But there are not going to be a lot of people that can honestly say that they struggle with forgetting to go to the bathroom. Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host. I'm here today with Ange Nolan. Ange is a listener who wrote in, and she's an account manager with a landscaping company in Southern Illinois. Ange got diagnosed with ADHD last year. Let's get started by talking about the visual that was the source of your ADHD "aha" moment. Tell our listeners what that visual is and where you saw it, what was happening, what did you think?Ange: Yeah. Laura: Go ahead. Ange: Sure. So my cousin's daughter had shared on Facebook this infographic of an iceberg of what ADHD looks like. And of course, it's the inattentive and the hyperactivity and the fidgeting. But then the whole underneath part of the iceberg that covers so many things that people don't really realize we struggle with with ADHD, and it's never really talked about in formal ADHD conversations. But I was reading through it and I was able to check off all of those things, and there were like maybe 20 to 25 things on there. Laura: So for people who are listening, you can look this up online. It's the ADHD iceberg. I'm not sure where it came from, but it's a really interesting graphic that shows — the top of the iceberg is basically the visible symptoms of ADHD. And as Ange mentioned, that's trouble focusing and fidgeting and hyperactivity, right? And then there are all these other signs and symptoms underneath the surface in like the bottom part of the iceberg under the water. And there was one in particular that really resonated with you. Ange: Yes, I was I was kind of connecting some of them, like, OK, well, maybe other people might experience some of these issues in their lives. But the one that really struck me was "forgets to go to the bathroom and eat." And I was like, no normal, quote unquote, normal person is going to be like, oh, yeah, I forget to go to the bathroom all the time. Whereas I'm like, I always forget to go to the bathroom until I cannot forget anymore. And then like, you know, so I was telling my husband about it and he said, "How do you forget to go to the bathroom?" OK, well. See? I have justified that no normal person is going to be like, "Oh, yeah, I forget to go to the bathroom." Laura: I'm sure it's led you to some, like, literally uncomfortable situations? Ange: Right. Yeah. Laura: That forgetfulness that sometimes comes with with ADHD and executive function challenges. So, you were seeing a therapist at that time, is that right? Ange: I have been seeing my therapist for probably four years. Five years maybe. And yeah, so I brought it up to her and she was like, "Oh yeah. Well, when we talked about how you collect hobbies but you don't do the hobbies, I kind of had an idea that you might be experiencing some ADHD issues." And so — and maybe she was trying to hint at it with me and I dismissed it very quickly in our relationship because I — I did approach my primary care doctor in my 20s and asked him if I could have ADHD, and it got dismissed relatively quickly. Laura: So just to clarify the timeline, you were diagnosed last year, in 2021. And that's around the time that you saw this iceberg graphic. Then you talked to your therapist about it. So before that, you had an inkling. Tell me about that. Ange: Yeah, and it's kind of embarrassing, but I was in a relationship and I was having a lot of issues focusing just on anything in general and kind of turning off all of those windows in my brain on command. And I was struggling at that time, where I was having intimacy issues with my partner in that I couldn't be in the moment with him. And all of these thoughts were constantly flooding my brain all the time. And so even whenever there should be nothing really going on in my mind, I was having those kinds of problems. And so I approached my doctor and I said, "Hey, you know, this is happening. It's affecting my life in general, in all aspects. But where I really find it hard to believe that this is acceptable is when I'm trying to be intimate with my partner and I can't turn off my brain." And so instead of going through, you know, the checklist and asking questions, he was like, "Well, here's a medication, try this and see if it helps." And I don't know what the medication was. I took it once and it made me feel kind of like I was on speed. And so I stopped taking it. And when I told him that, he was like, "Oh, well, then you don't have ADHD, if that was your reaction to this medication." And like, that was the end. Laura: That doesn't sound like a very thoughtful treatment plan. Ange: No. And I was like, well, that's a very risky game to play. Laura: Yeah. Yeah, that's concerning, because, sure, medication doesn't work for everybody, but there's trial and error. Ange: Yes. So obviously, I do not see the same primary care person that I saw in my 20s. So I approached my doctor about it, and so he did the evaluation. You know, we talked about the checklist and, you know, I checked all the boxes and so we started treatment with different stimulants. I noticed it was like a calm in my mind, to where I felt like I was finally in control of myself. But that whole journey has been a struggle because it's constant trial and error and dosages, and which kind of is going to be the better kind to interact, you know, and all those chemical imbalances. And so that's been a hard path to walk because it wasn't just a simple, easy fix. Laura: Let's talk about this iceberg. Some of the other symptoms are challenges that are listed underneath the surface. There are things like difficulty maintaining relationships, spending money irresponsibly, losing items all the time, and also, of course, poor impulse control. I'm curious if any of these are resonating with you. Ange: Oh, yeah, 100%. Like, and even looking back, I am just flabbergasted how nobody had picked up on this at any other time. Like, I went to school to be a teacher and I started working toward my master's degree in special education. And so even myself, like I studied special education, which ADHD was a chapter in that. And I worked with kids with learning disabilities and behavior disorders. Whenever I got out of college, that was my first teaching job. And so it just blows my mind how — how many scaffolded masks I've put on to where I didn't recognize some of the more obvious symptoms and how clueless it seems like everybody else was around me. Laura: I mean, that's partially why the show is called "ADHD Aha!" Sometimes it just hits you like a ton of bricks. And it's maybe been building under the surface for — yeah, no pun intended with the iceberg — but like these little moments of recognition kind of building under the surface and then it takes that conversation or, for you, that visual for it to come together. So let's start with career. You're no longer a teacher, is that right? Ange: Correct. Yeah. So now I work in landscaping, which — it's fun because I'm learning something completely new. It's a little bit of inside and outside. And I have different clients and the pace is constantly changing, so it's keeping my interest without overwhelming me. And so I feel like at this stage in my life, it's checking some of the boxes that I have not been able to with other jobs that I've had. I always used to think that I wish that I could live seven lives because there are so many different things that I want to do. Laura: I think the term you used when we chatted last was "career swapping." Have you had other jobs in between education and where you are now? Can you just maybe do a list of other jobs that you've had? Ange: Sure. So if I'm categorizing careers, it would be retail management and teaching and then this, you know, customer service oriented career, like what I'm doing now as an account manager — you know, working hand in hand with clients. Laura: In any of these cases, did you ever start a job before you were maybe ready to start that job? Ange: Yeah. Laura: No judgment. I'm just curious. Ange: I'm pretty sure that I do almost everything before I'm 100% ready. I think if I were ever 100% ready to do something, I'd probably back out before I hit 100%. Laura: Very well stated, Ange. You told me last time we chatted that you've been married multiple times and engaged multiple times as well. Ange: Yes. So when I was reflecting about this yesterday, I think that it's important also to add that I started dating — like a serious relationship — when I was 15, and that lasted about two years. And there is no amount of time that I can say that I've been single in my life longer than six months maybe. So from 15 to I'm now 40. That's a lot of time spent focusing on another person. And my relationship that I'm in now is the longest relationship I've had by far. And we're about to hit seven years. And that's one of the things that made me so angry. Whenever I saw that iceberg and realized that this is my life and this is what I've been struggling with, that was where my brain went first was how angry I was that it wasn't caught beforehand and I couldn't have been made aware of some of those under-the-iceberg issues that I would be dealing with. Because had I known, then I feel like those are things that I could have watched out for, for myself, and kept myself out of getting into some of those those situations. Because I would impulsively get into a relationship. You know, we — whenever we are attracted to something, we're attracted 100%. Just like when I collect hobbies. I want to do this now and I'm going to go out and buy all of this stuff. And so whenever there is a person that I feel connected to, then I'm all in and I'm going to focus 100% of my time on that person. And it almost becomes like an obsession or an addiction. Like we're very much focused on building that relationship with somebody to a deficit, because then we're not looking out for any warning signs. We're not really paying attention to what we want for ourselves. And my parents have always told me that I'm like a chameleon whenever I'm in a relationship with somebody, because I instantly am interested in their hobbies and I'm interested in what they have going on in their lives — to where I don't really know what I would want for myself. And one of my marriages was to somebody who deployed, and I lived out of state and I had no family and no friends. And that was the first time in my life I've ever been able to sit with myself and truly learn who I was. And that was a very freeing moment. I think that's probably one of the best years of my life. And it didn't really go so well for that relationship. Laura: Was that your first marriage? Ange: Yes. Yeah. And coincidentally, he was my first boyfriend. So we had broken up in high school and then got back together 10 years later. So at that point, it was kind of like, hey, society says that I need to be married and I should have kids. And he's my high school sweetheart. And I know a lot of people who have married their high school sweethearts. And so it was kind of like, oh, this is — this is it. I'm doing the Disney fairy tale for myself. And so we got married very quickly. And that's kind of the beginning of the end. Laura: And you're in your third marriage right now. Is that right? Ange: Yeah. Laura: And you mentioned you had been engaged a few times as well. Ange: Yes. Laura: So a lot of intense relationships. A lot of quick relationships. Ange: I don't necessarily regret the fact that I have loved people very intensely. It's bad for both parties whenever, you know, on the surface, everything seems great. And so you're following that like an adrenaline rush or that instant dopamine high. And so then it's something that you try to keep building on no matter what it is that we're doing. I keep thinking back to the whole hobbies thing. But also if I'm not good at something, then I don't have that drive to continue. And so if I feel like that compatibility isn't being matched by my partner, then it gets to a point where I'm like, OK, well, I'm wasting my time now. Because I don't foresee me continuing to give 100% in this when that return on investment isn't there at that same level. And my level obviously has been very intense. Laura: So it sounds like there was a hyperfixation on this other person, but also on the things that they were interested in. Is that accurate? Ange: Right. Like just changing music — the taste of music. And different movies. And I dated a guy that was into hockey. And so I wanted to immerse myself as much as I could. And in learning about hockey and going to his games — and I'm not a sports person. Like it has to be very intense for it to hold my attention. And so trying those things on and feeling like, OK, I can make this fit, but then after a while it's not fitting, right? And then I'm finally like, OK, I'm resigning myself to this isn't what I actually like. But at the same time, I've collected a lot of different things here and there that I find, had I not been in those situations, I would not have been exposed to. So while I may have been becoming a chameleon to that person, I still kept a little bit of that color for myself. Laura: How would the relationships typically end? I just wonder, was there an element of burnout from both parties, from you, from the other? Ange: A few of my relationships have ended mutually, where it was kind of either like a crash and burn on both of our parts. Or I remember one of my boyfriends told me that I was crazy and like he was out, and so I definitely remember the ending to that. But most of them have been where I've gotten to a point of burnout from being so hyperfixated on somebody else's happiness. And that wasn't being reciprocated. And I just I couldn't do it anymore. It got to a point where I thought, OK, I need to do what's healthy for me. And I spent so much time giving everything I have to this person. And one of my husbands was cheating on me in that relationship. We had a lot of like passion and it was like a hurricane all the time. And I feel like I live very comfortably in chaos. And so while the rest of the world around me was like, Angela, why are you continually putting yourself in a position where you're dealing with this stuff? And why are you sitting here talking about how you think that your husband's cheating on you when you've had this feeling since you guys started dating? Like, why? Why continue to put yourself in that position? And it was just like I was drawn to that. I was drawn to, you know, the chaos of all of it, until finally I was like, this is not going to be the rest of my life. Laura: I'm sorry. And it makes my blood boil when I hear about people calling people crazy. I mean, yes, in quotes, it really does, especially, you know, a man calling a woman crazy. But in all circumstances, it's really not OK. And you're clearly not crazy. And I also want to just say that I really empathize and relate to a lot of what you're saying. I mean, that hurricane that you describe is — it's intense and it has, like, there's fallout afterwards, right? There's damage that is left in its wake, but there's something so enticing and exciting about it. Ange: Yeah. And it's that you're creating that tornado for yourself, that hurricane, because that's where you are able to sit still finally, is in that kind of madness that you're building. And without understanding these concepts that lie under the surface of ADHD, I don't think that we're properly able to work through some of those issues and build the right techniques to deal with them effectively. Laura: So how are you doing now in your current relationship? Does your husband know that you have ADHD? Ange: Yes. Yeah, he does. Laura: Does that help that he has knowledge of it? Ange: I think so. I think that having some of the conversations with him, working through some of those under-the-iceberg things, being able to say, look, this is — this is what I'm dealing with. And I've had him listen to a couple of the podcast episodes. The episode where one of your guests was talking about how she and her wife are both ADHD and they both do things differently as far as organizing in the house. And like, she lives in clutter and her partner lives in extreme organization. And I'm like, this is me. This is why I can't ever feel like I'm getting things done as far as like chores or organizing things. Because I'm just zooming around doing stuff and nothing is done. I'm getting like a hundred things 10% done, but nothing is ever 100% done. And so I think having somebody that I can verbalize those issues with in real time and work through my thoughts on those has helped both of us to kind of be like, OK, well, this is really what's going on. But also he's very patient with me, and I feel like he's the first person that I've had in my life that I can truly be myself. Where before I've masked a lot of things with my partners, and I've been so focused on trying to be like them or be the things that they like, that I didn't let them see who I actually was. It's been a blessing to have somebody that I feel that comfortable with. Laura: I really relate to you in a lot of ways. We're the same age. I was diagnosed — you were diagnosed more recently than I was. But nonetheless, it is such a journey. I've done a lot of looking back on like, God, why didn't anybody stop me? I've had impulsivity in relationships. I've — I understand that hurricane, tornado, and the appeal of it and the damage that it can cause as well. I just — I think your story is really beautiful, and I'm just so grateful for your candor. Ange: Thank you. It's been like I've thought I'm just a terrible person and I have these weird, neurotic behaviors that make me very high maintenance. You know, I feel like I'm so extra all the time, and maybe I'm just a bitch and nobody can be around me because I'm so self-destructive — to coming to this place where I feel like, oh, my gosh, I'm at ground zero finally. And I get to see what this is. And it's made me mad. It's made me happy to finally figure it out. It's made me cry a lot. But I just wish that as we continue to bring more light to it, that more and more people will be able to say, "Oh, wait, me too." You know, have their own "aha" moment and not have to struggle 30 years to figure things out. Because there could have been so many things that would have happened differently and I wouldn't feel so behind or insufficient in otherwise. Laura: I hope that when this episode comes out that you'll listen to it and hear what I'm hearing. That's just how clear-headed and clearly not, quote unquote, crazy. And not a bitch. Just a kind, smart, thoughtful person who's had experiences and is now kind of coming out of some of the more intense experiences and able to look back at them. Kind of similar to how, I don't know, maybe listening to — Jeannie's story was the one that you were referencing. Sharing that with your husband. Maybe there's some imposter syndrome, because we've — as people with ADHD, kind of, we look back and we're like, "Oh, I did this this weird thing," or "I'm so neurotic" or "I'm so angry" or whatever. Ange: Yeah, that imposter syndrome. Laura: Yeah, that's a killer. Ange: Yeah. Especially if you're diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. And then you're like, "Oh my gosh, am I just pretending? Am I — do I really have ADHD?" I'm like, oh my God, it's working against me. Like, the imposter syndrome is making me feel like an imposter. And then the other thing I wanted to add, too, when we are talking about your other guests, you had a guest on and I don't know if he brought it up or if you brought it up. But it was the ICNU: interest, challenge, novelty, urgency. And I feel like that heavily applies in relationships as well, because if you're not checking those four boxes as a person with ADHD, I feel like you default to like, OK, I'm bored, I'm out. And that is a dangerous thing that puts us in some pretty careless and reckless positions if we're not careful. Laura: That's really insightful. That was Scott's story and yeah, I remember that acronym. I hadn't thought about how it might apply to relationships, but yeah, you're right. That's really true. Are there other things that you wanted to talk about that you feel like are really important? Ange: I like, have this whole — I have like five pages that are like look at all these things that are running through my head at 11:00 at night. Ange: There is one thing that, you know, has started coming to the surface, I feel pretty recently. And that's diagnosing ADHD and looking at that hyperactivity aspect. Because I feel like I have the inattentive and I have the hyperactivity. With my new career, I have spent a lot of time in cars with associates driving around to their properties and explaining things to me, and the amount of masking that I've noticed I've had to do being, quote unquote, normal, sitting still in someone else's car and not propping one foot up in my seat and drumming along with music or belting out tunes to try to hold my attention. By the end of the day, I would be wiped out when I got home, because I had to restrain that energy so much and put this mask on that it zapped. It was like draining my battery so fast. And looking at all of the stuff as it's coming at me, realizing how often have we been doing this our whole lives and we didn't notice. And it's crazy to me how fast it trains you to be so inauthentic in that manner where you have to wear a mask and do the proper thing instead of the thing that makes you comfortable, so that you can really be in the present moment. Laura: Yeah, totally. Oh, my gosh. Yeah. It's funny, I — you're making me realize why I like to be alone so much. I haven't thought about it that way. People always say, "Oh, do you want to walk over with me" if we're walking from one place? No, I want to walk by myself. I want to go at my pace, I'm going to do my things. "Oh, do you want to — do you want to get to ride with me?" No, no. I want to be on my own. And it's not a solitary thing. I enjoy being around other people, but I just don't — I just have all these little things that I want to do with my body all the time, that I don't want to have to not do them because I feel like I'll crawl out of my skin. And you're giving me an "aha" moment. This is why I like to be alone so much. Ange: Yeah. And we're very empathic people, I think. And I used to think that that was just it. Maybe I'm just empathic and I'm like, wait, that's it's synonymous with having ADHD because we are constantly observing and paying attention to what's going around us and like — so we are absorbing this energy from other people. We're picking up on their cues and all of that stimulation and that hyperfocus on your surrounding — it drains the batteries so fast. It's having all of those windows open and you don't realize that it's taking everything from you until you're at the end of the day. You're just like, I can't be around another person and, like, I have to refuel myself. Laura: Ange, really, you're so great. Thank you so much for being here with me and for taking the time. And thank you for listening and for writing in. Ange: Yeah, I love it. I love it. I feel like we could do maybe 10 of these episodes and be able to go through a good majority of the five pages of stuff that's surrounding me. There's so, there's so much to talk about. And I love it. You know, every day is a new self-discovery. Laura: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at I'd love to hear from you. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine! Jessamine: Hi, everyone. Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnick is our executive producer, and I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening.

  • Talking about work challenges with co-workers is a game-changer. Here’s how to do it.

    When you’re struggling at work, talking with co-workers about your challenges can be a surprisingly big help. They might offer strategies and support to make work more manageable.Maybe you worry that speaking up will make things harder. Or that it’ll seem like you’re complaining or not doing a good job. But the reality is that asking for help when you need it is an important job skill. And staying quiet often makes the problem bigger, not smaller. Talking about difficulties and asking for help can be hard, but it’s worth it. Here are tips to make the conversation as productive as possible.Before the conversation: 3 things to think aboutThe key to a good conversation is to think it through ahead of time. Here are three things to consider:What you want to talk about. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by a specific task. Or maybe you’re struggling to keep up with work in general. You might want advice on how to manage your time or help with something you’re working on. What you want to accomplish. Ask yourself what you’re hoping to get out of the conversation. Support during a difficult project? Notes from yesterday’s meeting? Having a goal in mind for the conversation makes it more likely you’ll get what you need. Who you should talk to. Once you’ve decided what to talk about, use it as a guide to choose the right person to talk to. It might be an experienced co-worker who can offer advice on the project you’re struggling with. Or a trusted work friend who’ll be happy to let you vent about a difficult meeting. Once you’re ready, look for a quiet place to talk. If your workplace doesn’t have private space to chat, plan to go out. Or have the meeting on the phone or by video chat. Download a one-page printable of two sample conversations.What to say to your co-worker You may know what you want to say, but struggle to find the words to say it. This can be especially difficult if you struggle with social skills, or if communication in general is hard for you. Here are some phrases that can help.Staying quiet often makes the problem bigger, not smaller. How to set up the conversation“Can we chat sometime this week? I’d love your advice on something.” “Can we grab coffee during our break? There’s something I’d like to tell you about.”“Do you have time to talk later about a work problem I’m having?”How to start the conversation“Thanks for taking the time to talk with me.”“I really value your opinion, so I want to share a problem I’m having.”“I’m wondering if you could help me.”How to share information“Everyone is already using the new system, but I’m confused by the written instructions.”“This project has a lot of parts to it, and I’m having trouble managing my time to get it all done.”“They cover a lot in the meetings, and sometimes I have a really hard time keeping track of all the details. I’m worried I’ll miss something important.”How to ask for support“Would you mind showing me how you work the new system? I’ll understand it more quickly if I see it rather than read about it.”“I know you’ve worked on similar projects in the past. I’d love some advice on planning out the steps.”“I’ve noticed you take really great notes during the meetings. Would it be OK if I check in with you if I need a refresher?”How to end the conversation“Thanks for your help. I feel a lot better. I’ll find a time that works for us both.”“Those tips are great — thanks for sharing them with me. I’ll let you know how it goes.”“I really appreciate this. Thanks for understanding.”Asking for support can make a huge difference in how things go at work and how confident you feel. Read about common ways people struggle at work. And if you’re wondering what may be causing your challenges at work, discover the signs of learning and thinking differences in adults.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD, mental health stigma, and music (John’s story)

    John Hazelwood, who has ADHD, co-founded the Men’s ADHD Support Group, an organization aimed at helping men with ADHD find community and acceptance. John Hazelwood was diagnosed with ADHD shortly after he graduated from college. He was in therapy and had trouble with test anxiety. Music was the only thing that helped him study and actually remember what he read. Then he got curious about ADHD medication and talked about it with his doctor, who recommended an ADHD evaluation.John, a mechanical engineer in Virginia, co-founded the Men’s ADHD Support Group, an organization aimed at helping men with ADHD find community and acceptance. John talks about facing stigma around ADHD and mental health in the Black community, what songs sound like ADHD, and much more. Check out the Men’s ADHD Support Group.Related resourcesADHD as a “white boy problem” (from The Opportunity Gap podcast)What I tell Black parents who worry about labels like “ADHD” for their childHow ADHD medication worksEpisode transcript John: Was going to therapy towards the end of college because I was struggling. I was struggling with, you know, just my mental health and how I process things. I'm like, you know what? I'm going to go to my primary care physician and let her know, like, "Hey, I'm having problems with focusing. I'm having problems with emotional regulation, staying interested." And she was like, "Well, let's do a neuropsych evaluation." Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood, and as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host. Laura: I'm here today with John Hazelwood. John is a mechanical engineer based in Richmond, Virginia. He's also the co-founder of the Men's ADHD Support Group. Welcome, John. John: It's a pleasure finally being able to do this with you. I'm absolutely ecstatic for this opportunity. Just, you know, to kind of spread the message from a different point of view, a different lens, and give everyone a different feel for how ADHD shows up amongst everyone. Laura: I'm thankful that you're here. You were diagnosed when you were 21, is that right? John: Yes. So, I'm 33 now. I was diagnosed at 21. It was shortly after I had graduated college. And when I learned everything about it, I'm just sitting here like, "Why didn't I have this information way ahead of time? Like, where was all of this when I was sitting here struggling?" Laura: Yeah. So, what were you struggling with? John: Oh, let's going ahead and talk about that one. Time management, you know, like time blindness, doing everything right at the last minute. Organization. I like to call, you know, my workspace, organized chaos sometimes, because it doesn't make sense to the normal person or the neurotypical mind. But when I see it, I'm like, "I know everything is." Repeating academic courses in college as well, and especially with engineering, some of these courses are really intensive with math. So, I took my calculus differential equations twice. Mechanical system design twice. Laura: Do you remember a specific moment that you were like, "No, I'm going to go get evaluated." John: Well, so, it was two things. It was going to therapy towards the end of college because I was struggling. I was struggling with, you know, just my mental health and how I process things. I used to think I had test-induced anxiety, where beforehand, I can sit down and recite any type of theorem or any concept I needed, but the second that that test comes up, the anxiety overwhelms me and everything goes out the door. So, I was never a really, really good test taker. So, that was one of them. And then it was how, believe it or not, how people would be in a library is like, "Hey, I got some Adderall if you need it," and this and that. I'm like, "What is this stuff?" And then, you know, learning that it's just like for people with ADHD. Now, I didn't partake in that, but it's just how loosely it was around. So, with those two things combined together, I'm like, you know what? I'm going to go to my primary care physician and let her know, like, "Hey, I'm having problems with focusing. I'm having problems with emotional regulation, staying interested. And, you know, I've heard of Adderall." She was like, "Well, instead of just putting you on this medication, let's do a neuropsych evaluation."Laura: And first of all, I want to just say out loud that we don't want people, you know, sharing ADHD medication or using it recreationally or using it without a diagnosis. It can be very dangerous. So we should just say that flat out. But it's interesting that the prevalence of ADHD stimulant medication on near campus was really a tip-off, like, "Hey, I need support." Is that what the thought process was? Like "Wait, why do they get to have support? I need support." Is that kind of what was going through your mind? John: Well, I was looking at it, so at the time I went to Virginia Commonwealth University, they were cracking down on a lot of that. I'm just sitting here like, "What are you all doing?" I'm like, "This does not sound right. It sounds like a transaction that should not be taking place." But it sparked my interest in understanding exactly what ADHD was because I was coming from a background where, you know, all you think it is, it's just you can't focus. You're a hyperactive child. You need to sit your butt down. You need to take this medication or else you can't function. And then in our community, the Black community, you know, things like that were so negative. There are so many negative stigmas attached to it and connotations that was associated with it, where it almost felt scary to even reveal the state of your own mental health status. And when I finally got ahold of it, it changed everything for me. Laura: What did that look like? Getting ahold of it. John: It was an "aha" moment. It was like, "OK, why didn't I think of this before?” I remember like it was yesterday. So, I was studying for my finals. It's my senior year. I was taking calculus differential equations for the second time. And one thing I noticed was that anything that dealt with music and rhythm, I can remember things. So, I would literally pick certain music, low frequency, and I'll just play it over and over and over, and I'll be studying. And what I noticed is, is that after two hours of going over the same things over and over, if I tapped or I hummed the song to myself, I could literally remember exactly what I was looking at. So, for me, it's like learning in a pattern. So let's say if I'm doing like all the flows transform, like we're looking at like an electrical nodal system and doing evaluation and I'm completely stuck. I'll literally hum the song in my head. It was a song about Wiz Khalifa at the time, it was called "Up." It's probably one of the most melodic songs that he did and it doesn't hardly have any words to it. And I would hum it, the page, the chapter, everything became vivid in my mind. And so, I was like "This is all clicking together. No wonder why I'm constantly around music all the time." Because it drowns out the internal noise that's in the inside of your mind. But it puts things together as well. It paints like a image that finally becomes clear to you when, you know, you don't have that stimulus nearby music and you're just sitting here like, yo, what the hell is going on? I'm like, OK, I'm looking at a Picasso painting, trying to organize it. So, it actually looks like an visible picture that everyone can see. But we're not all meant to see that way. Laura: When you were younger, when you were a kid in grade school or middle school or even high school, do you remember struggling with ADHD symptoms at that point? John: All the time. Well, the thing is, is that I went to predominantly white schools until, well, middle school, Providence was pretty integrated. But my elementary school, kids would tease you for being the slowest one in the class, or if he didn't understand this question that quick thing, you know something's wrong with you. You know, they throw out the R-word that, you know, we don't need to repeat, but we understand what it is. It's like you're sitting there and it's like, "I want to say something about it." But when you grow up not really knowing how to use your voice and you're used to your voice being silenced versus heard, you then suppress what you want to express, and then that starts to build up. And I feel like there's trauma that gets added on top of that that instigates a lot of that. And I think it starts bringing out a lot of those tendencies. Like it's hard for me to stay still. I had problems with getting bored very quick, so — and my mom, like she was always into our scholastic life. So she made sure that she stayed on top of us getting help for any type of mental health conditions that may come up. As a matter of fact, I learned from her within the recent years, she knew that basically we were suffering with it. But there wasn't too much that you can do about it. And it was one of those things where it didn't interrupt me so much in class as far as my performance, where, you know, we could have kind of just like swept it under the rug. And I was like, "Well, that's nice to know years later."Laura: Oh, wow. Wait, wait, I'm sorry. Your mom knew that, and you said we, you and a sibling?John: So, me and my middle brother struggled with it. Laura: So, your mom knew that you had ADHD symptoms but did things on her own to support you and your brother? I don't want you to speak on behalf of your mom, but do you have any inklings as to why she didn't pursue official diagnosis any further? John: I think it's just the readily available resources that was there and then putting extra pressure on your child — introducing something to them where your child already feels like their back is against the wall because, you know, going to a predominantly, you know, white elementary school, you had kids that would make fun of you. I remember a kid told me I wasn't Black because my dad lived with me. You know. Laura: What? I'm really sorry to hear that. John: I have a laundry list of just different, like, stereotypes. You know, if I was the last one to finish my test — and this went even into high school — it was, "Oh, well, why'd you take so long? We got this real quick. You must need extra time. If you need extra time, why don't you go in the hallway with the extra — you know, the other kids that were special." So, you know, you're trying to figure yourself out. You're trying to identify yourself, but you're starting to realize that your validation comes completely external and there's no sense of self. Laura: And what you were just speaking to, the way that you were treated, and the way that people misperceived you, did that have any impact on your desire to or to not go for an ADHD evaluation? John: Yeah, it definitely did. Because I remember just everyone's always having these jokes like, "Oh, you can never be on time" or "You don't remember anything. Why do you have to write everything down?" You know, "Why are you the last one to finish your exams?" Or "What, are you slow? Like, do you need, like, extracurricular help? Do we need to hold your hand?" And it'll be joking comments, and I was the type that I would laugh through my pain. You know, I was always joking, always making people laugh and smile. But I did that because I was really hurting in the inside. Like Jason Wilson says in his book, it's mental incarceration. Like you're a prisoner to your own mind, not because there's something wrong with you. It's because you don't understand it. And so, therefore society's labels, their ideals, get projected onto you, where you just feel like, "You know what, I'm not supposed to exist here." And that's not fair because everybody deserves a shot. We just need to learn how to understand. We need to be more open and more receptive of that understanding. And, you know, it got to the point where even after being diagnosed with ADHD and going into the workforce, I would get teased about the same things at my jobs working with the Navy and doing maintenance work. And some of the older engineers would have things to say, and I'd say, "You know what? Enough is enough." And I stopped taking my Adderall, because I hated what it did to me. And so I just went cold turkey and just had to fight and grind out until eventually I had enough of it. And that was years in the making. And it was because of the fact no one normalized that it was OK to go to therapy. No one normalized it's OK to get a neuropsych evaluation. No one, you know, normalized having neurodiversity. Because it was always seen as something that was beneath what society is. It's like you're an outcast. And then like, you started learning about it. My idol Marc Almodovar, who's the co-founder of the Men's ADHD Support Group, we love Pharrell Williams. And he talks about seeing sound: synesthesia. Then Kanye West had just came out in 2007 and he would talk about he paints his beats. He would paint them out. Like I remember listening to it. I think it was doing "Do or Die" as Pay the Price. And you're in the studio watching him. If a high had hit, you saw yellow. If it was a deep 808, you saw like deep, like oranges, red, something that's powerful. If it was something that was melodic, you saw your blue. And it started clicking after a while. And I'm like, you know what? It's not that something's wrong with me. It's maybe that I have an artistic way of seeing things. I have a different way of navigating through the world that everyone's not going to get. But it can totally benefit me if I take time to learn how to work with it, not against it. Laura: Is there a song that you feel like, I don't know, the beats or the rhythm or the words that best encapsulates what ADHD feels like to you? John: Oh man, I got so many of them. Laura: I want to know. John: Like, for instance, like Timbaland. I love how his beats never stay the same. So like, he has a song with Joyner Lucas, "10 Bands." So you have different bass lines and the bridge is way different. Any time you listen to a Pharrell song, his bridges completely throw you out of nowhere. You just like, where did you come up with this? And then, you know, I know Kanye 's not like the biggest person in the media as far as what people like, but it was the "Late Registration" album. That album, every single song, when you break it apart, it is so many samples of so many things. Like "Addiction." Etta James, "My Funny Valentine." That's playing, it's being pulled. And then I had this fascination with Amy Winehouse. Like I still listen her stuff till this day. "Frank" is the best album she ever came out with. And I remember she did stuff with Nas and I would watch like her BBC performances and I'm like, yo, she tries to be way different in what she does like on the album. And I love these different versions of it, and it just makes you super interested. Laura: Are you a musician? The way you talk about music makes me feel like you're a musician. John: So, what I did was during COVID, I had my brother's acoustic guitar. So I started, you know, YouTube University picking up a hobby and just teaching yourself. Laura: That's a very ADHD thing to do. John: Oh, master of so many different damn things, it's ridiculous. I remember as a kid that any time I heard music, I didn't always hear what everybody heard. Like for instance, Rex and Effects' "Rump Shaker." Everyone's listening to like the bass line to it, or you're looking at two girls in a video. I'm like, dude, that saxophone line is kind of sweet right now. Laura: I never noticed it in that song. I'm going to listen for it. John: That's the ultimate like one of the sample sets there, that saxophone.Laura: Wait, no, I can hear it in my head right now. It goes do-do-do-oo, right? Or something like that. John: And then you start in with Jay-Z "Show Me What You Got." That's the saxophone from there. Or like, what was it, Daryl Hall and somebody else? "I Can't Go for That." I would literally break down this stuff. Or Prince's Vanity 6 when they had Apollonia, "Nasty Girl." Like, I'm breaking down everything as a kid. And people are thinking I'm weird, but I'm like, "Maybe if the pitch goes up a little bit more here and he'd switch the key, that'd sound different." And I didn't start playing with it until COVID. Picked up an MPC beat machine and just started drumming and taught myself how to do that and met some really cool people with it. Laura: You're just lighting up talking about music. It's really — it's really lovely to see. And I'm glad that you've had that strong bond with music your whole life, especially during more difficult times. John: Yeah, I always look at it as in music is human expression. It's an art form. And so there are certain things that you can feel through like certain rhythms, certain pitches, or, you know, like your beats per minute. You can feel certain things like if I'm going to listen to Sia or Erykah Badu, how they harmonize and hit a high note. I'm hearing it to the point where a tear could come down my eye because I'm happy, because I flow with it. And you just get lost, and it's beautiful. Laura: Can you unpack for me a little bit more the perception in the Black community? When you mentioned what you just mentioned, were you talking about mental health and perceived weaknesses and/or relying on medication? John: So, just being human felt like it was more of a risk versus something that was rewarding. Saying that, you know, you're going through emotional struggles. You had the label of crazy. Or you had, you know what, you need to just pray about it. Or we don't need therapy. If you go to therapy, you're crazy. You see yourself as less than. A lot of the times — I remember one time I heard it's like, "Oh, you don't have ADHD. Your daddy just needs to be around." I've heard things like that. Or that house is hyper, they just need to sit their butt down and find something that's interesting to them. Any mental health diagnosis? There was never anything positive about it. So when you look at it, you kind of shun people by default because you're conditioned to do that. Or you don't want to be associated with it. Like if you hear the word Ritalin and all, you're just like, oh, that's those kids that came out of class. They had to take their medication because if they don't, they're going to be, you know, out of whack. But you start realizing like, you know what? It's even worse suppressing what you want to express. So one of the things that I started picking up on was the fact that no matter how much I wanted to be free in my mind, I was not going to be accepted by anybody in society. So it's better to wear a mask and just suffer in silence. And you don't want to be a casualty to your mind because it's like mental warfare. And the thing is, it's a war you can't see and people die from it every single day. And it shouldn't take a police brutality or someone acting out, harming others or harming themselves, just for people to want to sit down and say, hey, what's going on? Because the first thing people want to holler is, "What's wrong with you?" I'm not going to ask that question. I'm going to say "What happened? Talk to me about it." Because there needs to be more understanding. And when we get to that point, I think that's when we can be a little more comfortable having these conversations. Laura: Something that we have spoken about a few times on this show is the fact that a lot of women with ADHD were never diagnosed as kids because it was perceived as, and I'm quoting here, a "white boy problem." So I'm interested to hear from you, as a Black man, your perception. What's your take on that phrase, the "white boy problem" of ADHD? John: I think it was safe to label it that way because we didn't want to be associated with it because of the backlash that was from there. Because it's like, you know, being Black in America, especially in the school system, you already have your backs against the wall from the get-go. People don't even know you, but they already have something to judge about you based off of the history that's there. And then you're like, OK, well, let's get — let's get interested in it. Who's the face of it? And every time I saw it, it was a white male. Laura: Yeah. And I was just listening to — we have another podcast in our network at Understood. It's called "The Opportunity Gap," and the host is really wonderful. His name is Julian Saavedra. He is a teacher and school administrator around Philadelphia. The idea of the show is that they talk a lot about kids of color who have ADHD and other learning differences and how kids will face a double stigma as a result of that. And they recently had a guest on Dr. Tumaini Coker, who's like a superstar in pediatrics. She's amazing and she has twin boys with ADHD. I hope I'm getting that right. They were asking the question, "Is ADHD overlooked in Black children, or is it overdiagnosed?" And she was sharing some data that I had never heard about before that really showed that it is not a problem of overdiagnosis in Black kids. It's being overlooked is really the problem and being kind of mislabeled as discipline issues and whatnot. John: The biggest thing is just like what I was mentioning earlier. Like I remember when I got interested in learning more about my ADHD, like back in 2019, and I would look at resources. And a lot of the resources were not people that look like me. One of the only resources of someone that looked like me was René Brooks, who is like a big sister to me. "Black Girl, Lost Keys." And then you have Jessica McCabe, who I got to actually meet at the ADHD International Convention and share the panel with her. Those are the only two people that I had to learn anything about it. And then it made you start questioning, OK, so what is the diagnostic criteria? Where is like the science that's behind it? Like, what are they doing to evaluate, you know, children of color? And I think they should dig down a little deeper. Go into the actual Black societies, go into the Latino societies and test them. Because I know for me, speaking from a Black standpoint, there's trauma that's embedded inside of me that's been passed down for generations and generations. And it all comes from when we were brought over here. And basically you have this old stereotype that Black people are pretty much immune to mental health because we owned no status in society. We didn't know what it was like to own any property or to be economically sound. And when you take that and it gets conditioned into your mind for such a long time, no one wants to challenge it. There's more to lose challenging it versus to gain something from it that's actually going to help you. So a lot of people stay silent on it. And the biggest thing I want to see is people moving away from the focus factor because ADHD is not just focusing. It's so annoying when someone's like, "Oh, I think I have ADHD. I can't focus." I hate when people do that. Laura: Is that feeling something that drove you to launch your podcast? John: So the podcast. We started with Facebook and it's just a resource group. And then we started having like daily memes, little workshops within the actual group. And then we were like, you know what? We have a lot of things in common. And we kept talking on the phone a whole bunch and we're like, dude, let's just it turn into a podcast. And we're starting it back up now. We actually have started recording some more episodes that we're going to get ready to drop. But we had taken a while off just because of bandwidth. But it's like we do it because these are the conversations that need to happen and we don't want to have a conversation that's overly like educational or something that's like overly serious where like you're throwing out all these medical terms and it's just like it feels like it's a weighted vest on you. We want something like, if I'm sitting on the couch, you're sitting on the couch, we have a drink or water, whatever you want to have, and we're just relaxing. We're just appreciating each other's existence. And that's how it's always been. Laura: And you have a support group that you run, or is that the term that you use? John: It's the Men's ADHD Support Group. We're the largest right now. Over 13,000 men who either are ADHD, are getting tested for it, or they're just neurodiverse and they just want a place to belong. And there's literally somebody for somebody there. It's so great. We have biweekly meetings, we have workshops now, we have Zoom meetups. We're now having in-person meetups that we're starting. The website has dropped and we're going to be doing a lot more content as well, too, that's more organized and structured. And then Marc and I are going to be the main ones doing the public speaking. Laura: That's fantastic. What is the website? So we can make sure that it's included in this interview?John: So before I butcher it, I'm going to pull out this card because I am going to be fully transparent to make sure I don't say the wrong thing. Laura: That's OK. John: It is Laura: Did you hear that everybody? Nonprofit! John: And if I pronounced it wrong or I gave you the wrong title, every person that is listening to this, feel free to DM me in uppercut, straight-to-the-chin streetfighter style. Laura: Well, it's been really nice to talk with you today, John, and your journey is really interesting and I really appreciate your candor and what you're doing. It's a huge commitment, what you're doing in addition to your full time job. I just want to say thank you. John: Well, thank you for this opportunity. Again, it is a pleasure. It's truly an honor just to be a part of a space where men can truly just be fully, authentically themselves, be honest and transparent, without any type of shame or feeling as if, you know we exist as less than. You're creating a safe space. And with that safe space that you're creating, you're also educating, empowering, and motivating people at the same exact time, too. And that's what we really need. We need a sense of unity versus just division that's out here. We need to see that it's OK to show up exactly as you are right now, because you can only get better. And anything that's come in front of you, you know, in your past, any hardship, any experience, as long as you take heed to the lesson and you're fully accountable and you're just present, the opportunities are endless. So thank you for creating spaces like this to exist. Laura: That's so meaningful to hear you say that. I'm tearing up a little bit. So thank you so much. You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at I'd love to hear from you. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. Understood as a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine. Jessamine: Hi, everyone. Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnick is our executive producer, and I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening.

  • Understood Explains Season 2

    Should I get tested for ADHD?

    Wondering if you have enough ADHD symptoms? If it’s worth the effort to get tested? Host Dr. Roberto Olivardia shares his own adult diagnosis story. Are you wondering if your ADHD symptoms are too mild to get tested? Or if there’s enough of a benefit to getting diagnosed with ADHD as an adult? Host Dr. Roberto Olivardia shares his own diagnosis story as he answers common questions about whether to get formally tested for ADHD as an adult:  Should I get tested for ADHD? [00:48]Can I diagnose myself with ADHD? [03:44]What else do I need to know if I think I might have ADHD? [05:17]Key takeaway, next episode, and credits [08:41]Related resourcesADHD symptoms at different agesWhat is executive function?ADHD and eating disordersADHD and substance abuse (Peach’s story) Episode transcriptYou’re listening to Season 2 of Understood Explains: ADHD Diagnosis in Adults.Today’s episode answers the question “Should I get tested for ADHD?”My name is Dr. Roberto Olivardia, and I’m a clinical psychologist with more than 20 years of experience evaluating people for things like ADHD. I’m also one of the millions of people who have been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. I’ll be your host.My goal here is to answer the most common questions about ADHD diagnosis. Along the way, you’ll learn a lot about ADHD in general. We’re going to do this quickly — in the next 10 or so minutes. So, let’s get to it.Should I get tested for ADHD? [00:48]You might be wondering if you have enough symptoms, or if there’s enough of a benefit, to go and get a formal diagnosis as an adult.To answer this question of “Should you get tested,” I’m going to make two predictions about you, based on the fact that you’re listening to a podcast about diagnosing ADHD in adults. I predict that, number 1, you’re an adult, and number 2, that you made it through childhood without being diagnosed with ADHD. And if I’m right, then you and I probably have a lot in common. I made it through many years of school without an ADHD diagnosis.    I was 35 when I was diagnosed with ADHD. Up until then, I had been doing sort of OK, finding ways to cope with certain challenges and trying to avoid everything else that was hard for me. So I could have kept doing those things and still be a fairly successful adult. But I am so glad I got diagnosed, and here are four reasons why:First, soooooo many things make sense now about my childhood.Everything from my numerous sleep problems, like the massive effort it took me to shut my mind off at the end of the day, to the immense energy it took me to stay awake in Mr. Burke’s history class my junior year of high school. Second, my ADHD diagnosis has helped me understand what kinds of things I need to thrive at work.My favorite quick example here is fluorescent lighting. I finally understand why it drives me crazy and that if I’m going to get any work done, it needs to be in a room with soft, warm lighting.People like me who have ADHD are very sensitive by nature, and too much or too little sensory input can make it harder to be in the present moment and stay focused. Third, I understand now how my ADHD can affect my relationships.As someone who gets bored easily and seeks out stimulation, I was always attracted to novelty, drama, taking risks… Sometimes that opened me up to risks that worked out really well, hanging out with many of my friends who also had ADHD. Other times, that didn’t work out so well, because we didn’t always make the best decisions. And last but not least, I understand how ADHD affects my impulse control. Because of my ADHD, I know that if I like something, I run the risk of liking it too much. The idea of eating until satisfied versus eating until I’m stuffed, saying no to buying something I really couldn’t afford, or restraining myself from some mischievous desire were just some things I had to work on throughout my life, even today.There’s lots of research that shows people with ADHD have a significantly higher risk for addictive behaviors. And it’s essential for us to know this about ourselves.So, listeners, I can tell you from my personal experience that getting diagnosed with ADHD as an adult not only helped me understand myself better. It helped me start figuring out what kinds of supports I need to thrive in all aspects of my life.Can I diagnose myself with ADHD? [03:44]So this is a very common question, and the answer is a hard no. Self-diagnosis may be popular on TikTok and other social media platforms. But it’s not a good idea, and here are three reasons why:Reason number 1: There are a lot of conditions that can look a lot like ADHD. A quick online quiz won’t be able to tell you if you’re struggling to pay attention because you have ADHD, or if it’s something else.  Stress or depression or anxiety or even sleep apnea can look a lot like ADHD, and an online platform won’t be able to pick apart the differences like a professional would, especially if you’re only being asked a few questions.Reason number 2: ADHD is a matter of degree. Everyone gets distracted sometimes. But that doesn’t mean everyone has ADHD. Diagnosing ADHD involves looking at how often you have certain symptoms and how much those symptoms affect your daily life.Reason number 3: Self-diagnosis can lead to the wrong DIY treatments — or to no treatments at all. And the whole reason you’re wondering about ADHD diagnosis is so you can help yourself feel better and function better, right?So for all of these reasons, it’s much, much better for you to work with someone who has a lot of training on how to accurately diagnose ADHD. A quick quiz can be useful as a starting point, but please don’t let it be a stopping point. Get tested by a professional.What else do I need to know if I think I might have ADHD? [05:17]This season of Understood Explains is going to cover a lot of territory, everything from which kinds of professionals can diagnose you, to how to prepare yourself emotionally for an ADHD diagnosis, to how to treat ADHD with or without medication. Each of these topics gets their own episode. But before we wrap up this one, there are a few big-picture things that I think are important for you to keep in mind as you’re thinking about getting tested for ADHD:The name “ADHD” is kind of misleading.ADHD’s full name, “attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder,” often confuses people in a couple different ways. “Attention deficit” doesn’t mean that people with ADHD lack attention. It means we have trouble regulating our attention. Our brains are often trying to pay attention to too many things. We have trouble filtering out the unimportant stuff, so we get distracted by things like background noise. We can also focus too much on one thing and can’t shift our attention away from it. Hyperfocus can be a big challenge for people like me with ADHD.“Hyperactivity” is another confusing part of ADHD’s formal name. There are three types of ADHD, and two of them involve hyperactivity. But you don’t have to be hyperactive to be diagnosed with ADHD. You can just struggle with attention. What used to be called “attention-deficit disorder” or ADD, is now called the “inattentive type” of ADHD. So that can be confusing to a lot of folks, too.There are two other terms that are important to know as you’re thinking about ADHD: “impulse control” and “executive function.” “Impulse control” isn’t part of ADHD’s formal name, but it’s one of the three main symptoms of ADHD: trouble with attention, hyperactivity, and impulse control. Those are the three main symptoms.“Executive function” is another really important term in the world of ADHD. Executive functions include everything from our ability to manage time and make decisions, to how we plan and prioritize, to how we physically organize our stuff. It involves how we remember information, how we regulate emotions. Many people — and many women in particular — are surprised by how much ADHD can impact emotions, whether it’s trouble managing our feelings, or the shame we feel about clutter, being late, etc. But all of these things are executive functions. And this is probably the biggest piece of the ADHD puzzle that can really have a significant impact on undiagnosed adults. It’s really only been since the mid 1990s that people started talking about the idea of ADHD in adulthood. And a lot of folks might not know what it looks like in adults and how it can be connected to other issues they might be experiencing, like a binge-eating disorder or a gambling addiction or porn addiction. The good news is that if you do get formally diagnosed with ADHD, the diagnosis report will often include recommendations on how to help with addiction and risk-taking, as well as other challenges like organization. There are lots of inexpensive apps and tools — like setting a timer on your phone — but it helps to know which areas you’re struggling in so you can start focusing on how to help.Key takeaway, next episode, and credits [08:41]OK, listeners, that’s it for Episode 1. The key takeaway I’m hoping sticks with you from this episode is that if you suspect you may have ADHD, meet with a health care professional who knows a lot about ADHD and can do a clinical evaluation. We’re going to spend the whole next episode talking about what kinds of health care providers can diagnose ADHD in adults. But for now, I want you to focus on why it’s a good idea to do this. I’ve found the majority of people are actually relieved and feel a strong sense of validation when they get diagnosed with ADHD. A diagnosis isn’t meant to make you feel bad. In fact, it’s the opposite. When I was officially diagnosed, I immediately started connecting dots and realized behaviors that may have seemed confusing or “out there” suddenly made more sense. And if you don’t have ADHD, but some other diagnosis, that will be just as important. Remember: Knowledge is power! Now that we’ve covered why you might want to get evaluated for ADHD, you’re ready for the rest of the season. Thanks for listening, and I hope you’ll join me for Episode 2, which explains “Who can diagnose adults with ADHD?”You’ve been listening to Season 2 of Understood Explains from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources, as well as links to anything we’ve mentioned in the episode. One important note: I don’t prescribe ADHD medication and I don’t have any affiliation with pharmaceutical companies — and neither does Understood. This podcast is intended solely for informational purposes and is not a substitute for a professional diagnosis or for medical advice or treatment. Talk with your health care provider before making any medical decisions.Understood Explains is produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, who also edited the show. Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show.For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at

  • The Opportunity Gap

    Simone Biles and why role models are hard to find

    She’s an Olympic champion, a Black woman, and an advocate for people with ADHD. So why don’t more kids of color know about Simone Biles? Simone Biles is the most decorated female gymnast in history. She’s also a Black woman and an advocate for people with ADHD. So why don’t more students of color know her story? Hosts Julian Saavedra and Marissa Wallace explore what being a role model means and why some stories rise up more than others. They talk about how shame and stigma prevent more people of color from talking about their challenges. The hosts also share thoughts on how parents and schools can help kids who learn and think differently find role models to look up to.Related resourcesRead what Simone Biles tweeted about ADHD.Check out Tupac Shakur’s poem, “The Rose That Grew From Concrete.”Watch videos about athletes who learn and think differently, like Olympian Michelle Carter and NFL player Lawrence Guy.Get tips on finding mentors for kids with learning and thinking differences. Episode transcriptJulian: Welcome to "The Opportunity Gap," a podcast for families of kids of color who learn and think differently. We explore issues of privilege, race, and identity. And our goal is to help you advocate for your child. I'm Julian Saavedra.Marissa: And I'm Marissa Wallace. Julian and I worked together for years as teachers in a public charter school in Philadelphia, where we saw opportunity gaps firsthand.Julian: And we're both parents of kids of color. So this is personal to us. In this episode, we're talking about Simone Biles and positive role models for kids of color who learn and think differently. Marissa, what up? How's your week? Marissa: Well, it's funny. I was actually able to walk Lincoln home from school today, and I told him that I'm going to talk to Uncle Julian tonight. He's like "Uncle Julian?" I'm like, "Yeah, remember him from Philadelphia? Uncle Julian?"Julian: Well tell the little guy I said hello. And my children both say hi to everybody. I'm really excited about this episode today because we're talking about a topic that I think is near and dear to both of us: the idea of role models and the idea of really lifting folks that our students and even us can be looking up to.So I'm excited because our producer, our amazing, intelligent, and stupendous producer who has a wealth of knowledge, Andrew Lee, he is going to share some research that he was able to do on Simone Biles to start off the show. So Andrew, tell us a little bit about Simone Biles, please. Andrew: Julian, you're like way too kind. But thank you for that intro. You know, when you gave me this assignment, I was thinking about Simone Biles, the gymnast, and I knew a little bit about that, about her Olympic background. And yes, she is considered the most accomplished female gymnast in the history of the sport, 32 Olympic and world championship medals. She has got like four moves named after her. What I found out when I did a little bit of research is that Simone is so much more than just a gymnast.In 2016, she started to really open up about her learning and thinking differences. That year I was reading that hackers published some of her medical records about ADHD. And she responded to them and she said, you know, having ADHD and taking medication for it is nothing that she was afraid to let people know. So now, you know, as I read some of the news articles about her, it really seems like she's charting this new course as an advocate for mental health.And this last summer Olympics, there was quite a few news articles about how she took a stand for mental health by withdrawing from competition. And this September, she actually testified in Congress about the abuses that she and other gymnasts experience in U.S. gymnastics. So, sometimes when you hear about like a famous sports star or, you know, a famous personality, you just think about their big accomplishments. And one of the things that I've found out is that she actually had quite a bit of trauma in her childhood, you know, as a foster child, that was a part of her experience. And also she faced a lot of bullying. It was just interesting to hear that beyond the sort of the medals and the jumps and the moves, there's so much more to her. So that was really interesting, Julian. Julian: There's just so many things we can say about Simone. And I think about the idea of a rose growing out of concrete, right? Where she has so many things that were struggles, but out of those struggles came this beautiful person that even now continues to deal with struggles.Yet she brings out the best in a lot of people around her. You know, I think that her story is really a great starting point to dive in, to talking about role models and kind of making sure that we give, give the flowers now while we can, that Simone is somebody that is with us presently and she's somebody that deserves our respect and admiration.So Marissa, tell me about your thoughts on Simone. What do you think? Marissa: Yeah. Well, first I appreciate your use of figurative language and just how you describe and talking about the rose from the crack, giving a shout-out to Tupac there. So I feel like I already know, I feel like you're already setting the stage for who she is, which is obviously so much more than a gymnast and knowing her experiences.And I do think that, this past summer, just how much she was in the news. And of course there's always two sides to every story and everyone has their opinion with Simone, but I don't think any of that takes away from her accomplishments. And I don't think any of that should take away from what she did overcome to get to the point where she's at.And I feel like that's the trajectory and that's kind of like the journey of a lot of role models. It's not just them evolving into those positions without having a life history — experiences that make them who they are. And I think that's an important piece of the conversation that I hope we can get into today. When we talk about our students, and we talk about those who face trauma, who face learning and thinking differences and might oftentimes feel alone or feel like they aren't going to be able to achieve because of that.Julian: Like the fact that she was able to talk openly at one of the highest, most important parts of her career. And she had the wherewithal to prioritize her mental health and then continue to openly discuss how she is somebody who lives with learning and thinking differences. I mean, talk about courage and really doing things for the greater good. Why is it so important to have folks out there doing this? Is it going to make an impact?Marissa: Yeah, I definitely think it helps when you have these people that are in these positions where we look up to them, but we don't always know how they got to that point. But I also think that there's a lot that is left hidden. And so if that part of who they are is hidden, it doesn't have that relatability. And I think that's the piece that makes role models, especially role models for some of our students who have thinking and learning differences, that missing piece is like, oh, well that person has achieved greatness, but they don't understand because they haven't struggled in school. or they haven't struggled with academics or behaviors like I have.So therefore, like they made it to that point because they don't have this, you know. They probably don't know Michael Jordan — he is an individual who has some learning differences and he has ADHD. And there's other athletes out there that have later on come out and expressed some of their challenges that they overcame to get to the place where they're at now.Julian: I'm going to something that you may disagree with, but I would venture to think that Simone's story is not as prevalent in our schools as it should be. And I would even guess that her role as a role model, even though like we, as adults are talking about her a lot, I don't feel like I hear my students talking about her unless we bring it up.Marissa: I agree. Julian: Unless it's something that is really made popular by social media or something to that effect. And I wonder why is her story not elevated everywhere and popularized everywhere.Marissa: It's surprising sometimes to hear who students do consider their role models, like who they are looking up to, especially for my middle school kids. So I work with primarily eighth graders. So a lot of our conversation is getting ready for high school. And then talking about what life after high school is going to look like and explaining that success can look like many different things. And when they're sharing their role models, the majority of them are social media personalities, not even like athletes anymore.Like I feel like it's veered away from me hearing about like, oh, you know, I want to be like this football player, this basketball player. And a lot of it, I've really heard, is people from TikTok or like a YouTube. That's what I'm getting a lot of when I ask students who their positive role models are. And I think it's really telling for the time, and it's hard cause sometimes I'm like, I don't even know who that is. But like, I don't think there is a lot of conversation, in my experience over the last year or two, that really talks about Simone or talks about people like her, who have these really important stories and really important messages to provide our students with.And now you're at the high school level. So I'm curious as to what you're hearing, as far as who they talk about these days.Julian: Yeah, I mean, social media folks that are in that vein, the Real Housewives still get a lot of, they still get a little bit of love, but it makes me think about what are we doing to elevate and — I wouldn't want to say commercialize — but what are we doing to like get people that we would consider positive role models like in front of kids?Marissa: They're there though, right? These role models are there and they're there for all of our students — for our students of color, for students with learning and thinking differences. And they are relatable. I think it's like you said, it's just a matter of what is in their direct line. Right? And what are they spending their time on? I would even venture to say that a lot of students were either uninvested in the Olympics and therefore, if they're not even watching the Olympics, they might not even know who Simone Biles is. So I think it's a charge for us to incorporate that.Julian: Yeah, I was about to say, I'm going to challenge you. I'm going to challenge you. You need to make sure that in your classes next week, you put Simone on blast and make sure that they know. I'm going to do the same at school. I'm going to make sure that we put Simone's name out there, get her story out there more.Marissa: It's more than just Simone though, right? Like I'm glad she's like our starting point for this conversation. But I think too, like I say, you got to go back to that relatability. Because for some of my students, Simone's not going to be the person they relate to. However, they might relate, or they might want to know about the fact that, you know, Will Smith as an adult has been identified with ADHD. right? So like here he is, he is already this famous person. He already is this personality. And then through his adult life, he has been challenged with making sure that he is not being seen by his label, right? Which happens a lot of times, if they're not used the right way, then they create this stigma. So I think it's a matter of how do we bring these stories to life? How do we find the relatable person, right? Or multiple people — more than one person to kind of be like, look, here's a list of individuals that you probably have seen in movies on the screen in some capacity. And do you know who they are? Do you know their story? Do you know what they've overcome? So they've done it, like you can too.Julian: But then I guess the flip side is, both of us are making pretty big assumptions right now. And I say that because right now we're both talking about famous people or people in the public eye that can be considered role models. And we need to put them in front of our students and make sure that they have these people, but we're assuming that the people in their lives aren't already doing that. Or that they don't already have people they consider role models and we just don't know about it.Marissa: Right. I'm glad you brought that up because as I was putting all these people on pedestals, all these famous people, there was like this nagging in my head that's like, well, wait a second. Role models don't always have to be people on television or in social media, right? Like role models or the people that you interact with on a day-to-day basis. And I think that is something to speak about and you're right. We made a ton of assumptions. However, my push to that is while we're making a ton of assumptions, I'm also pushing that I do feel because I've asked this, especially in my role as an eighth-grade teacher, I ask a lot about high school and afterwards, and I'm sad to say that there are very few students that do share that their role model or someone that they look up to even in the simplest forms is like a family member, a neighbor, a teacher, like I'm not getting that much of that information. And I don't think it's happening enough at school either, right?Julian: Like the idea of role models in general.Marissa: Right. And diverse role models. I think that's the piece of it too. Julian: I do think everybody has a role model. Everybody has somebody that they're looking at. It's just whether they acknowledge it or not, whether they actually take the time to sit back and think, do I have people that I'm looking at and watching them move? And I do think there's an opportunity. Small plug for the podcast, closing the gap on opportunity. But there's an opportunity for us to really elevate people who do have learning and thinking differences, but are in everyday life. Imagine the power of some of our top athletes that also receive special education services. If they came out and just said it. Imagine some of the teachers that are coaches or everyday people that just come out and say, listen, I have different struggles, too. Mental health is a thing. It's OK. It's OK to be you. And going back to that relatability piece, I mean, that's really where it falls.Marissa: Right. And it starts with us, like you said, there's just these moments where it's, oh my gosh, wait, what role have I personally played in this or not played? As a hearing-impaired individual, I could have been someone who shared my story and I didn't. I always took it upon myself to just handle it. Like this was my disability. This was my issue. And I never expected others to like, I don't know, to like, be part of the process. And I think I missed an opportunity to close the gap. Julian: Do you share that with your students now? Like if I asked your students, do you know that Mrs. Wallace has the hearing impairment? Would they know?Marissa: Some of them, yes. I feel like it all kind of came together and I had the epiphany when we went virtual, going back to in person. And so I was teaching undergraduates at the time. And going back to teaching in person during the pandemic obviously would mean that we would all be wearing masks. And so having that conversation that I felt that it would hinder my class because I read lips. So if my students are sharing things with me and I can't read their lips, like just how that would change the dynamic of my class. And so I had to have lots of real conversations, so I think it started there. And now it's kind of seeped into the students that I work with in middle school, where I am trying to be more open about who I am and the things I've had challenges with. I feel like I didn't really have to think too much about my hearing impairment until the pandemic and until they took away one of my accommodations. And so I have to think about it. Julian: I appreciate that you were able to open up like that and be honest. We can't talk about things if we're not living it ourselves. Like how do we find a way to get rid of that stigma a little bit, and to let people be open with the fact that we're all kind of in the mix? Like everybody, everybody has something going on, but especially it's, it's very much just out there for those with learning and thinking differences a lot harder to get people to be open about that. Or maybe not, maybe it's changed. Marissa: I think it is changing. And I think that is something that lends itself to this conversation and something that hopefully we'll also allow not only for our students, but for just individuals in general, to feel more comfortable sharing and discussing what they've experienced. Because like you said, it knows no race, it knows no class, right? Like mental health is there. And it's not specific to one type of individual.Julian: I gotta be honest, though. And, and really keep it as real as can be. There's definitely still a stigma for men, and specifically Black men, to admit that mental health struggles are a thing. And to admit that learning and thinking differences are a thing. I mean, that's a fact. I can say from anecdotal evidence, from my role as an educator, within my own life experience, just society in general has trained us to put up the facade that we can deal with anything. Admitting struggles is a sign of weakness.And if we show any sign of weakness, then that gives somebody else a chance to take advantage of us. I'm even starting to see a little bit of that just in the way that I watch my son and his friends play, right? I'm sure you're going to start seeing that with your son. And even at that young age, there's already a societal push for our boys to start hardening themselves a little bit and to present a face to the world that is one of strength and one of not having to deal with problems or issues that we're celebrating Simone for saying. But I wonder like how many of our men might've come out and said the same thing. And there have been, there's been some, but it's few and far between. Where do we go with that? How do we go in a place where we start to unpack all of the societal pressures on our boys, especially our Black boys, by just getting them to get to a place where they admit that mental health is a thing. And we need to talk about this. And if we're having learning and thinking differences, it's OK. Marissa: That's the question. You just posed the biggest issue as to why I think sometimes these natural role models don't become as obvious for our students or don't exist in the way that our students need them to exist, right? Because they're not sharing some of these stories or there is, like you said, that stigma or the societal reasons that we do put on especially our Black and brown boys to not discuss it or not talk about it.And I think it's important that we start to have the conversation about what are some actual, instead of just kind of talking around it or talking through it. What are some tangible things that we can discuss to start to close this idea or to change this idea, to transform this idea, right? That there has to be the stereotypical way that we see learning and thinking differences. That's a mindset shift.Julian: You know, as a white woman, do you feel like there's more role models that have expressed their issues or the idea of having learning and thinking differences? Like making it OK? Is that more prevalent in white society than in marginalized communities or not? I'm actually just curious. What's your experience? Marissa: I'm really thinking about it. And I think we have to highlight the learning and thinking differences. As much as I know, I kind of like was putting down social media and stuff before, you know, I do have those influencers that I follow and those people that give me some inspiration and share their stories. Honestly, I cannot think of a single person at all, white or Black, that speak on learning and thinking differences. I'm stumped by this and that's jarring. Like I'm sitting here and I'm like, wait, what? And like, even now as an adult and someone who's been in the field of education and special education for almost two decades, I don't have a single person that I could say would be like a role model that shares or talks about learning and thinking differences. So what does that say?Julian: That's something for just our listeners to really be thinking about. Think back to your own childhood experience, your own educational experience. Were there people who you would consider role models who actually embraced differences if they had any? I mean, I know that the time that we're in now is vastly different than when we were coming up. But, you know, just the fact that we're discussing learning and thinking differences in a public space is way different than it was when we were kids, right? And I wonder just in terms of the next steps. I don't know if I know exactly what to do next. I do think that there are role models that are people like Simone. People who do have a public platform to discuss and really be out there with their learning and thinking differences and how they live with it. I wonder how can we get more of our kids — our own children and our students — to be open about talking about learning and thinking differences and not attaching a negative connotation to it. Just saying what it is. It just is. ADHD. It just is.Marissa: I think one tangible step is we have to create space now that we're more comfortable and that we identify that everybody does learn differently and that's OK. I think we motivate people to share their stories, because storytelling and sharing experience is known to be one of the best ways to create those bonds and relationships. And we know that students are going to achieve more when they feel safe and when they have those relationships with others.Julian: Problem solved. We figured it out. Tie with a bow. Marissa: This is one piece. Julian: I appreciate the fact that we're searching for some ways to encourage our schools, to encourage our parents at home, to make sure that you find a way to incorporate conversation around learning and thinking differences in your everyday lives and to seek out role models, whether they be famous people or people that are in the public eye or whether they be family members. Maybe you have an aunt, maybe your kids have a cousin or a friend or somebody they look up to — a coach that is willing to talk about their own struggles or their own triumphs, right? So again, I'm going to go back to the challenge of one, make sure that you're sharing Simone Biles' story, and two, share more about your own story, as much as you can. Marissa, it's been a great conversation today. I appreciate it. Marissa: I appreciate it, Julian. And this is definitely one that I think not only are we pushing for our audience to really think things through, but I think it's leaving both of us with some thoughts and next steps as well. And that's what this is all about.Julian: Thank you so much for joining us. I hope that as you're thinking about your next steps, think about what you're going to do tomorrow. What conversation can you have related to learning and thinking differences? Do your own kids know about Simone Biles? Do my own kids know about Simone Biles? My daughter does, but I need to make sure my son and daughter do. And find ways to uplift positivity. Thank you so much. We'll be back very soon.This has been "The Opportunity Gap," a part of the Understood Podcast Network. You can listen and subscribe to "The Opportunity Gap" on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.Marissa: If you found what you hear today valuable, please share the podcast. "The Opportunity Gap" is for you. We want to hear your voice.Go to to find resources from every episode. That's the letter U, as in Understood, dot O R G slash opportunity gap.Julian: Do you have something you'd like to say about the issues we discussed on this podcast? Email us at We'd love to share and react to your thoughts about "The Opportunity Gap."Marissa: As a nonprofit and social impact organization, Understood relies on the help of listeners like you to create podcasts like this one, to reach and support more people in more places. We have an ambitious mission to shape the world for difference. And we welcome you to join us in achieving our goals. Learn more at "The Opportunity Gap" is produced by Andrew Lee and Justin D. Wright, who also wrote our theme song. Laura Key is our editorial director at Understood. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. Seth Melnick and Briana Berry are our production directors.Julian: Thanks again for listening.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD and emotions, from anxiety to boredom (Dr. Sasha’s story)

    Dr. Sasha Hamdani didn’t know about her ADHD diagnosis for about a decade. She now specializes in ADHD, and battles the stigma that comes with it. Dr. Sasha Hamdani psychiatrist specializes ADHD anxiety. diagnosed ADHD fourth grade starting calls “riot” classroom. didn’t find ADHD much later, hit wall competitive medical school environment. discovering diagnosis, unplugged academics learn herself — ADHD. debunks ADHD myths one one social media.Dr. Sasha shares story, including thoughts parents’ decision tell ADHD adult. Stay tuned end hear Dr. Sasha talk connection ADHD anxiety. get advice ask kids ADHD symptoms. Related resourcesADHD anxietyADHD girlsADHD boredomPre-order Dr. Sasha’s bookDr. Sasha’s InstagramEpisode transcriptSasha: "aha" moment really would went home I'd struggling long time medical school able sit safe environment parents luxury actually learning symptoms learning ADHD learning "Is truly what's happening brain?" think able pull away drowning academic place trying function own, could actually relate symptoms see going on. that's things clicked. like, "OK, yes, definitely this. Now, do?"Laura: Understood Podcast Network, "ADHD Aha!," podcast people share moment finally clicked someone know ADHD. name Laura Key. I'm editorial director Understood. someone who's ADHD "aha" moment, I'll host. today Dr. Sasha Hamdani. Dr. Sasha psychiatrist specializes ADHD, anxiety disorders, among things, also busting stigma ADHD social media. highly recommend checking Dr. Sasha's Instagram. Dr. Sasha, welcome.Sasha: Hi. Thank much me.Laura: Thank here. think cats background well. So, people watching video...Sasha: They're going start fighting. Sorry.Laura: That's OK. We'll roll it. It's OK.Sasha: Yeah.Laura: Dr. Sasha, think need tell "ADHD Aha!" listeners, described riot. Tell happened.Sasha: OK. So, fourth grade, always knew rambunctious side, substitute teacher day, organized coup classroom got everybody stand desks start chanting. retrospect, don't know that. Like, horrible. Especially I've gotten point career recognize extremely essential teachers are. makes feel terrible. yes, point got everyone else behave badly me. shortly teachers talked parents getting evaluated ADHD. right like quick order, getting diagnosed, getting medicated, turning things around. that's coup.Laura: kind behaviors happening around that? Like say, bad behaviors behaving badly.Sasha: Yeah. don't necessarily mean bad, inappropriate environment, guess. symptoms experiencing typical combined type presentation ADHD. So, lot inattentiveness difficulty focusing engaging task hand, also hyperactivity impulsivity. So, generally, combination symptoms, kids capable work, they're getting bored they're entertaining themselves. that's much happening. entertaining moment time.Laura: time, remember feeling like struggling ADHD symptoms, really teacher said something that's started whole path?Sasha: remember feeling bored remember thinking like, "How people get day? long." Unless something hands-on actively interested in, seemed like agony. that's remember.Laura: Lots kids ADHD struggle boredom. Yeah. remember evaluation process? like? parents react thought needing evaluation?Sasha: So, wish better recollection details, I've talked parents since it. So, got confronted parents, like emergent. teacher like, "No, no. can't riots every day. Like, need something."Laura: almost spit water.Sasha: So, like kind like pushing parents, like "Something needs done. isolated event. need something." mom said "It didn't really seem like choice. seemed like needed go on." mom pediatrician. So, really lucky us opportunity get one peers get evaluated. also, went laborious, long educational panel formal ADHD testing educational counselor. I'm assuming he's psychologist, remember office five hours. "Oh, God, cannot answer another question. Let here." that's kind remember educational testing process, although tell noticing practicing difficult access care is, think really lucky respect.Laura: kind feelings bring fourth grader? afraid getting evaluated? worried different? excited?Sasha: So, preface "I'm telling story with, know, don't know point time would done things differently," parents made choice tell ADHD. tell words. tell kind happening. like, "This everyone's doing, teachers recommended " So, didn't really feel kind isolation difference things like that, didn't even know started medication, taking called vitamin. So, taking this. And, know, I've talked parents like, "Why make choice?" wasn't like, barely developed frontal lobe, I'm pass judgment. "But go there?" reason told ADHD really wasn't talked extensively time, felt like sensitive hard time already brown kid sea Caucasian, well-off, affluent people. already felt different. parents said, "We didn't want add one thing plate." Ideally, wish could handled differently, understand coming from. understand kid was, sensitive things different. didn't want different shoe, didn't want different lunchbox. wanted everything could fit seamlessly possible. So, sudden, things didn't seem terrible. Like, sudden, able sit class I'm like, "Oh, OK, haven't gotten trouble tapping foot desk. haven't gotten trouble talking. That's weird."Laura: OK, got diagnosed fourth grade, received treatment ADHD. Things got better. smooth sailing kind of...That it, right? stop conversation?Sasha: That's it. end story.Sasha: long time. smooth sailing. really well elementary school really like think found stride. Like really enjoyed learning became part identity, never before. started like engaging school. wanted run class office. wanted volunteer things. wanted speak class. stayed dose fourth grade 12th grade, think that's problems slide starting tail end 10th grade again, don't know like behavioral, like normal development like shocking difference parents like "What happening you." think experiencing boredom, hyperactivity, impulsivity. you're late high school years, also additional freedom. So, getting trouble more, anything bad, like stuff you're… within context family fabric like go. so, felt like impulsivity getting more. applied medical school high school, got in.Laura: That's typical, right?Sasha: So, early years high school, knew wanted medical school wanted pediatrics like mom. So, started looking programs combined undergrad graduate programs. started looking fastest, found two six-year programs didn't take MCAT get certain grade levels continue it, start med school right high school, start process right away. yeah, it's common don't necessarily think it's great idea.Laura: want go fast? attraction that?Sasha: don't know. knew wanted go. think typical ADHD, there's like sense urgency. like, "OK, know want

  • ADHD and seasonal affective disorder

    Winter is an important time for kids and adults with ADHD to focus on their mental health. That’s because people with ADHD are more likely than people without ADHD to have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This type of depression gets triggered by a change in the seasons. As the days get shorter, people are exposed to less sunlight. Many people start to feel tired and moody in the fall. These feelings tend to last through the winter. That’s why SAD is often called seasonal depression or winter depression. Shorter days can affect sleep cycles. Many people with ADHD have trouble with sleep year-round. But seasonal changes can make their sleep problems even worse. Sleep affects our brain chemistry. Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep makes it harder to focus the next day. When we don’t get enough sleep, we have less energy and feel more depressed. But the good news is that there are many ways to help. Keep reading to learn why ADHD and seasonal depression are linked — and how better sleep can help manage “the winter blues.”

  • The Opportunity Gap

    Growing up with ADHD: An interview with René Brooks

    ADHD advocate René Brooks was diagnosed with ADHD twice as a child. But it wasn’t until she was diagnosed again as an adult that she finally got support. Listen to her story. René Brooks was diagnosed with ADHD twice during her childhood. But stigma and shame kept her family from learning more and getting her the right support. So when she was diagnosed with ADHD for a third time at age 25, she decided to take control of her own journey. In this episode, René unpacks her experiences growing up with ADHD. Listen as she explains: The impact of delayed interventionWhat she wishes the adults in her life did differently And why it’s important to build support systems for kids with ADHDRelated resourcesRené Brooks’ podcast: Life With Lost KeysChildren and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderMasking ADHD symptoms to go above and beyond (René Brooks’ story)Episode transcriptJulian: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "The Opportunity Gap." Kids of color who have ADHD and other common learning differences often face a double stigma. And there's a lot that families can do to address the opportunity gap in our communities. This podcast explains key issues and offers tips to help you advocate for your child. My name is Julian Saavedra. I'm a father of two and an assistant principal in Philadelphia, where I've spent nearly 20 years working in public schools. I'll be your host. Welcome to Season 3. Hey OG family, welcome back to another episode of "The Opportunity Gap." Today's show is about growing up with ADHD. ADHD is a common condition that's caused by differences in the brain. Some people with ADHD mainly have trouble with focus, but this learning difference can impact other skills, including managing emotions. ADHD isn't a matter of laziness. It's not a matter of willpower. It's much more than that. And today's guest is here to debunk that myth and share her journey. So I'm super hyped to welcome René Brooks to the show. Welcome, René. Welcome welcome, welcome. René: Hey, Julian. Thank you. Julian: Oh, I'm so glad you're here. She is amazing, listeners. She's not only an advocate, she's a content creator. And she's the host of Life With Lost Keys podcast. She's a black woman with ADHD, and she's committed to silencing the shame and empowering kids and adults with ADHD. I really believe, I truly do believe that her experiences can help parents and educators better support kids with ADHD. René, welcome to the pod. René: Thank you so much for having me. It's a wonderful thing to be here with you today, Julian. Julian: Of course. So let's get into it. We're talking all about growing up with ADHD, and we know that growing up with ADHD is vastly different for every single person. So René, can you tell us a little bit about what it was like to grow up with ADHD? René: Absolutely. For me, it was always hearing that I wasn't performing up to my potential. Dealing with teachers who were frustrated by that and thought I was challenging them maybe, by not doing the homework or keeping up with the lessons, but always having me answer in class because I knew the material. It was having to put up with my mother's exasperation too. It was always having to be pulled into a meeting. My mother was a big fan of the meet-and-greet with the teachers, and if things weren't going smoothly in the classroom, I might get pulled out of one class to be in a meeting with three other teachers to find out, "Hey, what the heck is going on with this girl? And why isn't she performing up to snuff?" So, there was a lot of frustration and embarrassment on every side of the problem. Julian: Do you feel like you were bored? René: Yes, in some subjects I was bored and that was the thing that people always wanted to know. "Is she just bored?" And the answer is not quite as simple as just boredom. I think I was bored, but I was also understimulated. But I was also, you know, some classes you just don't like. And when you have a challenge like attention deficit disorder, you're going to not pay attention in those classes because they can't pique your interest. Julian: Got it. Thinking about just the way that you describe your teachers and sometimes mom, and how she would feel a certain type of way about your progress in school. Can you go back to childhood René, and describe how did childhood-René feel about all this? What did it feel like to be labeled "challenging," or to have all these questions about your progress in school? René: It was embarrassing for me. I really, really disliked it because I just wanted to... I just wanted to do the things so that they would stay out of my hair. Does that make any sense? Julian: That makes total sense.René: Nobody wants to be seen as " the problem child," you know? Julian: Yeah, yeah. And I think it's important for our listeners to just hear the feelings attached with the labels that sometimes we place on our students and/or our children. And here René is explaining that, just wanting to be seen, and how sometimes that might equate to how she felt about herself, like the idea of self-esteem really plays into that. I'm wondering if you could go back to that time. Would there be something you'd want the adults to do differently? René: Yeah. I would want them to approach me as if, not as if I were an equal, but as if I was not just a problem to be solved. As if I was a human who a conversation could be had with and not just "What do we do to make her perform?" And the funny thing about it was, they knew that I had the ability, because I was also in gifted and talented classes at the same time, so they really...Julian: Oh, so you were twice exceptional? OKRené: I was twice exceptional. So, the idea back then in the 90s was always like, "Oh, they're twice exceptional. Give them more work or challenge them. They're not being challenged enough. They're bored. Stack some other strange stuff on top of there so that they can perform." Julian: And that's interesting because there's a much larger contingent of students now who have the dual diagnosis. Right, like having ADHD and also having gifted as a part of their IEPs. And so, you're seeing like this kind of mixed bag of a situation. And it's interesting that the adults might have attempted to challenge you. But in that same time period, you might not have felt like you had the support you needed. René: I did feel like I didn't have the support I need. I'm glad you brought that up because, when they designate a child as gifted — or at least I've been out of the school system for quite some time right now, but in my experience — it was like, "You're gifted, why don't you just do these things?" And it wasn't that simple. Julian: Right. It's never that simple. It's never that simple. René, I want our listeners also to hear about how, in your lifetime, you were diagnosed with ADHD three different times: when you were seven, when you were 11, and when you were 25. Can you talk about that? How did that come about? René:What happened? Yes. Julian:Yeah. For real? What? What happened? René:The stigma was the real issue for me. My mom was not having it at seven. She knew people who were being put on meds and according to her, these children were like zombies and it just wasn't something that she was willing to entertain for me. For some reason, she equated having ADHD with having to be medicated, and she was not trying to hear or learn anything about ADHD at that point. So, when the second time came around and of course, in middle school, they caught it because there's such a difference between the way you handle a middle school child versus how you handle an elementary school child. There I am trying to deal with a locker and making it to classes on time and getting the homework done and dealing with those different sorts of responsibilities. And they evaluated me for it again and were like, "Hey, she has it. And she, again was like, "Absolutely not. There's nothing wrong with my child. She's in gifted and talented classes." She took me to my then pediatrician and the pediatrician said, "She's bored, give her more responsibility," which we know now is absolutely the wrong thing to do. And so, there I was, surrounded by support, but it wasn't the right kind of support. There were people in my corner who genuinely wanted me to succeed, but they weren't going about it the right way. Julian:And so, how did you come to being 25 and where did that come into play? René: So at 25, I was working at a job that I loved. And then one day the novelty wore off and I just couldn't do it anymore. And I got really depressed and took some mental health leave from work. And I was laying on the couch at my therapist's office one day, and I just so happened to mention, "Yeah, they thought I had ADHD back in the 90s, but my doctor just said to give me more work." And my therapist stopped me in the middle of a session and sent me down the hallway to book with the ADHD specialists who worked in her practice. And the rest is all she wrote. That's how we ended up here. Because she saw what kind of help I needed and sent me to a person who could help me. Julian: Wow. René:It was an accident. Julian:Well, nothing's ever by accident. I'm a firm believer that things happen in the time and space that they're supposed to happen. You know, one, I want to applaud you for being really clear about your story. I know that it's not easy to share how this journey, it took a long time to get to a place where you finally felt like you got the diagnosis that you needed. I'm interested to know, you know, just thinking about all those different time periods — whether it was at seven, 11 and 25 and even now — what do you think the type of help was that you needed? Like, what kind of help do you think would have been helpful for you? René: Someone who knew about ADHD sitting there with me, teaching me about the way that my brain worked. Because instead of internalizing messages about how my brain works differently and I needed different tools, I internalized things like "I was lazy," "I was careless," "I was not willing to apply myself to do the work." Because when they said those things, of course I was trying my hardest to get those things done right and didn't know why I couldn't. Julian:And so, now that you got that diagnosis, you went down the hallway. You got the diagnosis. What does help look like now? René:Oh, help now looks like being able to call somebody and just say, "Hey, I'm having a hard time getting through this. Can you sit with me on the phone while I work through this thing that I'm struggling with?" or saying, "Hey, mom" — who is one of my biggest supporters and always has been — I don't want to make it seem like she wasn't before. She just was misguided in the way that she gave the support. But I can call her now and say, "Hey, you know, I've got this thing coming up. I need a reminder call ma. Can you go ahead and call me back in an hour and just make sure I'm off doing the thing?" Or I know that I need to set those things up for myself. So, for our appointment today, I have a reminder that goes off at an hour before, 30 minutes before, 15 minutes before, or five minutes before I'm at the time up. That sounds excessive, but I can get caught up in whatever else it is that I might be doing until it's time to meet up with you and never make the meeting, because time blindness will take me away. So, it's knowing what works for me now. Julian: So this new René that got the treatment, this new René that got the support. Did it feel liberating to finally have some answers? René:It felt liberating, and it also felt incredibly frustrating because I didn't have to go through some of the things that I went through. Some of those meetings with teachers were embarrassing. Like, I used to crochet in class because it helped me concentrate, and my mom caught wind of it and was so mad at me. Some of the teachers were so... Julian:Mad for crochet? René: They were. That was a scandal. That was quite a meeting that we had, and it was an innocent thing and it helped me concentrate. Julian:So, I have an eight-year-old daughter and she just learns how to crochet, and I've probably spent about $200 at Michael's in the last couple of weeks because we keep getting yarn, and she uses crocheting as a way to help her focus too. René, I got to be honest with you, I am sitting here. I'm just really digging everything I'm learning about you. I think you're an incredible person, and what I admire the most is how you've chosen to take your experiences as a black woman with ADHD, and you could have just kept it to yourself, but you decided, "No, let me let me create a community. Let me get people together." And I think especially for our folks, that's something that we do. We bring people together. And there's so many of our black women out there looking for answers, like trying to figure out what can they do. And you found some. And so you decided, let me share my knowledge with others. So, can you tell our listeners all about Black Girl, Lost Keys and the motivation behind it? Which, by the way, the road trip episode, folks. Amazing. Dope dope dope dope dope. My favorite one, but I digress. Let's go into Black Girl, Lost Keys. Tell us about it. René: So, I started Black Girl, Lost Keys in 2014 because I was looking, when I got diagnosed, for a resource with black and brown people at the head of it, and there was nothing. And that was in 2009. So around 2014, I was looking for it again and there was nothing. And I've always been a good writer. Like I said, the English department dragged me through high school. And so, I thought, if there's nothing here, then what I lack in knowledge, I can learn more. But there needs to be something here. There needs to be somebody sharing their experience. Because this is bananas. Julian:It is bananas. René: So, I decided to start it because there was no one out there talking about the black and brown experience. And it just seemed a shame. And I'm — you know, I don't consider myself to be the only black experience that I could talk about — but I'm pretty average black woman living in America. And if there was nothing and I've got the talent to write, it only made sense that I take it and use it to help the other people around me so at least there was something so they didn't feel like they were all by themselves. And so after I started that, little by little, I built it into an audience that, oh gosh, there's a ton of followers now. There was nobody at first. I used to write about everything that came to mind, and now I mainly focus on teaching other people different things about ADHD and the common challenges. So, it's a little bit less about my life and more about their lives and what they might need. Julian: Got it. What do you think is your proudest portion of Black Girl, Lost Keys? Like, out of all the experiences you had through the writing, through the podcast, through the digital resources, and all that. What are you most proud of? René: I'm just proud that I was able to do it at all. But if I had to pick a moment that I was most proud — not last year, but the year before — I got to fly to Dallas, Texas and give a keynote speech for the International ADHD Conference, and I got a chance to bring my mom there. They wanted me to do an hour speech. I did it in 20 minutes and there was not a dry eye in the house by the time I got finished speaking, and it was just... to be able to do that with my mom there. Julian: With mom there. That's that's full circle right there, right? René:What's even more full circle, and another thing that I'm proud of is that my mother was diagnosed with ADHD. She has it. Julian: Wow.René: Can you believe it? Julian: Wow, that is wild. I mean, and again, you know, things work in the way that they're supposed to work. And I just think it's amazing that you've been able to use your platform and share so much information. And people don't realize when it's coming from somebody that's living it and experiencing it, It just hits different. As a black woman, especially, there's a certain language in a way that black women can only communicate with other black women. So, the fact that you've chosen this platform to communicate, I just applaud that, I applaud that. René:Thank you. Julian: And I'm so glad that you've chosen to do it. For our listeners, I'm wondering, are there any resources that you've found that are super helpful? Just, you know, some quick things that you'd like to share that anybody could reference? René: Yeah, for sure. If you're living with a child or you yourself have ADHD, there's CHADD (that's Children and Adults with ADHD), and if you are an adult with ADHD there's ADDA (that's adults with ADD). Both of those are nonprofit resources that exist and are solely there to help people with ADHD. They both have groups. They both have webinars, all kinds of things to put information right at your fingertips and help. Julian: So, we heard that's CHADD and ADDA, CHADD and ADDA. We'll make sure to link those in the show notes. Thinking about the shared experience of being a black woman with ADHD, something that you also did is you created a support system that really impacted you, because you weren't doing this by yourself. And you've been able to create this system. And I know that so many of our listeners out there — especially, you know, our black moms are parents of black children with ADHD out there or our teachers of black children that are out there — they're wondering, what's the first step in building these support systems that you were able to create? What do you think is one of the first steps that people should take? René: Honesty. Julian: Honesty. Say more about that. Say more about that. René: Because a lot of people come into this and they don't want to admit that they have the ADHD, or they don't want to admit that they need as much support as they actually need, or they don't want to be honest about the type of support that they need. You can't get help until you are clear about articulating the kind of help you need. Does that make sense? Julian: 100%. The first step is always admit that there's something going on. I don't want to label ADHD a problem. It's a difference. It's admitting that there is a difference happening and that extra or different support might be needed. That's the important part. René: And that difference is causing problems for us. So, it's OK to say that ADHD isn't the problem, but the challenges that it can throw in our way is definitely problematic from time to time. Julian: Exactly. On this podcast, we talk about the stigma of ADHD and other learning and thinking differences in the black community and how, especially with the older generation — your mother and my mother, probably similar age-groups — there's a very specific experience that the older generation had with special education. And how we have to reclaim what we rightfully deserve, which is a high quality education that includes all of the accommodations and modifications that come with having a learning and thinking difference. I think this work that you're doing is unpacking some of the stigma that goes along with it, and empowering black women specifically, and embracing all of the learning and thinking differences that are out there. René: Thank you. That's exactly what I was trying to do. Just make a space where everybody could feel comfortable and come talk. Julian: Now, any resources specifically that you mentioned CHADD and ADDA, but anything specifically that — and again, I say my podcast in general, we specifically focus on the intersection of race and special education — for you, any specific resources that are most effective in helping black and brown kids with ADHD to navigate and thrive? René: Let's see. There's people doing that work now. There's a lady named Torrian Timms. She runs a place called Sistas With ADHD, that supports. My friend Inger. She runs the page Black Women With ADHD, that supports as well. And there's a friend of mine — I'll see if I can get you that info, because she's a coach that works with children specifically — and I want to make sure I've got her information right. Julian: Well, please shout them all out because we'll link as many resources as possible. I think it's really important that any time we have a platform, we call out all the positivity that's happening across the country. And that we're not working in silos. We're all working together with the same desire to build positive outcomes for our children. And so, everybody that you know is doing good work. Let's make sure we shine them out and make sure that we inform our listeners who they are. René: Oh, it will be a pleasure. Absolute pleasure. Julian: René, I could talk to you all day long. I wish I could, but they give me a time limit on this. So, I just wanted to say a big thank you. I just appreciate you. I appreciate the work you're doing. I appreciate the journey that you've gone on. I appreciate your candid honesty. It's not easy getting on a stranger's podcast and sharing your life story, but you chose to do that, and I cannot be more grateful. So before I go, I just wanted to again extend my extreme gratitude for you to join us. Thank you. René: Thank you. It's been a real pleasure, Julian, and I'm so glad that we were able to push through and get this thing recorded. Julian: Listeners, OG family. Before we go, I want to make sure that we share a few resources with everybody. First, please check out — and I'm being serious, I'm a big fan of this podcast myself — René Brooks' podcast. It's called Life With Lost Keys, and it is hilarious. It is a great listen. I could listen to it all day. She's a much better podcast host than I am. So, check it out please. Also, follow her on social media @Blackgirllostkeys. You can follow her on social media @Blackgirllostkeys. She also referenced CHADD and ADDA, and Understood will have a host of resources on our episode page that relate to ADHD. René Brooks, thank you so much. "The Opportunity Gap" is produced by Tara Drinks, edited by Daniella Tello-Garzon. llana Millner is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show for the Understood Podcast Network. Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. Thanks for listening and see you next time.

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    Bonus episode: What I wish I’d known sooner about evaluations for special education

    Get evaluation tips from parents who have been through the process at least once — and experts who have been through it hundreds of times. Parents, teachers, and psychologists all have something they wish they’d known sooner about how kids are evaluated for special education. This bonus episode of Understood Explains offers tips from parents who have been through the evaluation process at least once — and experts who have been through it hundreds of times. Related resourcesHow to talk to your child about getting evaluatedEvaluation rights: What you need to knowEpisode transcriptLeslie: My name is Leslie and I'm from Little Rock. My eldest daughter was diagnosed at age 7 with dyslexia and unspecified learning disorders. This is what I wish I knew the most before an evaluation. I wish I knew what the heck was evaluation!Andy: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains." I'm your host, Andy Kahn, here with a bonus episode. Our first season covered every part of the process that school districts use to evaluate children for special education services. In those first 10 episodes, I talked with parents who've been through the evaluation process at least once — and experts who have been through it hundreds of times. But at one point, each of those people were brand-new to this process — like I imagine many of you listening are now. Something you didn't hear in the other episodes was this: At the end of our conversations, we asked our guests what they wish they would've known sooner about the evaluation process. We got a bunch of different answers from parents and experts alike. And I found each of their perspectives to be helpful, enlightening, or just encouraging for those at the beginning of their evaluation journeys. My hope is that by sharing some of these answers, it'll leave you feeling better prepared to take on school evaluations with your child. First, let's hear from some parents.Jennifer: Hi, my name is Jennifer from Atlanta. I have a son, Nathan, who's 11. He has dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADHD. So I wish I would have known when I started this process with my son, when I first requested that first evaluation, I was just suspecting that there was reading — unexpected reading problems. And so because my concerns were about reading, that's really what the school focused on when they evaluated him. And we kind of missed that bigger picture. To me, at the time in my head, I was like, OK, if it's dyslexia, we can remediate dyslexia, and then he's going to be fine. But we did that. We found out it was dyslexia, we remediated the dyslexia, and then he wasn't fine. There was more. I wish that I would have been more open to the fact that maybe there's other challenges as well that we need to address. But in my mind, it was just like, if I can just get this one thing, and we can fix this one thing, everything will be OK. And I feel like it might have been a little easier on me emotionally if I would have not been so certain that that one thing was going to solve all our problems. Keith: My name is Keith and I live in Columbus, Georgia. And my son's name is Elijah. He's 11 years old and he's been diagnosed with ADHD. If I had to state or describe something I wish I would have known earlier about ADHD and the diagnosis, I will just say, knowing more about it. I didn't understand what the parameters or what the symptoms of it was. Had I known about it probably earlier, I would have been able to take a more proactive role in assisting him in managing it.Andy: One theme that came up often in these conversations with our guests was the focus of our third episode: Your rights in the evaluation process.Michele: My name is Michele, and I live in the Bronx, New York. What I wish I had known sooner about the evaluation process is the rights of the parents, the rights of definitely of the student, and how the process is supposed to go. A lot of times the focus is taken away from the process and what's best for the child and just being right. Well, I'm, you know, we've made a determination. This is what's best for the child. It's right. But if the parent feels differently, then the parent needs to go with their gut instinct, because sometimes it's not right. And never, ever stop advocating and finding the best possible solution for your child. Andy: Let’s move to some of the experts who were guests on our show. One of them had some advice I think all parents and caregivers should take to heart.Christina: My name is Christina. I was a special educator for 10 years and I now currently work at a private clinic that offers neuropsychological evaluations for parents who are concerned that their student's academic needs might require special education services. Thinking about my experience as an educator, and all the years that I spent on school evaluation teams, whenever we arrived at the place where we were discussing recommendations for students' plans, because they had been evaluated, and we were going to determine what their program was going to look like, I wish I had known that there were recommendations that I could make that even if our school didn't offer it, students might still receive that service. An example of that might be a specialized classroom setting like a 12:1, where there are 12 students and one teacher. And that smaller class setting sometimes allowed students to really get a handle on the academic content that is being instructed. Sometimes, though, I didn't always recommend that because it wasn't necessarily what the school offered that I was working in. And it was important to remember that it wasn't necessarily about what the school offered as much as what the child needed that needed to be recommended. And that's something that moving forward I've kept in mind.Andy: Another expert guest had some insight on parents interacting with schools — and why being seen as a kind, helpful collaborator is more than just a nice thing to do.Andrew: Hi, I'm Andrew Lee. I'm an Understood editor. And I'm also a lawyer who has authored studies on disability and education rights in schools. One thing I wish parents learned sooner about the evaluation process is that the notion of collaborating with the school is not just something that's nice or friendly or sweet. It actually has some huge benefits for you.First of all, it makes sure that you get the best result for your child, because you're working in the best manner with a school. Second, down the road, if there's ever any serious conflict or dispute with the school, oftentimes, someone new like a mediator or a hearing officer will come in and look at what's happened. And if they see that you've been a real partner with the school, and you've tried your best to work with the school to get to a solution, they're more likely to side with you in whatever that dispute is.Now, when I'm talking about collaboration, I'm not just saying go along with the flow and do whatever the school wants. I'm saying that you can be assertive about what your child needs, but at the same time, be polite and respectful and be a good partner in the process.Andy: Let’s hear from one more expert.Ellen: Hi, I'm Ellen Braaten. I'm a child psychologist who specializes in evaluating kids with learning and attention differences. I'm also the mother of two children, one who also has attention differences.What I wish I knew when I was first starting out as a psychologist is something that's kind of obvious. And it's that kids grow up — that most of the kids I see, regardless of how much they are struggling now, grow up to be successful, competent adults. And I don't think I could have really understood that until I saw kids grow into adulthood. Until I saw kids who I evaluated who seemed to have significant issues with things like reading, or social skills, or attention differences grow up to find the area in adulthood that was right just for them. And so it's been wonderful to see that. It also helps me, as a psychologist, realize that my goal right now is to reassure parents, to let them know that every child finds his or her own way, or their own way. And that what we need to do in the present is to figure out how to get them there. Andy: Before we wrap up, I want to share one thing I wish I would have known sooner. I've been evaluating kids for nearly 20 years. And at some point, I started telling parents that it's a lot harder to break your kids than you think. You see, kids are resilient. And even though the evaluation process may be nerve-racking for families, it's worth it for your kid's sake.So don't wait. Talk with your child. Help your child buy in to the evaluation process. Help them see what's in it for them. And don't be afraid to partner with the school, and ask lots of questions. Together, you, your child, and the school can plan a better, more comprehensive, and maybe even more efficient assessment that offers the most insights into what's going on, and leads to the right supports that can help your child thrive.You've been listening to Season 1 of "Understood Explains," from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered in this series, check out the show notes for each episode and visit now as one last reminder of who we're doing all this for, I'm going to turn it over to Nina to read our credits. Take it away, Nina! Nina: "Understood Explains" is produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, who also did the sound design for the show. Briana Berry is our production director. Andrew Lee is our editorial lead. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. A very special thanks to Amanda Morin and all the other parents and experts who helped us make the show. Thanks for listening, and see you next time.Andy: Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at

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