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  • 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.

  • ADHD Aha!

    Anxiety, imposter syndrome, and ADHD (Mallory’s story)

    Mallory Band was diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety at age 8. Now she’s an executive function coach who helps people with ADHD cope with imposter syndrome and more. Mallory Band was diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety when she was 8 years old. She has two brothers with ADHD, but their ADHD looked different. They were hyperactive on the outside. But Mallory felt hyperactive on the inside. She struggled with perfectionism, people pleasing, and big emotions. As with many women who have ADHD, imposter syndrome set in as she got older. Mallory’s “aha” moment came well after her ADHD diagnosis — when she was in graduate school learning about executive function. It was the first time she had stopped to think about how her own brain worked, and how burnt out she was from pushing herself against it. Now she’s an executive function coach who helps people with ADHD lean into the power of saying “no.” Related resourcesMore from Mallory: Imposter syndrome at work: How I stopped feeling like a fakeADHD and anxietyADHD in girlsEpisode transcriptMallory: I was diagnosed when I was 8, but that's certainly not when I had the "aha" moment. I was having these big emotions, I was experiencing imposter syndrome, but I didn't know what that was. Not until I was in grad school when I started to take a deep dive into learning about the brain and learning about the science of learning and teaching and understanding what's actually happening with my brain wiring. Things were making sense.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 Mallory Band. Mallory is an executive function coach and an ADHD advocate who lives in Maryland. Mallory, you wrote into the show and you had said that you were diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety when you were 8 years old, and immediately I was like, "Whoa, that's awesome," to have those diagnoses so early in life. I was maybe projecting, I don't know if it felt awesome to you, but let's start there. How did you get both of those diagnoses so early in life?Mallory: My dad is still a practicing psychiatrist, and my mom was a special educator for over 40 years, so they were certainly well versed in this world, even, you know, 25, whatever, years ago when things were a little bit different and we didn't know as much. But I guess also having two older brothers who had some similar challenges with ADHD, although those traits permeated themselves in different ways.Both of my brothers would get really angry at each other and get into fights and be out of control at times. And I wasn't physically hyperactive like that. Certainly impulsive. But I think a lot of it was my mind was really hyperactive, but I sort of took on some of the traits of just having these huge emotions and keeping it together during the day at school. But then when I would come home, things would sort of unravel.And I think my parents were sort of keen in understanding that something's up. This is not what every 8-year-old is experiencing or exhibiting. But I was really lucky in the fact that, you know, I was sort of in the majority in my family where there were five of us, four of us, who have ADHD. So, it didn't feel super different, and it was just sort of, we sort of kind of fed off of each other. And just that was the norm for us.Laura: So, five people in the family, so all three of the siblings have ADHD. So, it sounds like, if I'm doing my math right, one of your parents has ADHD, too, is that right?Mallory: Yes. My dad was diagnosed as an adult and it was like, "Duh!," when he got diagnosed. "Of course you have ADHD. It's very obvious."Laura: You mentioned that your brothers are, they're maybe more, quote unquote, classically hyperactive and you're more hyperactive in your brain. How else were your symptoms distinct or similar?Mallory: I think that they would physically get into fights. I think my middle brother certainly was very hyperactive, was bouncing off the walls, would do things very impulsively, like our neighbors had a trampoline, so we also had a basketball hoop. So, he like, thought it would be a good idea to wheel the basketball hoop over to the trampoline to try to make like slam ball. And of course, it got stuck in like all this. And he would just do stuff without thinking. And I think, you know, a lot of it was like the really extreme procrastination of he would not pack his lunch and I would hate to be late for school, so it would drive me insane. So, I would just do it for him and pack his lunch and get everything cause we needed to get out the door because he was procrastinating. He wasn't ready, you know. So, I think he probably was just, "Oh, great, if I don't do it, she'll do it for me." So, sort of like having that bit of enabling, but also like I was so anxious for him to get out of the house so we cannot be late for school.Laura: So, you're coming home, you're falling apart when you come home from school, which a lot of parents don't realize, that's a sign of trust. Like, it may be frustrating for parents, but you feel comfortable letting go when you get home. Where does your parents take it from there? What did they investigate?Mallory: Yeah, I think part of the way that my ADHD and anxiety, and I really still, even as an adult, find it really hard to untangle what is what and sort of what the differences are, because I think they are really, at least for me, really intertwined in how they present themselves. But I would be able to keep it together all day at school. And then when I would come home, it would just be there was so much pent-up anxiety, and kind of overwhelm.And the way that my anxiety permeated itself was I had the need to complete everything all at once. If there were things that were not complete or things that were looming over my head, that was the most uncomfortable kind of situation for me to deal with even in kindergarten. So, before I was 8, you know, I would come home, you'd get a homework packet, and it would be due on Friday and you'd be assigned it on Monday. And I couldn't get over the fact that there wasn't an option. I had to finish it on Monday or else it just something bad was going to happen or just, it didn't feel right, and I couldn't stop myself.So, it was almost like I was going into overdrive, which is I think, different in that aspect where it wasn't the typical procrastination or we couldn't get started, but it was I couldn't stop myself until it was done. And that was a lot of the emotional dysregulation thrown in there and not being able to sort of discern what priorities were because everything was an urgent task.But I can really remember that as early as that kindergarten example. And of course, there was a lot of screaming and crying and yelling at my parents because, you know, I was frustrated at them. But really it was I was frustrated with the brain that I have. I didn't understand what to do with it, how to work with it.Laura: So, talk me through what — and I've even had experts on this show talking about the connection between ADHD and anxiety, and it is really difficult to parse out where one stops and where one begins — but tell me what you think is happening there. How does ADHD contribute to that mindset and how does anxiety contribute to it in your experience?Mallory: It is really challenging because I think we've got the anxiety piece where the rumination is going on and thinking about all of these things that were in the past and thinking about, "I should have done this differently, I should have done that differently," but then also sort of having those fear thoughts, thinking about the future of "What am I going to do about this? What am I going to do about that?" And sort of coming up with all of this sort of false scenarios, you know, that might never even come true?And I think part of that with having some of the emotional regulation on the ADHD side and the impulse control, where I know this isn't helpful, but I can't stop myself, let me keep going and see what, let me just try to solve this problem and not having the foresight to understand that this is actually only getting worse if I allow myself to keep going instead of pumping the brakes.Even with all of that being said, I do find it extremely challenging to discern what is what. I think it certainly makes it more intense having both and certainly the way my ADHD presents itself, having anxiety thrown in there or layered, I guess layered in there, I'd be a better illustration of how it really is, makes it even more challenging to figure out what is what. But I think they sort of just tag team against me and for them almost a complementary way and makes it much more challenging to navigate through life with that dual kind of threat going against you.Laura: Whoa, that is really well said. That layering in. When you got diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety, what was your awareness and vocabulary like around ADHD and anxiety at that time?Mallory: You know, my parents said, "We're going to do this testing and you're going to try medication, you know, having various tutors and things like that, all throughout school. And I will also sort of say, of course, that we know it has nothing to do with your intelligence." And I was somebody who was that straight-A student.But on the backside of that, I was burning myself out and creating a lot of these really bad habits in terms of perfectionism and imposter syndrome and all of these things, having no idea that maybe this isn't the norm. Not everyone is coming home and having a three-hour meltdown just to do 20 minutes of homework where it could have just been done and you were over with it.So, I had extra time, I had tutors and stuff, but I was lucky enough where that didn't really feel different to me because my brothers had those accommodations as well, and it just was like," Oh, well, they're cool. So like, that's fine, whatever."Laura: So, you were diagnosed at 8, but it sounds like your "aha" moment came much later. That was when you were in your 20s. Can you describe in a little bit more detail what was your actual "aha" moment around ADHD?Mallory: Really, it was when I was in grad school, I was at Hopkins and we were doing a lot of reading and work around mind-brain teaching and that was just so fascinating and so eye-opening where it was really just in the brain, and that was my first really kind of deep dive into what's under the hood and what's going on and what might be happening in my brain and how that actually impacts my life on a daily basis. I'd never actually taking the time to think about this makes X, Y, and Z tasks a lot more challenging, or you're actually figuring out ways to do daily tasks that other people might not need to do.But unbeknownst to me, I'm sort of coming up with my own system or my own structure, and it was just kind of fascinating and things were making sense. My behaviors were making sense. The feelings of imposter syndrome were making sense, the manifestations of perfectionism were making sense. And it's been a huge learning journey and not to feel, you know, "Woe is me," or "This is so hard. Life is so hard." Well, sure, life is hard, but life is hard for everybody for different reasons.But I think being able to be patient with myself, to actually understand what is going on in my brain, how my brain works, and then trying to play to my strengths instead of always pushing against it and just going in a one way street of "I have to do it this way because that's always how I've done it," and actually learning how to best support myself. And that was a pretty cool experience, even though it was almost 20 years after my original diagnosis.Laura: Were you feeling like an imposter up until that point?Mallory: Oh yeah, definitely. But I really hadn't heard of imposter syndrome, and I hadn't heard of rejection sensitive dysphoria at all. I sort of think about these three things for me are really tightly intertwined and how they impact my life on a daily basis. I didn't have the label or the words, but those were the feelings that I was experiencing.And I think with the education, with understanding my lived experiences more, having a label or having something to put on how I was feeling, and then also understand, "Oh my gosh, there's so many other people who are also feeling whatever I'm feeling," just felt like I wasn't the only one who's like some weird person who is experiencing these things, but it's actually quite normal. And that just brought forth some comfort in this journey.Laura: For anyone who's listening who hasn't heard the term imposter syndrome, could you define it for them?Mallory: Definitely. For me, what I think imposter syndrome is, no matter what your accolades are, no matter what your credentials are, whatever you achieve, it doesn't matter because you're never going to be good enough. You're always feeling like someone's going to catch you and call you out for being a fraud or saying that you don't belong no matter how experienced you are, whatever background you have. It really comes from a lot of this insecurity and just never feeling good enough, feeling like everything comes from, "Well, I got the A because I was lucky the teacher put a curve on the test. It wasn't because I studied really hard. It wasn't because I'm really smart and I worked very diligently to prepare." So, your efforts don't actually impact anything. It's all luck.And on the other side, someone's going to always be there to catch you and call you out for doing the wrong thing or from making a mistake. And I think that's where, in my mind, perfectionism for me ties into imposter syndrome and feeling like you have to be perfect and there's no room for making mistakes or messing up because then you're going to be caught even sooner for being an imposter and not belonging. And you don't want to stand out and be different. You sort of want to just blend in and mask.Laura: And what's the ADHD layer on that in your experience? How did ADHD interplay with the imposter syndrome in particular?Mallory: I would say it's kind of masking some of these traits that might not be as desirable. Like, for example, I'm someone who has a really hard time with blurting things out and interrupting people. So, when you're in a meeting, it's like, "Well, how did this person get hired? They can't even wait their turn. They don't even know the etiquette of having a conversation. What's going on there?"And I think part of it, too, is making any type of mistake that just like wasn't an option ever. Not because that's what my parents said. I was actually putting these expectations on for myself. You had to be perfect. And if you weren't, well, bad things were going to happen. Someone's going to find out, and someone's going to figure out other characteristics about you. "Oh, you're not perfect and you're really annoying, so you don't ever stop talking. You don't know how to take turns in a conversation and your legs are always bouncing and you often have really big reactions to things."It just depended on what it was, but then it was sort of a domino effect where one thing led to another led to another. And I didn't want to be exposed as here were some traits that were maybe different, or that I guess rather I wasn't really comfortable with or didn't understand it like in the ADHD world, that's really normal.Laura: I've been trying to restrain myself a little bit during this interview. I've been trying to keep myself from saying too much. Like, "I totally relate to that. I totally relate to that." But anybody who listened to the first episode of this podcast knows that this is very similar to my story, ADHD and perfectionism. And my "aha" moment came after my diagnosis when I finally realized, "Oh, this actually is a big deal in my life."And it sounds like that's similar to you, because clearly you had supports in your life as a child and as a young adult in your family and you were learning about the supports that you needed to cope with ADHD symptoms. And then, am I right to hear that you're basically on the brink of burnout, right? because you were just pushing yourself way too hard?Mallory: Absolutely. And even after I had this "aha" moment, I was still, it wasn't like, OK, the next day I flipped the switch and changed. I was still pushing full force and then sort of just realized, "Oh my gosh, I'm exhausted. This is too much."And with just going through different life experiences and having different challenges arise, kind of understanding that you have to work on your cognitive flexibility too because you really will continue to burn out. Life is going to do whatever it's going to do. It's going to happen no matter how good of a person you are or how prepared you are, things are going to happen that you don't want to deal with.So, trying to build in some of that cognitive flexibility to help alleviate feeling exhausted all the time and really just being a little kind and gracious and patient with yourself. Because if you're not doing that, nobody else is going to do that for you. So, you have to be the one to take the lead on that.Laura: Yeah, I'm going to oversimplify for a second, but, and this is what struck me when I got your email that day, I was like, "Wow, here's someone who was diagnosed much earlier than I was, who had supports throughout her life and a better understanding at least of what was going on than I did, and yet still had this "aha" moment later in life like I did." So, it just felt, that felt very important. It felt like that was like a little nugget of truth. Like the most important thing, I don't know, at least in my story, was a little bit of a mindset shift, right? And I'm wondering if you can, it sounds like that was the same for you. If you could put a fine point on, what was that mindset shift for you?Mallory: Yeah, you know, I think I was sort of in an environment that, you know, was dealing with some really challenging people and that is not something had ever been in before. That's another thing not having them brought up yet, but another part of my ADHD and I think of feeling insecure was being a people pleaser, having to say yes to everything because I was insecure and wasn't, you know, I needed to be perfect. So, I didn't want people to be upset with me. That thing where someone's like, "Hey, can I talk to you?" I'm like, "Oh my gosh, what have I done?" And trying to jog my memory and see why this person, you know, it's like horrifying for me. And for the first time in my life, like having to put up boundaries felt extremely uncomfortable.But that sort of something where that mindset shift started to take place, where it's like, just because I'm doing something doesn't mean I'm stuck here, doesn't mean I have to stay in here just because you want to switch or leave or do something else. It doesn't mean you're quitting, but you're trying to figure out what's the right path for you. And I realize for me, I am so, such an emotional being, I am so intensely empathetic, I care too much. And that actually is a disservice to me, you know, letting people walk over me and saying yes to everything because I didn't want to upset people.But going through that experience where people might not have had the best interest for me or were trying to take advantage of me and realizing that, "No, just because I have some of these challenges doesn't mean I'm not good enough, doesn't mean I don't deserve the best for myself and I'm able to put my foot down. I don't have to say yes to everything. I can set boundaries, even if that makes other adults uncomfortable. That's too bad."Part of that mindset was, "I'm not in control of how other adults feel," and that was something I know it sounds really ridiculous, but I didn't understand that until truly a year ago. It does feel awkward, it does feel bad to shut people down or say no to things. But that was leading to burnout. That was leading to way more anxiety than I needed to be dealing with because I already, my baseline feels pretty high.Laura: We haven't really touched on it yet, but if you couldn't tell already by the way that Mallory has been talking and how motivational it is, Mallory is an executive function coach and works with a lot of young people. And I have to share with you, Mallory, that as I was getting ready to do this interview, I was feeling so much of what you were talking about earlier. The "I need to get everything done at once," and I have to tell you, I have like a task list right now completely unrelated to the podcast of things that I need to do. And I was like, "How could I possibly stop what I'm doing right now to do a recording for a podcast?" And then I had this moment of relief, and I was like, "Wait, Mallory is an executive function coach. Maybe she can help me work on this during the interview."Mallory: I love it. And I would say too, like for me, when I don't write things down, when I let things stay and fester in my head, that's where the anxiety wheel starts to spin and go wild. So, I really do think, you know, first and foremost of writing things down, but also thinking about things in terms of priorities. So, what are the few things that absolutely need to be done today thinking about as like a triage approach of whatever's bleeding, you have to work on that. If it's a call for a cut, like that's going to be OK. You might not have to deal with that today.It might not feel good to let that sit, but it is kind of cool to be able to see that, "OK, well, it's still going to be there tomorrow. I survived. We've survived every single day. We've always gotten everything done." So, sort of trying to rely on past experiences, too, because I don't know about you. But again, yes, definitely having things that are unticked on my to-do list does not feel good, but also feeling exhausted and cranky and angry or whatever doesn't feel good either. So, there has to be some type of middle ground. We have to be able to have some type of balance.Laura: Yes. And I have to ask you about when you're working with young people on strategies, I'm going to quote something you said earlier, this voice in your head that tells you that, "Life is hard for everyone. I don't deserve to say no. I don't deserve help." It's something I hear so many times from my guests on ADHD Aha! Those thoughts like they layer on, to use your expression, they layer on to all these good coping strategies. What do you say to help people cope with those kinds of thoughts? The "I don't deserve to say no."Mallory: First and foremost, I think the best type of conversation that we can have is being vulnerable from my end and sharing my own experiences where this is when it worked, this is when it didn't work, and acknowledging, "Here are certain examples of where I need help," and helping other people learn how to delegate tasks and just to really to normalize that. Because I think as a child I didn't realize like, "Oh, my parents don't have it all figured out. They don't know everything." And you sort of, that's what I thought of just, "Adults know how to do everything."And I think part of, at least for me, part of what I'm realizing is, "Everyone's winging it." We're all sort of just trying to figure it out and do our best and helping kids and young people understand that, sooner or later we're going to need to get comfortable with self-advocating, we're going to need to get comfortable with saying what we need. So, practicing it in a safe space, even if it's just role-playing between you and I for a while. The hard thing really is we can't force anyone to do anything until they're ready, until they understand why we need to do this, why it's important, why it matters.Laura: Do a lot of the young people you work with have imposter syndrome in addition to ADHD?Mallory: Many of them do. Many of them certainly have low self-confidence, low self-esteem, and sort of feeling a bit alienated. And I think part of why I really like doing this work is because I can see my pieces of myself in a lot of them and trying to think back of, "What did I need at this age? What did I wish I had? Can we have some of these conversations now that we know a lot more, now that there's a lot more research out there, that we just, a lot of this is much more normalized now?" So, trying to bridge the gap and make this just more normal.Laura: Mallory, it's been really great to talk with you today. It's been very validating, I think is a good word to say it. And I think the work that you're doing is so cool. So, I just want to say thank you for spending this time with me and for all the work that you're doing.Mallory: Thank you so much for having me, Laura. This was really a great opportunity. I really appreciated chatting with you.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 and slow processing speed

    For people with slow processing speed, anxiety can pop up at any moment throughout the day. That’s because slow processing speed can impact many activities, from taking a test to talking with friends and co-workers. In some cases, frequent anxiety can turn into a bigger anxiety problem. Here’s what you need to know about slow processing speed and anxiety, and how you can help.How anxiety and slow processing speed fuel each otherWhen any of us feel anxious, we freeze for a moment. During that time, we’re not processing information as quickly as we typically do. And we may take longer to respond. This is how anxiety can impact processing speed. Slow processing speed can also create feelings of anxiety. Imagine being a student, sitting in a classroom and taking a test. Other students are turning pages from problem to problem, while you’re still on the first page. This type of situation can create a lot of anxiety for people with slow processing speed. The more anxious they become, the slower they process and react. Signs of anxiety and slow processing speed People with slow processing speed may not always realize how, or when, their challenges are impacting them. For example, most people with slow processing speed have trouble with time perception — the concept of how quickly or slowly time is passing. They may think they have enough time to complete a task when they’re actually almost out of time. If this has happened to them often, they may fear they can’t get things done in time. Then they may decide to not even try. These challenges can lead to feelings of anxiety.Social situations can cause anxiety, too. People with slow processing speed may have trouble keeping up with what’s going on in their group of friends or with relatives. Or they may not react to things in expected ways because they process something, like a joke, more slowly. Ways to helpAnxiety and slow processing speed can be a hidden struggle. People don’t often talk about the two together. And not talking about these challenges can leave people feeling anxious about finding help. Here are ways that kids and adults with slow processing speed can minimize anxiety:Be self-aware. It’s important to recognize and respect that there’s no right or wrong processing speed. It’s just one of many differences in how we all operate. Acknowledge the anxiety. The first step toward managing feelings is to identify them. Recognizing the anxiety can help you better manage it. Build an awareness of time. Wear a watch, or set a timer, to keep track of time and develop a better sense of time perception. Plan for extra time. If you know that you or your child may take longer to do a task, adjust the timetable to accommodate that. Watch for signs of chronic anxiety. These can include physical, emotional, and behavioral signs. Use an anxiety log to look for patterns. Read about the connection between slow processing speed and executive function. And find out if processing speed can be improved. 

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD, anxiety, and perfectionism (Laura’s story)

    Host Laura Key shares her own “aha” moment in this first-ever episode of ADHD Aha! Amanda Morin interviews. In this first-ever episode of the ADHD Aha! podcast, host Laura Key shares her own ADHD “aha” moment. Laura was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. But it took an emotional moment in her childhood bedroom for it to finally click that her ADHD is real.   Colleague, friend, and In It podcast host Amanda Morin interviews Laura. Together they talk about ADHD in women and girls, anxiety, and why so many people with ADHD struggle with perfectionism.Related resources ADHD in girlsADHD and perfectionismADHD and anxietyEpisode transcript Laura: I stumbled across one particular journal from when I was 13 or 14. Every other page just had the word "focus" scribbled all over the pages, everywhere, in different shapes. Some in bubble letters like a kid would do. It was very emotional to see my childhood writing and my childhood struggles all coming together.And I just started crying. I was bawling. It just became clear. And I was like, oh, this is real. I have ADHD.I didn't believe my diagnosis when I got it. I thought it's just going to go away. Maybe it was stigma. Maybe my perfectionist self blamed my own willpower and thought that I should just be able to deal with it on my own. But more than anything, I didn't think I deserved a reason to struggle. I was 30 when I got my ADHD diagnosis. Now it's about 10 years later and I've had many "aha" moments that helped me be kinder to myself. But the most important "aha" moment was the first one I ever had. It was the moment that showed me that my ADHD was real, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Hi. I'm your host, Laura Key. I'm the editorial director at Understood. And I have ADHD. Welcome to "ADHD Aha!" On our show, we're going to dive into the moments that make people go "Yup. It's really real." The moments when the symptoms of ADHD become crystal clear. Each episode, we'll hear a story from someone new — that might be a person with ADHD or someone who noticed ADHD in someone else. And this week, that person is me. I'm already laughing because I'm here today with my dear friend, Amanda Morin, who is the host of the "In It" podcast, which is also part of the Understood Podcast Network. This is our first episode, and we're already going to go off script, because normally what you're going to hear is me interviewing the story sharer from the first segment of each show. But this week, since I'm the one who shared my story, Amanda is going to be interviewing me. So welcome, Amanda. Thank you for being here. Amanda: Oh, it's so much fun to be here today. And we spent so much time working on "In It" together that this is a fun way of flipping the tables. So, since I get to interview you today, I'm just going to take right over, Laura. How does that sound? Laura: OK. I'm ready. Amanda: So Laura, you have ADHD. Laura: I do. Amanda: You also have anxiety. Laura: I do.Amanda: Can you tell me if there's a connection between the two for you? Laura: Oh yes. There is a connection, and it is very hard to untangle most of the time. And that's part of what led me to my big "aha" moment. I was diagnosed with anxiety in my late twenties, and I was prescribed anti-anxiety medication.Now I didn't want to take it, because I, being the tough Midwestern girl that I am, thought that I could just pull myself up by the bootstraps and I didn't actually need medication. And I would just figure this anxiety thing out on my own. I'm just so glad that I ended up taking the medication, because once I had that anxiety under control or more under control —Amanda: You got your anxiety under control. This is what you look like with anxiety under control.Laura: Yes. Yes. But yeah, I was finally able to see clearly the other things that were going on with me. And one of those things was ADHD. I always use the example with people that medication was like a metronome for my emotions. It helped me stay in balance and my emotions would still speed up and they would get hot or they would slow down and I would get sad, but still I could feel the rhythm of my emotions and better understand the other things that were going on with the medication. It was like, wow. OK. I know how I'm feeling. I feel normal. Right? That's a common fear. People are afraid they'll take medication and they won't be themselves or feel normal. And wow. I'm really distracted all the time. What's that about? And that's what launched us into the conversation about my having ADHD.And it's really interesting, because part of ADHD is also trouble managing emotions. And that's why I said earlier that the anxiety and the ADHD get so tangled up, because anxiety makes it hard to manage emotions, and so does ADHD. But I think I'm starting to be able to sort out the difference in like what that means to me personally. With the ADHD difficulty managing emotions, it is so hard to put the brakes on my feelings. I work really hard to just take a breath between action and reaction. And I don't always succeed. I do better when I'm taking my ADHD medication. But there's a lot of overlap there and it's confusing. Amanda: Some of the strategies you're talking about that, like taking a breath, those are things that all of us need to learn how to do, right? But I think in some ways, because you have this diagnosis and you know that it's hard to put the brakes on the emotions, you’re kind of ahead of the game. When we hear about people having a diagnosis, we think, oh no, they have ADHD. What's their life going to be like? But on the other side of it, it's oh my gosh, I know I have ADHD, and now I know how to manage it, right? So I watch you do it. I hear you say, "I need a moment." We know each other well enough that I can say to you, "Hey, I think you need a moment." Laura: And I love when you say that to me.Amanda: And you say it to me too. I mean, let's be honest here, it's a reciprocal kind of thing. What was the moment that made you say "I can't carry this by myself anymore?"Laura: The moment that I realized I couldn't carry this by myself anymore was my ADHD "aha" moment. After my diagnosis, I went home to visit my family for a holiday. So I went to my childhood home and I was in my bedroom. And I was going through all of my journals from high school. I was a really avid journaler. I was always writing down everything. Not just, you know, emotional entries, but lists and things I needed to do. So it's all becoming clearer here, right? And I was going through my journals one day, and I stumbled across one particular journal that had entry after entry. I think this was a journal from when I was 13 or 14. Every other page just had the word "focus" scribbled all over the pages, everywhere, in different shapes. Some in bubble letters like kid would do. It was very emotional to see my childhood writing and my childhood struggles all coming together. And I know that I was consciously writing the word "focus," but I had no idea why I was doing that.But in hindsight, I look back and I realized, oh my gosh, I wanted to be so perfect. All the time. And I was struggling so hard to focus on getting things done, on following through with schedules. And my schedule was packed back then. I was a star athlete, a straight-A student. I, you know, I had a lot of friends, but I was struggling so much to just be perfect and to hide the secret that I didn't even know I had.And I just started crying. I was bawling when I stumbled across these pages. It just became clear. And I was like, oh, this is real. I have ADHD.Amanda: Were you crying because you realized you had ADHD and it was real? Or were you crying for the Laura who didn't know that?Laura: I was absolutely crying for the Laura who didn't know that. I wish that that Laura had noticed these things earlier and asked for help. So that I wouldn't have been so hard on myself all the time. I'm not saying that I wanted to slack off or anything like that. And that's another myth. It's not about slacking off. It's about not pushing myself to the point where I was barely sleeping, Amanda. I was up all night working on my AP calc homework, my AP physics, my AP literature homework, practicing basketball and volleyball for five hours a day. Never ever giving myself a break. I remember one time, I actually got in trouble from one of my coaches, because during the junior varsity game — I was on the varsity team — instead of watching the game, I was doing my homework, because I was so nervous about getting it done. I must've been the only kid in high school who got in trouble for doing too much homework. Amanda: So let's talk about perfectionism for a minute, because that's such a key point of your story, is how perfectionism was your coping mechanism. It was your way to sort of stay on top of things. Now, I'm going to go a little bit expert on you here. Cause you know that like, that's what I do.Laura: Do it. Amanda: It's not uncommon. Perfectionism and ADHD for women is one of the most common things that happen together. It's a control thing, right? And I don't mean control in like "I have to be in control of everybody," but it's a control like I have to be in control of my image. I have to be in control of everything I've got lined up. I have to do it best. I have to make sure I'm not failing in any kind of way. And I think that perfectionism a lot of times is about making sure that we are not looking like we're failing to the rest of the world, right? And I think when you feel like on the inside that you're failing, even though other people can't see it, you have to work harder and harder to keep up with your own expectations. And it becomes perfectionism. I know that both of my kids who have ADHD and executive functioning issues, they hate to fail.They would rather not to do something than fail at it. And that's the kind of thing that happens often with people who have ADHD. And I don't know, I'm watching you a little bit. We're sitting here, I'm watching you. You're getting a little teary. Tell me about this. Laura: I don't need to say anything else. You just summed it up. I relate to your kids. That's taking a chance, trying something new that I might fail at, doing this podcast. These are huge risks for me. I'm scared. I'm — this is a way that I'm pushing myself, right? Like just in life, trying to be OK with not being perfect or failing. We don't want this podcast to fail though, by the way. Share. Tell a friend. But yeah. Amanda: Your expectations may be super high, but we're not going to fail. We've worked together for almost, what, a decade now. And I only found out about two years ago, literally when we started working on "In It" together, that you have ADHD. And it was really surprising to me that you were so private about it for such a long time. I mean, I noticed that you are a tremendously organized person, and I just thought that was your personality. But it sounds like you were working hard at that. Why did you not tell us sooner?Laura: Yes, you're right that I was working very hard at that. It was very new to me when we started working together. So about six years ago, that was just a few years after I had been diagnosed with ADHD. I worked at Understood at that time, and looking back, I can't believe that I was carrying some of the same stigma about myself, and the same myths that other people with ADHD have, despite having worked there. That just goes to show how strong those myths and that stigma can be and how deep they run. Amanda: The conversation has changed a lot in the past five years, right? So ADHD in women looks really different. Can you tell me a little bit about what you thought ADHD looked like before you were diagnosed with it?Laura: I thought ADHD looked like something you could look at, right? Something noticeable, something very visible: hyperactivity, running around, roughhousing, fidgeting, being overly restless. And it does look that way to some people, men and women, boys and girls. But that's not how it was surfacing for me. For me, it was surfacing through constant distraction. I couldn't keep my focus if something distracted me, and I couldn't get it back. I was having so much trouble getting organized and following through on tasks. Amanda: I think it's such a good point about distraction for women. That's a fairly common symptom — that distraction and inability to focus and those kinds of things — that I think a lot of people don't automatically think, oh, that's ADHD. Laura: And it's funny that you mentioned, Amanda, that working together, you thought that I was the most organized person. And I'm not surprised that you thought that because I worked my butt off to make it seem that way. I used to do this thing where I would give myself fake deadlines in order to get something done on time. So if I had a presentation that was due on a Friday, I would tell myself that it was due on Wednesday. And I would actually make myself believe that was true to the point that Wednesday would come around and I'd say, "Why isn't anyone asking for this yet?" Amanda: I can't imagine what that was like for you. I can't imagine you carrying that and having everybody else think that you were so on top of it, and feeling on the inside like you weren't. Do you think your "aha" moment has changed how you are in the workplace? Are you still as hard on yourself?Laura: No, I'm not. I mean, I think I'm someone who will always be hard on myself, but not nearly to the degree that I used to be as a teenager, throughout my twenties, in my early thirties. You know, now as I approach 40, I feel so much more empathy toward myself. I feel OK with asking for help. Or saying something like, "Hey, I didn't actually catch everything you just said. Would you mind putting that in an email for me so I can go back to it later?"Amanda: Say 10 years from now, you're in a different workplace. What would you do now, knowing that you have ADHD, that you wouldn't have done in your twenties?Laura: Well, I'll tell you what I hope I would do. I hope that I would disclose my ADHD from the get-go — not as something that I'm ashamed of, but as something that is part of what makes me unique, is also part of what makes me good at what I do, and is also going to cause some struggles here and there that I'm going to accommodate for.I would hope that for anyone — that they would feel comfortable doing that. And especially women. Women with ADHD — I think. I'm clearly generalizing here. I'm a sample of one. But I think that we work really hard to hide our quote-unquote imperfections. Amanda: I think sometimes we feel like we don't want to admit that we need support because it may make us look weak. And I actually think speaking up for what you need makes you look strong. But maybe it makes you feel weaker sometimes. You know, for somebody who wasn't diagnosed until later in life, you've really come so far to be able to not just internalize it and realize there's nothing wrong with this. This is just who I am.But also to start talking about it with your family and start teaching them what is working for you.Laura: My 6-year-old, she — it's funny. Sometimes I hear her reciting the strategies back to me when I'm having trouble. Amanda: That's amazing.Laura: It makes me really proud of myself and of her when I hear her repeating back to me the same things I said to her. Like, "OK, I know that this might be upsetting, but let's, we're just going to take a moment right now." And she'll say that to me sometimes in ways that I don't adore. Like, I'll be like, "You really, you need to tie your shoes right now because we have to leave. We're going to be late." And she'll say, "Laura…." Not Laura. She doesn't call me Laura. She'll say, "Mom, I think you really should just take a minute for yourself right now and calm down."Amanda: Isn't that the worst when they throw that back at us? Laura: So annoying.Amanda: We teach them well, and then they teach us right back. That's just parenthood. But I think it's cool that she's learning those things and I see it in action. Laura: Yeah. I really hope that the lessons that I'm learning on this journey with ADHD, that as my kids get older, and if we start to notice signs of ADHD, or if we don't, either way, I want to help my kids understand that it's OK. And yeah, you still need to work hard, but Mommy maybe worked herself a little bit too hard. And you don't need to be a perfectionist about things.Amanda: The last time we had a conversation about this, and that was a couple of years ago, you hadn't talked to many people outside of just the few friends and your immediate family. Has that changed?Laura: Yes, it has. I'm actually excited about that. I have had so many encounters with people in a further orbit of friendship. Not my closest friends, but friends of friends. It's like, there's something that draws us to each other. They will tell me about an experience that they have with their child, struggling with ADHD, not even knowing what I do for a living. And I say, you know what? I have ADHD. I understand. And they look at me with this look of relief. Like, oh my gosh, she gets it. She's not judging me. That's fantastic. And it feels so good. Amanda: So you get to hear people's "aha" moments all the time. Laura: I do. And I'm putting a bet on what I think is a fact: that everyone with ADHD had some kind of ADHD "aha" moment. Whether it be pre-diagnosis, post-diagnosis, there is some moment that finally is your tipping point and helps you understand, oh, this is real. Oh, I need to be kind to myself. Oh, I need help with this. The reason I want to do this show is because I hear all the time, "No, ADHD isn't real." Or I hear the opposite of that, which is "Everybody has ADHD." And you hear that so much these days in our pandemic world, where so many people are struggling with focus, struggling to manage emotions, they're feeling restless, et cetera, et cetera.And it may be true that a lot of people are struggling, but ADHD is unique and it's complicated. And the behaviors that are symptoms of ADHD, I think can be really confusing for a lot of people because they are this kind of ubiquitous, universal human behavior. It's true. Everybody has trouble focusing sometimes. Everybody goes off the handle sometimes and has trouble managing their emotions. Everybody gets fidgety from time to time. But with ADHD, it's like these human behaviors on steroids. They're bigger. They are harder to harness. You have a real, brain-based difficulty that you need support for, whether that's medication or therapy or meditation, whatever it may be.And I want people to hear other people's stories, hear about those tipping points, those "aha" moments that other people had and realize that, yeah, that moment was way different than mine, but I get it. I've had that tipping point too — and feel that community reduce some of that internal stigma or that "not being allowed to be different"-ness or "not being allowed to be imperfect"-ness.Amanda: I think it's so cool that people seek you out to tell you stories. I wonder what that's about. I wonder if there's some sort of brainwave wavelength thing going on there. Laura: What's the expression? Water finds itself. Something like that. Amanda: Oh, I like that. I don't think I've ever heard that before. Laura: Yeah, someone said that to me years ago. It always stuck with me. Water finds itself. You can picture the water kind of pulling together.Amanda: You know, Laura, my husband was also diagnosed in his thirties after our son was diagnosed, because all of a sudden he went back and looked at his childhood differently. And I remember asking you if I could tell him about our conversations, because it felt like if I could tell him there's somebody else out there besides me who got it, he'd feel connected. And I know that you and he have had conversations about this now. And I think that's what this does, is it brings community together in such a beautiful way. Do you think "aha" moments are things that can be forced? Or do you think they're epiphanies?Laura: I think they're epiphanies. But maybe people will prove me wrong through the course of this podcast. I can't wait to hear from everybody. Amanda: I'm hoping that hearing other people's "aha" moments will bring about those epiphanies, and I think it's so brave of you to talk about this for your very first episode. And I think it makes you the perfect person to host this podcast.It's interesting to me to hear you say that it's a risk. Because to me, I don't see this as a risk. I see it as, as a leap, right? It's like something new that you don't know how to do and maybe that's growth. Laura: Yeah, it is. You're right. That's not how it works in my brain all the time, but that's why we're friends, because you can remind me of that, right?Amanda: Well, and also because I'm saying it to you and you'll say it to me tomorrow. I think that's one of the things that is so beneficial about talking about ADHD with somebody else is that you have people who you can lean on, who are going to say things to you like "This is growth, Laura, this is not a risk. This is something to be really proud of." And I can say that to you because I know you and I know how your brain works, right? And I know that your brain on the inside, it's moving a mile a minute, and it's telling you all the things that could go wrong. And it's telling you all of the things that you're worried about. And what if you forget to say this and what if you don't do this? And, oh my gosh, I didn't write it down. Laura: Get out of my head. Amanda: Sorry. And that, listeners, is why Amanda is interviewing Laura today.Laura: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. You can listen and subscribe to "ADHD Aha!" on Apple, Spotify, or anywhere you get your podcasts. And if you like what you heard today, tell someone about the show. We rely on listeners like you to reach and support more people. And if you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at I'd love to hear from you. You can go to to find details on each episode and related resources. That's the letter U, as in Understood, dot O R G slash ADHD Aha. Understood is a nonprofit organization. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. 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 "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine. Jessamine: Hi, everyone. Laura: Justin D. Wright created our music. Seth Melnick and Briana Berry are our production directors. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. And I'm your host, Laura Key, editorial director at Understood. Thanks so much for listening.

  • Anxiety in people who learn and think differently

    Many people have anxiety at some point in their lives — including kids. But people who learn and think differently are more likely to have anxiety than other people. There are different reasons for that. First, the stress of facing ongoing challenges can lead to anxiety. But there may also be a genetic link between certain learning and thinking differences and anxiety. For example, many people with ADHD also have anxiety. In fact, kids with ADHD are up to three times more likely to have anxiety than kids who don’t have ADHD. Anxiety also often occurs with dyslexia, slow processing speed, and sensory processing issues.

  • In It

    Math anxiety, dyscalculia, and other reasons math can be hard for kids

    Why is math so hard for some kids? And what can we do about it? Find out from a special education and math teacher. Why is math so hard for so many kids? And what can we do about it? In this episode, hosts Rachel Bozek and Gretchen Vierstra take a deep dive into math with special education and math teacher Brendan Hodnett. Tune in to learn about dyscalculia, a learning disability in math. Find out how other learning and thinking differences can impact math, too. Hear Brendan describe math anxiety, and what strategies can help. You’ll even learn an easy breathing strategy for calming math nerves. Plus, get tips for fun ways to practice math at home. Related resources Understanding why kids struggle with mathWhat is math anxiety?Signs of dyscalculia at different agesHow games can help kids get better at math 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 math. Gretchen: Did your heart just sink a little when you heard the word "math"? Rachel: A little bit. Gretchen: If so, you're not alone. So many of us get stressed out thinking about math. And even if we don't ourselves, many of us are raising kids who do. Rachel: Maybe you have a kid who has math anxiety, which, yes, is a real thing. Or maybe they have a way of learning or thinking that makes math especially challenging. Gretchen: Whatever it is that's making math hard for your kid at home or at school, there are tools and strategies that can help. And we are very lucky to have special education and math teacher Brendan Hodnett with us today to talk about some of them. Rachel: Besides teaching middle school kids, Brendan is also an adjunct professor at Hunter College in New York City, where he offers courses on inclusive ways to teach math. Gretchen: Brendan, welcome to "In It." Brendan: Hi. Thank you for having me. Gretchen: We're so happy to have you here today. So we are going to be getting into some of the learning and thinking differences that might make math challenging. But before we do that, we just kind of want to talk about math and ask more broadly: Why do you think so many people think they are bad at math? Including maybe myself? Brendan: Yeah, so I see this a lot. I'm currently teaching middle school, and I think by the time students get to middle school, I can attest that most students think they are bad at math or dislike it. And I think that comes from a couple of things. One, math is very different than the other core subjects that they're learning about. Primarily, students are focused in math on either getting it right or getting it wrong. And when you have that fail rate that's a little higher in one class than the other, you might sort of feel like, "I'm not good at this." You know, even if we're talking about 70% accuracy, that feels like, oh, I'm not good at this when I'm getting, you know, I'm doing so much better in my other classes. Whereas being right 70% of the time, like this is a conversation we have, you know, in middle school pretty regularly. That's actually pretty accurate. So I think this notion of I've got too many wrong today makes me feel like I'm bad at this, right? Also, where's the in-between? Like was I close to right? Like is that even a conversation that we get to have with our students and our parents with their children? Like, well, were you close? Were you on the right track? Are you making progress? Those kinds of things tend to not happen. So I think that's where we start right now. Rachel: So here's a question. If you have a kid who is really struggling with math, it might be because of some of the reasons that we've just talked about. But it could be that they're struggling because of a learning or thinking difference. Can you give us a couple of examples of what we should be on the lookout for to figure out if that's what's going on? Brendan: Sure. Yeah. And I think that happens a lot. I think that's hard to determine. Is this an issue where, you know, a child just has some negative feelings about the subject and they're resistant to it, versus a child who continues to struggle with the same concepts over and over again, right? So if we're thinking about at an early age, you know, we're thinking about how kids are asked to grab a certain number of objects and they bring back the wrong number of objects, right? Or if we're asking them to sort by shape and color and put three here and four there and you know which one has more — questions like that that are you know, we start very early on even in preschool. If we see students continue to make the same mistakes with those types of questions, all right, that might be a red flag. Maybe there's something we should pay attention to, right? So now we're getting into elementary school. And as the students around them are progressing through, let's say, you know, memorizing their multiplication facts or using addition and subtraction without having to count on their fingers. And we have a child who's still counting on their fingers — two, three grade levels pass when they learned it. If we're stuck in those early, you know, like I say, early elementary techniques and strategies that we use to problem-solve, that can be a red flag. Like, OK, there might be a bigger issue here. It's not just that ah, I don't like math so I wasn't paying attention that much today. Gretchen: What would you call that — that understanding you were just describing where you know, you know how to group things, you know how to add on and what like a group of things might mean. What's that called in the math world? Brendan: Well, so there's, you know, depending on which skill we're talking about, you know, there's your ability to perform math calculations, right? And your number sense. So your true understanding of, you know, the value of numbers. You know, as students progress through elementary school and we build on these skills, that sort of become second nature for those students who might not have a disconnect with math numbers and math symbols. But for someone who does, that's where we might see something where we would consider a math learning disability. You know, for lack of a better term, we use the term "dyscalculia" in special education. But oftentimes in schools we just refer to them as a math learning disability. It's also a mouthful to say "dyscalculia." Gretchen: It is. And what exactly is it? Can you explain it for us? Brendan: Sure. So if we think about, like students who are resistant to math or get nervous about math, that tends to show up more in like high-stakes situations, right? So, like, their working memory shuts down. Their fact recall. They can't remember procedures or the math facts that they just practiced the day before. When that happens, when they sort of blank out on a test, that's not really an indication that there's a math learning disability there. What we would be concerned about is if they're never able to remember the math facts. If they're never able to get past that point of, OK, you told it to me. I practiced it. A couple minutes later, I'm still getting it wrong. That's where, you know, a teacher would have a red flag and say, OK, I need to talk to the parents. What is it that maybe they're seeing at home? And then once the larger group starts to have this conversation around, you know, the child who might be struggling a little bit in school, and then we hear from the parents and we say, yeah, you know, we still are working on like left and right shoe. Or we're still working on like, you know, following directions, like, oh, you want to go to the house three doors down to the right and they went in the wrong direction. Those are some things that would be red flags for parents to say, OK, maybe there's a bigger issue. Now that's not specific to just dyscalculia. But now when you pair that with some of the things we're seeing in school, all right, then that might be an area where we have to start doing an evaluation to see if there's a math learning disability there. Rachel: So are there other learning and thinking differences besides dyscalculia that can make math learning challenging? I'm thinking — so for my own kids, both of whom have ADHD. And this has been more of an issue for my son, who's in eighth grade, and he's really good at math. So he is actually a kid who's like, "This is my thing," right? But he struggles with the "show your work" requirement. Brendan: Sure. Rachel: And that added step, I feel like for him, it's a lot to unpack, right? It's like his brain is moving so fast that he can get the right answer. But if he needs to slow down enough to fully explain how he got to it, that's where he gets tripped up. So can you talk a little bit about whether that is kind of really part of this conversation or any other learning and thinking differences that kind of reveal themselves, you know, through math. Brendan: So I'm glad you brought up showing work, right? So I think a lot of families might be seeing students at home doing homework and they're not showing any work and they're getting many questions wrong. I have to be honest. That's kind of the nature of students right now who do so much work online. They want to write less and less and less. So how do we start to separate is this an issue because you're having trouble writing, or is it an issue because you're sort of resistant to it, because you're not used to having to write as much and you think it's easier if you don't have to? That being said, if you have a child, let's say, who has dysgraphia or dyspraxia, both of which can really affect handwriting, and there's so much handwriting involved in showing your work for, you know, a multi-step math calculation. Well, there can be a lot of miscalculations there because of a handwriting issue. And if once we're able to identify which one is causing the miscalculation, then we can identify how to support it and better support that child. Gretchen: Couldn't it also be a reading challenge sometimes, right? Like, I think about all of the math as you get up into the upper grades that has reading involved, like reading a story of a problem. And then having to not only get the reading right, but then maybe to have to get the writing right when you have to explain your answer. Brendan: Right. So one of the learning disabilities that a lot of children have, you know, two in one, right? So we call them co-morbid. What we're saying there is that if a child has dyscalculia, they also may have another learning disability, and dyslexia is one of them. And what happens is some of those characteristics overlap and one in particular is difficulty with working memory, right? So it's — yes, it's in our short-term memory, but then we have to then apply it. And that is something that both students with dyslexia, students with dyscalculia, students with ADHD struggle with. So think about how much working memory we need to solve math problems. It's not only fact recall, but then holding that fact that we just calculated to then apply it to the next step of the problem. There's so many missteps along the way when we struggle with working memory. And you alluded to reading and writing as well. And just understanding the symbols of mathematics, understanding the vocabulary of math, especially as it gets more and more challenging in the later grades. And they're supposed to pick that up and apply it to the next problem that they're solving. That can be really challenging. I mean, as I say this, I feel like, yeah, it sounds hard for anybody, you know. But now imagine having one or two learning disabilities and you're struggling through class. You can understand why — back to the first part of our conversation — why many kids would be resistant to this subject to begin with. Rachel: So I'm curious what drew you to math? Like, did you like it as a kid? Did something click for you at some point where you were like, oh, I get why this works or why this is fun? Brendan: Yeah, you know, math was something I was always, you know, fairly good at — feeling — I felt pretty confident in the subject. And I think that stems all the way back to my middle school years. I started to realize not only was I confident in my math ability, but I was I was really comfortable in thinking of how to solve problems in a variety of ways. And I think that's probably my strongest suit as a special education math teacher is that I don't expect things to be done one way only. Everything can't be the same. That's the opposite of what we're trying to do. We want that flexibility. We want all of our students to shine. And we have to, you know, differentiate what it is that we do enough for everyone to feel like they have some success. And I — you know, I think having those opportunities as a young kid to really take those risks and to help out some of the people around me who just hated the subject, who just hated it. They had to power through it. And I said, "Oh, let me show you something different." I remember doing that at a pretty early age and I felt like, yeah, I kind of ended up here for a reason. Gretchen: I remember those students when I was in math and struggling who I'd be like, they know how to answer this differently. I'm going to ask them how they're doing it. Brendan: I do joke with my students now. I said, oh, I got in a lot of trouble in seventh grade. And they said, for what? I said, I was talking all the time in class. And they said, you were talking? I'm like, yeah, but I was helping kids. And they're like, what do you mean? And I was like, yeah, they would come to me for the answer, but I wouldn't give them the answer. I would say, well, show me what you're doing. It's like exactly what I do now. And they just laugh at me like, you wouldn't do that. I swear, that's exactly what I was doing in seventh grade math. Gretchen: Well, that's awesome. Rachel: So, Brendan, we sometimes hear about math anxiety, which I think is more than just the average nervousness that some of us feel when it comes to doing math or just doing calculations. Can you talk a little bit about math anxiety — what it is and how to help kids who have it or how to address it? Brendan: Yeah, this is something I think over the last decade has really gotten a lot of attention, and I think for really good reason. One, I think students were being not necessarily misdiagnosed with, let's say, learning disabilities or just, you know, being put into math interventions because of a non-math issue, right? The issue is we're feeling anxious. We're nervous. We're so afraid we're going to get something wrong that it it blocks us from doing the things we do know how to do, right? And that's real. When you feel that kind of anxiety, it sort of takes over a portion of your brain that's separate from where the mathematical calculations and reasoning would take place. And then what happens is it actually throws up a blocker within your working memory. So suddenly yesterday you were getting every question right, and then today it's like you can't even remember what was taught. And you're taking the test and you're nervous, or somebody is working with you and you get nervous. And that blocker goes up and now you're stuck. And I think there are some things that we can do as both parents and teachers to kind of sort of let's bring that wall down, let's get past that nervousness. So a couple of strategies that I've been utilizing specifically over the last couple of years: When we are working towards something that's a little more high-stakes, I like to build confidence with something really low-stakes. All right? So I was giving a test today, and the test was not an easy one. Some difficult concepts in there. But one of the foundational concepts was just multiplying with positive and negative numbers, or adding with positive and negative numbers — things that I know my students have mastered. So I gave them three minutes, 10 quick questions. Every kid got, you know, walked away from those three minutes with eight or nine or ten correct. And I said, "Doesn't that feel good? Like you really know this stuff? Like you really are confident, let's keep that ball rolling and move into something a little more challenging."That can be done at any age level. When you step into a challenging situation with a little more confidence, you're willing to take the risk. You're willing to kind of power through some of that problem-solving you might need to do. So that would be my first recommendation. My second one, you know, this one's a little bit more new age, I guess, is the best way to describe it. Just doing some breathwork to try to relieve some of that anxiety. There's one that I really love, and this one is called a physiological sigh. You know, the physiological sigh is? You ever heard that before? Rachel: No, but I think I'm about to do one. Brendan: Yeah, we're all going to do one. This one is great. So when you're starting to feel really anxious — and this would work, you know, in any particular situation. But I have my students do this when I can tell the anxiety level is high and I need them to just kind of calm down. Sometimes the energy's just really high and I need the room to just settle. And what we do is you want to take an inhale in almost to the point of a full capacity. Pause for a second, and then a second inhale, like a quicker one. And then once you've done that, then you let it out slowly. All right? So it's like a full, you know, almost a full inhale, and then a little bit more, and then let it out. And really just two of those. You automatically just feel your body just go ahhh. So my students like that one, too. It's nice and calming and then, OK, we're ready to... Rachel: I'm going to do that later. Gretchen: I feel like I must have had math anxiety now. Like you just described this, and I feel like that's what would happen to me sometimes on tests, as I would be so — you're right. My working memory was blocked by the fear and the anxiety that I had that I would just blank out, even though I knew how to do something the day before. I would just completely blank out. And I would feel my body tingle and I'd get all sweaty. And if I had done that breathing, I might have been better off. Rachel: Well, and I think that happens for a lot of kids too, is like they decide they're not good at something. And then it's just like, over. Brendan: And that can be a major concern if you write it off by third or fourth grade, which the research shows many people decide they are good or bad at math by third or fourth grade. And that's — I think that's also why I teach middle school, because I'm like, all right, it's my job to convince you you're not bad at math, that there's you know, there's things you're really great at and you can be confident in. And we're going to lean on those strengths. And everything else? There's strategies to get around it. Rachel: So what can parents and caregivers do at home, like from a fun stuff perspective? Like what kinds of games or like things they can do at home so it feels a little different from a classroom lesson. But that will still help a child who's struggling with or is just like, I hate math.Brendan: The first thing we want to do is be careful with the language that we use, right? If we're negative about math, our kids are going to be negative about math. Right? Unless they're totally resistant to what we're saying. Rachel: So not like, I hate it, right? Brendan: I started — you know, it doesn't mean we can't say, you know, I struggled with it, too. That's OK. Rachel: Right. Brendan: Because if you follow "I struggled with it, too" with "But I found ways to get good at it. And I felt really confident in this particular area. Maybe that'll be something you're going to be good at too." Having those kind of positive conversations around math. More of a — you know, we talk about a growth mindset a lot, but having that notion of it's really about your progress. It's not about mastery. I'm not expecting to be perfect at this, but I want to see that you're getting better because I know, you know, if I worked on something really hard, I could get better at it. I think you can to, you know, those positive reinforcement opportunities should be around progress, not mastery. So I think that's step one. You referenced playing some games at home. I think that's the easiest way to work in math skills. I think a lot of people look for the perfect game to practice the skill that their kids might be struggling with. We don't need to do that, right? We want to find games that are engaging and fun and having our kids work through, you know, problem-solving, mathematical reasoning. So just things like Connect Four. To this day, I still have middle-schoolers playing Connect Four and they love it. Not because they love Connect Four. They love the competition of it, right? There's so much embedded in something like Connect Four, where they're looking at patterns, where they're trying to see, like strategize, like, OK, if I go, what are my three steps ahead of me? Right? It's like playing chess, but a little bit easier. And they love it. And that's a really good skill to then carry with them into the math class. So other games that parents might be comfortable playing with are Uno, or card games, you know, using a traditional deck of cards to play games. So games like like 21. They can work in specific math skills without, you know, kids feeling like, hey, I'm sitting here doing math. So if your goal is to get to 21 and you have, you know, eight in front of you, what are you hoping comes out next? If it's low, should we take, you know, take another card? Should we not? Having those conversations back and forth. You're talking about like really good math skills because you're making predictions based on your ability to add, subtract, find the difference, make number comparisons. But you're not doing math. You're not sitting down solving math problems on a worksheet or on a computer, which kids seem to be so resistant to. Rachel: Those are really great. And another thing that I do at home, that's not really a game, but it's just like I try to sneak the math into, you know, when we're cooking. Or if I see that there's something coming up with a lot of fractions, I'm just like, come here, help me with this. Brendan: Cooking is such a good example of where math is utilized all the time. And we're not necessarily thinking like, OK, I'm sitting down solving math problems, I'm just measuring some things out. Rachel: And they don't feel like they're doing math. Brendan: Right? I need to triple this recipe so how many do I need altogether? Another really good one is just measuring things out. Right? So you're hanging curtains or you're building something in the garage. That constant use of the measuring tape is one of the best things you can do to help students understand numbers between whole numbers, right? All these fractional parts in between can be so challenging for many of our students. And just having that knowledge — that visual representation of where it falls in between. And are we talking about halves? Are we talking about fourths? Things like that. It's really — it can be really powerful. Gretchen: OK. We have one last question for you, Brendan. You know, let's say our kid is just saying "I'm bad at math" and we're just letting them throw in the towel on it. Or maybe I threw in my own towel on math. So if we're doing that, if we're kind of giving up on math, what are we missing out on in life if we don't appreciate and love math? Brendan: All right. That's a great question. I think math provides you with a level of confidence in your ability to take on really challenging tasks. And, you know, I try to explain as — especially as math gets so much more difficult through grade levels — I try to explain, like, you may never graph a linear function in real life. You may not stop to do that. But if you can do this, what does that mean you're able to do in your own personal life? And I think that's, in a way, what we're getting to do mathematically. They're able to then apply in various problem-solving situations and analyze different situations. And you don't have to become an engineer or a finance major just to need to know math. I think that's the message that I would pass on, is that just because it's hard doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. Gretchen: I appreciate that. Thank you so much for all of your math wisdom and your breathing techniques. And I really appreciated all of it. Rachel: Thank you for those. Brendan: I'm glad you guys enjoyed them. 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 Gretchen: "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.

  • My anxiety and ADHD: Hiding behind a perfect veneer

    I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 30. I know that for some people — especially women, whose ADHD symptoms are often overlooked — an ADHD diagnosis can clear things up. When diagnosed as adults, they may look back on school with relief and think, “That’s why I was struggling.”But for me, the ADHD diagnosis felt confusing at first. I was a straight-A student and star athlete. I’ve been successful in my professional life, too. How could I have ADHD?Over time, though, the ADHD diagnosis has brought certain pieces of my life into perspective. I discovered something behind the perfect grades and awards — something painful. And I’d already gotten one diagnosis that was hard for me to swallow.The first diagnosis was anxietyIn my late 20s, I started going to therapy to cope with a very difficult breakup. Through therapy, my struggles with anxiety became clear. My therapist pointed me to a psychiatrist. And he prescribed me anxiety medication.I hated that I needed to take it. I felt defeated at first — like somehow I’d messed up because I couldn’t handle my anxiety without medication.But I came to see that anxiety medication was life-changing for me. Before taking it, my feelings had no rhythm — they were chaotic. Suddenly, with the medication, it was like I had a metronome for my feelings. I could finally “hear” when something was off pace.That’s how I came to pay attention to the things that still made me anxious: I was feeling anxious because I had so much trouble getting started on big tasks. Or I’d start them but struggle to get them to the finish line.To compensate, I’d give myself fake deadlines to pressure myself into getting things done. I was essentially creating stressful situations to make myself hyperfocus.I mentioned this to my psychiatrist. He responded with a specific question: “Do small noises distract you to the point of completely derailing you from work?”“Yes!” I exclaimed. How did he know? I thought. He then suggested an ADHD evaluation, which shocked me. At that time I didn’t know about the link between ADHD and anxiety. Or that ADHD made it hard to manage emotions. Plus I was doing well at my job. (My fake-deadlines “strategy” was working.)I agreed to the evaluation nonetheless. Eventually, he diagnosed me with ADHD.In disbelief, I sought a second opinion from another psychiatrist. But he confirmed the ADHD diagnosis.Looking for “proof” of my ADHDWhen I got the diagnosis, my first instinct was to look for “proof” of my ADHD. I pulled out my old journals from high school and started poring over them.I gasped when I saw what I’d written.There, clear as day, was page after page of entries about how frustrated I was with my inability to focus.There were of course entries of classic teenage angst. But many were followed by a version of, “I don’t even know if I felt that. I can’t hold on to anything long enough to ever know what I’m thinking.”Some entries were simply the word “Focus” scribbled over and over again in various sizes.Around this time, I heard something that made the whole thing click for me. I went to a conference where an ADHD expert named Tom Brown spoke. He described how some kids with ADHD manage to perform well when they’re not treated for ADHD: They either need to be highly interested in the task, or feel like “there’s a gun to their head” to get it done, he said.That couldn’t have been truer in my case. Growing up I was so afraid of making a mistake, afraid of not being perfect. I’m sure this was at least partially due to my anxiety.That fear drove me to battle through distractions at lengths no child should have to. I often barely slept. I scribbled thoughts on sticky notes and stuck them all over my bedroom walls, so I’d have a record of them before they slipped away.If you’d seen my flawless report cards back then, you never would have guessed I was dealing with attention issues. But looking back, it’s clear that I was struggling. I got the good grades — but at what price?Where I am — and where I could have beenI take ADHD medication now, in addition to anxiety medication. My doctor and I have fine-tuned my medication. We’ve carefully monitored how I’m doing. I still go to therapy, too. I feel healthy and clear-headed.Now that I’m an adult and being treated, it’s emotional to visit my childhood home and reflect on what I went through as a teenager.Framed awards and newspaper articles about me cover the walls of my childhood bedroom. When I see those awards and clippings now, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I’d been treated for ADHD, anxiety or both when I was younger.Maybe I wouldn’t have been so anxious about being perfect. I might not have beaten myself up so much about my trouble with focus.Maybe I would have eased up on myself and won fewer awards. And maybe, for me, that would have been a good thing.Find out what steps to take if you think your child might have ADHD.Learn about different professionals who diagnose and treat ADHD. And see what anxiety can look like in tweens and teens.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    How balancing anxiety and ADHD understimulation led to my “just right” job

    Delia Gallegos is the chief financial officer of the Black Nerds Create collective. Her fandom hobby became the perfect job for her ADHD. Delia Gallegos combined her love of fandoms with her business experience to create the perfect job for her ADHD. Delia is the chief financial officer of Black Nerds Create (BNC), a collective for marginalized creators to make fandom content. Delia first joined BNC as a side hobby to her business operations career. But during the pandemic, she took part in the great resignation and left a job she loved at the Smithsonian. Delia realized that everything she loved about that job was about being there. Without the stimuli of in-person work, she couldn’t get a thing done. Delia’s resignation led her to transition her hobby to full time when she saw that BNC could use her business skills.Listen to this week’s episode of How’d You Get THAT Job?! for tips on forming habits with ADHD — and how sometimes you need to throw everything against the wall to see what sticks.  Related resourcesBlack Nerds CreateADHD and anxiety4 ways I stay organized with ADHDADHD symptoms at different agesEpisode transcript Delia: That just made me realize, like, OK, if I can't control for these external factors that were making my job so enjoyable and my ADHD is, as I say, acting up so badly, like, what am I doing? 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. Growing up, Delia Gallegos loved story. Her love of stories like Harry Potter and Doctor Who led to her co-founding Black Nerds Create, an online community focused on critical and creative fandom. For years, Delia was helping to run Black Nerds Create, while also working a day job. Then came the Great Resignation and Delia left her office job. Now, her main focus is serving as the chief financial officer of Black Nerds Create. Delia has ADHD, and she's found a job that inspires her enough to keep her feeling productive and fulfilled. Delia, it's great to have you on the show. Delia: Oh, thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here. Eleni: So, could you tell us what is Black Nerds Create? Delia: Black Nerds Create is essentially a collective that provides content through a lens of critical and creative fandom. What we like to say is we, like, we exist at the intersection of fandom and creation. We're talking like, you know, Marvel or Star Wars or things like that that people build fandoms around or, you know, some books, literature, things like that. Often you see people get inspired by those spaces, you see people all the time. Big-name creators who will say, "Oh yeah, I was inspired by growing up reading the Nancy Drew books" or whatever. And so, our goal with the content that we create is to provide kind of that bridge for marginalized creators, but especially Black creators, because we're often so underrepresented in media. So, there's a lot of Black people who don't feel welcome in fandom spaces but feel inspired by these works. So, how do we take those people and bring them into creation and hopefully inspire them to create their own things, whether that's within fandom and it doesn't go beyond that or hopefully goes beyond that into their own works. Like we've developed an anthology before, we've held virtual conventions before, you know, just inspiring people to take that next step in their process. Eleni: It's interesting because I think on first impression, when I hear the word like fan, I often think of it as more of, you know, like a consumer, or like an appreciator. So, could you talk a little bit more for those of us that perhaps are not that familiar with fandom, like how it kind of starts to, I guess move beyond just like consumption and like into creation? How does fandom do that? Delia: There are different types of fandom, let's say. So, let's say, you know, you watch Game of Thrones back when it was airing, you watched it every week. But that's kind of all you did. You enjoyed the show. That's what we would call casual fandom. A lot of people participate in casual fandom, even if they don't realize it. Like if you are really into sports or a sports team, that's a fandom, right? You're gathering — I don't do sports — you gather weekly to watch your team do the thing with the sports, right? So, that you could say is casual, but you're, the bridge creation often starts with what we call and, you know, we didn't, you know, create this term but critical fandom. So, what that is is viewing fandom works or any work really, could be literature or music through a critical lens, that means you may love the work. Like for me, originally my biggest fandom was Harry Potter. And we all know, you know, the author has done things that, you know. Eleni: What author? I thought there was no author.Delia: No. Right, right. Well, that's a great that's a great way to put it. For listeners who don't know anything about J.K. Rowling or her controversies, essentially within the last few years, she has really grounded herself in TERF ideology and TERF rhetoric. And for people who don't know what a TERF is, a TERF is a trans exclusionary, radical feminist. So, these are feminists who believe that trans people are harmful to the feminist movement, are specifically they're pretty vitriolic towards trans women specifically. A lot of people are not engaging with her works at all, not giving her money. And I, at Black Nerds Create, fall in that camp. You know, Harry Potter will always have a special place in my heart, but I can't consciously support somebody who would be so vitriolic and harmful to a marginalized group of people. Even before she went down the path, she went, you know, there are some harmful things in those books. And so, breaking that apart critically, like what does that mean? Critiquing it as a work, critiquing it for its messaging while still holding it in a place of love and enjoyment. You get really deep into it and you start asking questions and those questions can create inspiration. Like, "Why aren't there characters that look like me that are the main characters? What would that look like? What does it mean to be Black going to Hogwarts, a British boarding school?" you know, things like that. Eleni: Yeah, that's so cool. I know that you didn't get diagnosed with ADHD until later in high school, but like now, in retrospect, do you think your ADHD or your differences or the way that your brain works had anything to do with like why this might be such an important outlet for you and why you have such a strong interest in this? Like, is there any connection there? Delia: I think so. I grew up, you know, the stereotype. I was the book nerd, you know, reading all the time. And when you have ADHD, it's about what can engage your mind because, you know, your mind isn't rewarding itself off of basic tasks, like any neurotypical brain would. It's much easier to get really fixated, I think, on things that do interest you. So, when those things are nerdy and fandom-related, it's really easy to go all in because it's like something that's feeding your brain in the way that other tasks don't. So, I think I've always had a propensity to nerd hard, if you'll say, and for me my journey coming to Black Nerds Create happened right at a time where I my day job was not at all like rewarding my brain. I was struggling a lot as far as like my ADHD in that job. And so, having this like nerdy outlet, how it started for me, it was just a nerdy outlet really was able to know, I guess you could say, satiate my brain. In a way, it was this interesting kind of like side thing that just kind of grew over time. Eleni: Yeah. And how did that happen? How did a nerdy kind of side project become your, like, full-time thing? Delia: You know, sometimes I wonder how to because it's been over the course of many years, but at the same time, it just seems like it happened all of a sudden one day, right? Originally, I worked at iHeart Media and that job was very fast-paced and I would say I was really good at it and it was really good for my ADHD in that like I was constantly stimulated, so I didn't have any problems as far as like focusing on the work, getting the work done, but it was really bad for my anxiety, so I had to leave that job and enter the public sector to try and find a healthier work-life balance. But that job was, you know, you hear things about government workers and a lot of those stereotypes can be true. Like it's a very slow-paced type of job, which was great for my anxiety and my work-life balance, but my ADHD like was off the rails. So, I kind of came to the Black Nerds Create just in my spare time, just looking for anything interesting to do outside of my day job. And, you know, at that time, I was still fully into Harry Potter, and I think I just found them through a hashtag. And I was like, "Oh, this is a really cool place. They've got a cool podcast, they've got a cool content" and just kind of threw myself in that into that community. And before you knew it, I was creating, I was writing, and it was just really, I don't know, feeding my soul, if you will, my nerdy soul I suppose. And I think that year — it hadn't even been a full year — there was a Harry Potter convention that was happening in Texas, which is where I lived at the time, and they needed an extra person to be on all these panels and they were like, "Hey, you're always really thoughtful in the community, we need an extra person to fill in the seats, do you want to come with us and like hang out with us and be on these panels?" And I was like, you know, "Absolutely. I definitely want to do that." And I guess from there, I just kind of progressively got more involved. And so before you knew it, I was just like, "Hey, you guys seem to need help in these specific areas," specifically like with business operations, that's kind of in my at the time and my day job was kind of like my bread and butter was, I've worked in pretty much most facets of like business operations except HR and I was like, "I can help, you know, shore that up, like, why don't we just build this thing out?" And so that's kind of how it happened. And so, here we are years later, and I am fully the CFO. Eleni: I love it. And well, two questions actually. What does that entail? What does being a CFO of like a collective, what does that look like day to day for you? Delia: We're a small business. So, it's not you know, I wouldn't say it's got the glamor of a lot of startups, but, you know, it's making sure we have a varied and I would say unique streams of revenue compared to, you know, your average company, you know, so just managing all those. We have contractors that we get our work through, making sure they're all getting paid on time. And a lot of it is projections, lots of projections. That's most business because, you know, we have big plans, but a lot of these things take a while to realize. And so, making sure all of the stuff is in order for that and working with our CEO and co-founder Bianna to make sure our strategic plans are financially aligned with where we are. Because I don't know if you've ever worked with creatives in business, we can dream really big, but I feel like I'm the grounding force as far as all that is concerned. Like we can dream as big as you want, but what does the budget actually allow for? Eleni: Like, it's interesting because we often hear from ADHD folk that, you know, organization can be a challenge, planning can be a challenge. But, you know, you just talked about the fact that you've always worked in business operations, which sounds like it requires a lot of organization and planning. So, yeah, I guess my question for you is like it sounds that like, you know, things that we've heard other people reference as challenges are not challenges for you. Do you want to talk a little bit about like how your differences show up for you at work? Like how it actually makes you a great business operations person or a great CFO or not only like when things can kind of come up for you as well, either way. Delia: Yeah. No, business operations does require a lot of organization. And I would say, you know, and if by a traditional measure, do I struggle? Yes, of course. Deadlines are hard. Knowing when I'm going to have that spark of productivity is difficult. And so, in my 9 to 5 job, that was, you know, a lot of times what I struggled with was, you know, is my brain going to work today is kind of how I felt, which may not be the healthiest way to think about it. But that's how I felt, you know, on the day-to-day. Like, I had no idea. It really felt like, you know, I wasn't in the driver's seat all the time. For me, recognizing what I do excel at, like I'm good at my job. I'm great up, you know, problem-solving and puzzles like analytical thinking. Even though I'm a creative, a lot of people are like, you're a creative and you do business ops? I think it's because of, you know, my neurodivergences, I don't think that one has to exist without the other. Like for me again, I think the fact that I'm good at analytical thinking is derived from just my unique way of looking at things because of these neurodivergencies. And so, I'm really good at it, but the part I'm really bad to is making sure my brain is on on the days that I need it to be on. So, finding a space and being able to kind of mold the external factors around me helps a lot and that's been across the board in school. I really struggled in school, but when I was able to control for those things and just my day-to-day life as far as like, you know, keeping a house together and keeping myself together and in my various jobs, you have to compensate for what you struggle with internally with the external. And so and you know, that is absolutely a privilege. The fact that I was able to find this position where I could, you know, leave my 9 to 5 job and make that work for me and be able to work in a space where it's fine to be open with, you know, different divergences and say, "Hey, this is where I'm at, this is what I need." And being able to advocate for yourself and you have a team behind you that's like, "Yeah, totally. We understand." And being able to again, we're also a small, a small company. So, being able to work around that is absolutely a privilege. In my 9 to 5 job, it was more difficult, but again, it was just really about staying on top of those external factors. So, like for me, I know I don't work well in, you know, chaos. So, making sure like it's a hard well that I have to make sure my desk is clean at all times. A lot of calendar reminders, you know, finding the systems that work for me. So, I would say the stereotype is true and it isn't true. It on the surface seems untrue because I work in business ops, but you know, my struggles are the same. It's just how I've created systems around them that has allowed me to be able to do this job. Eleni: Totally. So, you know you just mentioned giving up your 9 to 5. I know when we spoke previously, like you mentioned, like during the pandemic, you know, you had a number of revelations and said many which led to you being part of the Great Resignation. Delia: I did. Eleni: So, you talk a little bit about what some of those revelations were and what led you to the revelations? Delia: Oh, boy do I. I was at a job that I loved, frankly. And then, you know, the pandemic hit. And I think, you know, it changed what your job was really like. I was working for the Smithsonian. It was a great job. I'm doing business operations there and going into work every day, you know, seeing the museums every day, my coworkers, all of that stuff I loved. It felt like we were doing something important. I mean, you know, nobody like we used to always say nobody's going to die because, you know, there's other sections of the government you can work for where that is true, but no one's dying at a museum. So, it's very low-stakes, but important work at the same time. And so, it was fast-paced, just enough to keep my brain engaged, but not so fast-paced I didn't have a bad work-life balance. So, these are things, you know, I loved all of it. Then the pandemic hits and we go to a work-from-home status and oh my gosh, it was so bad for my ADHD. And so, trying to start to pick apart, why is it suddenly changed? It's the same job, right? And I was able to kind of sit down and really think about it and realize all of the things that I loved about my job were external. Like the actual day-to-day of my job was no different than the job that I had before was no different than the job that I had before. Like we're doing business operations, things like I mean, you can, I'm not going to say that you can get that anywhere, but, you know, and there were factors, other factors too, you know, you know, I got a new boss, things like that that just made me realize, like, "OK, if I can't control for these external factors that were making my job so enjoyable and my ADHD is, is, as I say, acting up so badly, like what am I doing?" And you know, on top of that, with the basic realizations that everybody was having, you know, of like "What is priority in my life? Am I really living if I'm working at 9 to 5?," you know, those other basic revelations all came together and I just had to have a conversation with my partner, like, OK. And we've always kind of known because I've struggled in other jobs. You know, there might be a time where I need to not work a traditional 9 to 5, like it just may not work for me. So, we've always been putting money aside for that day that maybe come. So again, it's a big privilege. But you know, finally we had that conversation and I was like, "Working from home is not for me. If I don't have these external stimulants and I can't control all of these external factors, like I'm just floundering and why am I forcing myself to do that if I don't have to? Like, what are what are we doing that that's no way to live if you can help it." And, you know, I'm very cognizant again, because I have friends who are also have these problems. And it is a lot of bouncing job to job to see if you can find a way to keep your brain stimulated enough so that you can perform well at the job. Like I have been there, I totally understand. But yeah, it just was finally in conversation because at that time — it's now been a year — there was no end in sight. And so, I would have been struggling for a very long time and my job performance would have been struggling. And I as a kid who, you know, you always hear about, "Oh, former gifted kids, they have it so hard." But that's what I was I was, you know, the smart kid growing up. And so, I also have a lot of struggle with performance. I want to perform at my peak all the time, which if anybody, you know, not only has ADHD, but any neurodivergency, you know that that's not always possible. Eleni: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's really important to acknowledge, like. That, you know, there are various components of a job, like it's not always just about the tasks themselves. And like we talk about that a lot on this show that sometimes the environment can be the, you know, most enabling or disabling factor in things. So, really it's about like finding a task that you enjoy in an environment that's right for you. Like the combination really does have to come together for it to be... Delia: Absolutely. Eleni: ...the right fit. Yeah, I know that you talked a little bit about like systems. Like were there any other systems that you would like to share that relate to how your brain works and like how you, you know, are successful in your day-to-day? Delia: Sure. I think, you know, a lot of it's been learning as I go and what works for me won't work for everybody. But absolutely, one system that's worked really well for me was accidentally bullet journaling. And what I mean by that is over time I developed the system of to-do list keeping a running to-do list that every day the goal is not to get everything checked off. The goal was to make sure I could see because I have a big one of my biggest issues is besides executive function is object permanence like I have zero zilch. If it's not right in front of me, it does not exist. So, I kept a running to-do list that had everything I ever needed to do, and I kept it on my desk at work and then transitioning to working from home and working for Black Nerds Create, keeping it on my desk at home, just a running to-do list. And every day, at the end of the day, I made myself rewrite it for the next day. So, I had a clean, new one, had checked whatever I checked off I didn't continue it. And I had symbols and stuff. And one of my friends who also has ADHD, she told me that's bullet journaling, which I did not know. It was just a system that worked for me. And I know a lot of people with ADHD would say, you know, that doesn't work for me. I have a really hard time with habits and you know, habits are hard for ADHD. They don't happen in the natural way that they happen for neurotypical people. Can't tell you what the difference is. That's just what I've heard, because I have the brain that I have. So, it is difficult because it wasn't a choice for me to read in. And when you're limited on choices, if you're having a low capacity day, it's hard to make that choice that I need to do this to-do list because that's what keeps my brain together. But yeah. So, you know, forgiving yourself for those low capacities where maybe you didn't do your to-do list and you kind of fell off. That's a system that's worked really well for me. Eleni: It sounds like you have, like, a lot of self-awareness around, like, what works for you and what doesn't. Like, how did you discover all of those things?Delia: Oh, so much trial and error. Again, like I think we said earlier, I was diagnosed late in high school. And so, I think for people who've gotten diagnosed later, just to cope and survive, you come up with a lot of these mechanisms that you don't realize they're coping mechanisms. But in order to be a functioning human, you have to figure out something. So, you're just trying a lot of things. So, I would say, to be quite honest, desperation a lot of the time is, is what has brought me to my biggest breakthroughs of just kind of being at a breaking point because, you know, I'm talking now, having found a job that works for me and a system that works for me. And, you know, I quit my traditional 9 to 5, and that comes from a lot of privilege. But don't be mistaken. Like a lot of people with different, you know, neurodivergences, like I've had a lot of low points in my life where ADHD has been nearly debilitating, like I couldn't function. And so, in those moments of desperation of like I literally will try anything, something has to give because I'm going to lose my job. I'm going to like literally flunk this grade of high school. Like I need, something has to give. Those are the moments where I've kind of, you know, thrown everything at the wall to see what sticks. And that's kind of how I come up with my systems. And I wouldn't recommend that way — don't wait to the point of desperation — but I would recommend just being open-minded and trying whatever you can. Because I have also had the mentality of "Oh, that won't work for me," or "That may work for them, but they don't know what it's like to have my specific type of ADHD." I think for a lot of people who are neurodivergent, we get into thinking like, "Oh, our version, though, is very difficult," or "We're really struggling with this specific piece," but try, if you can, to be open-minded and just try it. I mean, the worst thing that can happen is it doesn't work for you and you're all right. But, you know, you can say you've tried it and maybe you learned something along the way because even systems that haven't worked for me, I've learned why they didn't work for me. And I've come to understand my ADHD just a little bit more. Eleni: Thank you so much for talking to me today. Delia: Thanks very much for having me. It was so much fun. Eleni: You've been listening to "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" from the Underserved 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 O-R-G 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.

  • Homework anxiety: Why it happens and how to help

    Sometimes kids just don’t want to do homework. They complain, procrastinate, or rush through the work so they can do something fun. But for other kids, it’s not so simple. Homework may actually give them anxiety.It’s not always easy to know when kids have homework anxiety. Some kids may share what they’re feeling when you ask. But others can’t yet identify what they’re feeling, or they're not willing to talk about it.Homework anxiety often starts in early grade school. It can affect any child. But it’s an especially big issue for kids who are struggling in school. They may think they can’t do the work. Or they may not have the right support to get it done. Keep in mind that some kids may seem anxious about homework but are actually anxious about something else. That’s why it’s important to keep track of when kids get anxious and what they were doing right before. The more you notice what’s happening, the better you can help.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    Coping with anxiety and dyslexia to become a “Top Chef” competitor

    Luke Kolpin is a chef with dyslexia. After working at Noma and competing on Top Chef, he’s looking for his next hands-on challenge. Luke Kolpin is a chef with dyslexia. He’s cooked in high-pressure environments, from Top Chef to the critically acclaimed Noma in Copenhagen. Luke didn’t have the best relationship with school when he was first diagnosed with dyslexia. After high school, he started taking community college courses. But he still wondered what he really wanted to do. That’s when his best friend suggested culinary school. After all, Luke’s nickname was Lunchbox when he was a kid. Culinary school changed Luke’s world. He excelled in the hands-on work — but he also had to get past the academics. A teacher who recognized his skill set made all the difference. In this week’s episode of How’d You Get THAT Job?!, Luke shares how he handles challenges that bring up old anxieties — and that asking for help is OK. Related resourcesAfter high school: Different ways to thriveClassroom accommodations for dyslexiaDyslexia and anxiety in childrenEpisode transcriptLuke: I need to do something where I couldn't just turn around and run backwards if I needed to. I needed to just go forward. So I accepted it. And I went on this last season's "Top Chef."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.My next guest has spent his career in kitchens all over the world. Usually chefs are working behind the scenes. So Luke Kolpin never expected to find himself competing in front of a global audience on a recent season of "Top Chef." Before showcasing his culinary skills on TV, Luke worked in one of the most famous restaurants in the world, Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. Noma has three Michelin stars, and I know a lot of my foodie friends have fought really hard for a reservation there. And he's not satiated yet. He's currently back in his hometown of Seattle, cooking up his next steps.Luke was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was young, and he talked to me about how his learning difference has shaped his career — from culinary school to thinking about starting his own restaurant. Welcome to the show, Luke.Luke: Hi. How's it going?Eleni: So I know you went to culinary school when you were 19. What made you decide to go to culinary school as opposed to, like pursuing, like, I guess, more traditional sorts of education?Luke: Well, obviously, the normal education route kind of freaks me out a little bit. I mean, not that I couldn't or could not do it. I think everybody can do something if they really, you know, dedicate almost everything to it if they need to. But I was having a very difficult time with school, just, you know, going to community colleges and taking basic AA classes for a business degree or whatever.And it kind of happened to be one of those conversations I was having with my best friend sitting on the couch when we were 18, both being like, "Are we going to go anywhere? Are we not going to go anywhere? What are we going to do?" And a common thing that happened throughout my whole childhood — and of course, a lot of kids eat when they're bored — and I did that a lot. My friends call me Lunchbox in high school because every chance I got I would open up the refrigerator or eat something or whatever I could. So he kind of just made that suggestion of, "Why don't you try culinary school? All you ever do is eat." So I — that weekend, I actually enrolled in culinary school and completely fell in love with it.Eleni: Wow. That's a very influential friend that you had.Luke: Yes. Still my best friend today.Eleni: Cool. Well, I'd love to hear a little bit more about your learning differences. I know that you were diagnosed with dyslexia. Do you want to talk a little bit about, you know, how old you were when that happened and the story behind that.Luke: Yeah. So, I think it was around first grade — that's what I believe — my parents told me that I was diagnosed. I don't remember that meeting, of course, but it was around that time. And I, of course, moved around schools at the early '90s. It wasn't necessarily the easiest transition, I think, for anybody with learning disabilities at that time. You know, being in a class where no one knows how to treat or knows what to do with you. So to be honest, I'd read into a cassette tape and then they'd play it back to you and say "Fix it." That was, you know, in second and third grade. So instead of helpful, it was the complete opposite. I just wanted to be kind of, you know, go underneath a rock, you could say.But of course, I had very caring parents that really helped me out in that sense and always pushed for, you know, a better school or whatever. And I did actually end up going to a school called Hamlin Robinson that everybody has some form of learning disability. I remember on the first day that I was there, you know, holding up my textbook and having a mirror in our desk. So I was able to read my textbook for the first time perfectly. And then, of course, they figure out where on the spectrum you are in your learning disabilities and then kind of teach you going forward from there.Eleni: Yeah. And it sounds like it made a big difference being around other kids that were similar to you and like normalizing those challenges.Luke: Absolutely.Eleni: And how did you go from being in that environment where, you know, you all were quite similar into culinary school, you know, where I imagine that that wasn't necessarily the case. Like people came from like all sorts of different backgrounds. Like, how is that different?Luke: It was, well, getting to the culinary school part. There was about a decade in between that was very challenging. You know, of course, I hid from certain things. I didn't always push myself or apply. You know, I ran into corners and all these sort of things up until I got to culinary school. But then, of course, going into culinary school, I didn't think about, you know, the other things at that point, because I thought I had found something that I really enjoyed. And I actually happened to have a really, well, now he's a close friend, but we had — I had a mutual friend between me and a bunch of my childhood friends that happened to be in culinary school at the same time. So we ended up, you know, becoming really good friends. And to be honest, he didn't have any learning disabilities, and I did. And we still both kind of struggled in culinary school together. Whether or not that gave me mental stability, that, hey, if people that are not have, you know, dyslexia or learning disabilities can have a problem and I'm keeping up with them, maybe I'm doing something right. I don't know if that's how I thought — I don't think I've told my friend that, maybe I shouldn't.But at the same time, it was, you know, it was a little difficult, to be honest. I did fail. I almost failed my first quarter class in culinary school through the academic part. I was in the — what I was told was the 98, 99 percentile of the hands-on. But when I came to putting answers down on tests, it was just like high school. It was filled with red marks. The teacher actually graded it in front of you. It was only about 7 to 10 questions. Then he'd hand it back to you. And on the fifth time that I did that, he started questioning me, saying, "Why do you keep putting answers down like this?" And then started asking me all the questions again. A little bit of trauma started probably coming up through me as the line behind me started being filled with about six or seven people. But I gave them the new answers or what I thought were the answers. And he said "These were the best answers I've gotten in the last three years. Why didn't you put it down on paper?" And that's when he kind of learned that I had a learning disability, and he started grading my tests differently and I started doing a lot better in school.Eleni: Wow. Yeah, I think that really is a testament to like the power of assessing people based on like, you know, the best way that they both learn and then communicate back how they've learned that. I definitely imagine culinary school to be very practical and hands on. So in some ways it's kind of unexpected that there is this academic component. Like, was that also unexpected for you? Like, did you kind of know that's what you were getting into?Luke: I mean, I knew there was going to be a few things for it, of course. I mean, you're you have to go get a textbook or you're going to give you, you know, tests a few times a year. And then, of course, there's still a math class that I didn't do very well in. But, you know, there's still a math class and it's all the basic stuff. So I knew I would have to deal with it a little bit. But of course, you know, there's ways to not deal with it if you want to just be a cook. But if you want to kind of continue on and really make this your life journey, you're going to have to dive into all that stuff. I mean, anything that makes me uncomfortable as a kid, I'm facing it all over again now. Just, you know, a little bit older and hopefully with a different, you know, weaponry, I guess, of knowledge on it. But, you know, it's still challenging.Eleni: What are some of those things that come up for you now?Luke: Well, especially now through a pandemic, you know, having to deal with computer stuff and having to deal with, you know, writing a whole bunch more stuff down and send it off to people. Getting ready to potentially open up a restaurant in the future, you know, you have to deal with all these different numbers that if you're off by one little bit, it's a catastrophic thing.So, I mean, I know what I'm good at. I know what I can become good at. But I also know what I need help with. And, you know, I want to learn everything about what I do. But I also, you know, will put people in charge that, you know, will focus mainly on that. And we can teach each other all sides of things that we don't know together.Eleni: Yeah. So it sounds like whenever you're struggling with someone, you bring someone in.Luke: I mean, there's some things I'll try to do it myself, but I have known in the past that maybe ask somebody. It's OK. Help is OK.Eleni: Yeah. Have you always been that way?Luke: No. I would say, to be honest, after becoming a chef and working in Europe is when I really kind of changed that over a little bit. And knowing that help is accepted and help is OK. I mean, when you're growing up with learning disabilities, sometimes asking for help, if you were never able to in the very beginning or thought you were able to in the beginning can, still be damaging now if you've never talked to anybody about it and been able to get over it. So of course. Is it hard from time to time to ask for help? It still is, you know, for certain situations. But I know asking for that help, regardless of the headbutts that might happen, is beneficial for all parties. And leaving it, you know, to be, and burying it and keep burying it — I think a lot of people can become very good at burying things. So, you know, it's time to unburied those.Eleni: What was it about being in Europe that really, like, influenced that?Luke: The restaurant itself is called Noma, in Copenhagen, which was pretty acclaimed at the time. And of course, when you're in this industry and you start to fantasize about what you can do, you think of high-end restaurants. And I ended up having an opportunity to potentially do an internship in this restaurant back in 2012. And, you know, I really wanted to have someone to teach you. I knew or thought you really had to have a mentor as a chef. And I really didn't have that at the moment here in Seattle back then.So I did find an opportunity and of course, was only supposed to be a two-month-long internship. Now, knowing myself and knowing how hard I had, you know, going through school, if I didn't want to read or do anything, I would just turn around and say, no, go hide in my room. And no one would ever say anything or I would cause into a fight or whatever. So I know I needed to really motivate myself in the best way possible to do that. So I kind of told everybody I was going out for a job. It was a job trial, you know. Basically made up a few lies to push myself, because if I didn't go out there and end up getting a job, it would be a catastrophic failure here. And that turned into me pushing really hard and getting the job.You know, I wasn't as knowledgeable or skillful as everybody else, but as soon as somebody wanted a container from across the room, you bet ya, I'd get that container first. I'd make sure it's dry, and whatever you needed to be set up I'd make sure that that would happen. That attitude turned into a very positive thing there, and they gave me a job after two weeks of me being there.And of course, what really helped me in this restaurant to kind of one, also have confidence to talk to people and kind of interact and how I do now and why I really dedicate a lot to this restaurant, is the chefs were the ones that engaged the customers or the guests. So we would bring the food out. If you were in charge of making a dish, you would explain it. Now, in the beginning, talking to anybody more than one person I'd be petrified. I'd freak out any sort of question asked to me about anything. I would feel like it was a test question all over again and I'd panic.But of course, over the time, you know, you're forced into this and you talk to people and all that sort of stuff. So all these things I was really uncomfortable with doing, there was nowhere for me to turn around and go. I was in Denmark, very far away from Seattle, and I really wanted this to really work. So, of course, I slowly got comfortable with, you know, I might have said a few of the same things over and over again, but eventually it became more natural to me. I became like it was my home there, so I felt like I could really talk about it.And then it didn't matter how many people I was talking to or what I was talking about. I could talk about anything in this for as long as I needed to, as long as I felt comfortable and confident with what I was talking about. And if I didn't, I'd tell you, and then we could learn about it. So this restaurant, you know, I forced myself into it by, you know, in a sense, lying about certain things to force myself to try to get the job. And then once it was here, it was of course, it was very difficult. And, you know, you're having to do things that I really didn't want to do, but I wanted to and I did. And I forced myself to to break through the other side of it.Eleni: So you ended up on "Top Chef"?Luke: I did.Eleni: How did that come about?Luke: I had two friends that were on the previous season, and I also got a phone call from from the "Top Chef" producers. I thought I was waiting for this phone call, but I kind of had told my friend that I wouldn't do it. I didn't think I could go on TV and do anything like that. So to be honest, when I got the phone call to do "Top Chef," I told them I needed a few days to think about it. I said yes and went into this situation kind of the same way and mindset that I went into going to Copenhagen and working at restaurant Noma for the first time. I needed to do something where I couldn't just turn around and run backwards if I needed to. I needed to just go forward. So I accepted it and I went on this last season's "Top Chef."Eleni: So for listeners who haven't watched the show, how would you describe it?Luke: Well, "Top Chef," I was on Season 19 and they're just about to launch their Season 20. So of course, it's a good amount of time that this competition cooking show has been on. It's a cooking show, but it's all formed around a competition. And my season started with 15 people. And you're tasked with a quickfire challenge that, you know, won't get you kicked off the show, but will potentially get you further with maybe an immunity or something positive out of it. And those are typically 30- to 40-minute challenges. And then afterwards, you either have an individual challenge that could be, you know, 2 to 4 hours, or a team challenge. And, you know, you go through one quickfire and one main challenge before you are potentially eliminated and then maybe or may not go to the next challenge.Eleni: And how are the individual challenges different to the team challenges?Luke: Well, the individual challenges are, you know, it's very random. It's very kind of, you know, they give you let's say, for instance, we were tasked with making biscuits from scratch one day. And I would say half of the chefs there have never made a biscuit from scratch. So that you find a lot of things that, you know, you've done for the first time, never done before, and have to now make it in a challenge.Eleni: And what was the most challenging part for you?Luke: I mean, it's a competition. So you working in, you know, situations or realities where in, you know, a normal kitchen, you can stop. You don't have to put the plate up or you don't have to do whatever. You might have given yourselves a certain time frame in a restaurant. But, you know, you can adjust that time. When you're on "Top Chef," if you're given 30 minutes or 2 hours, that's what you have, whether it's a realistic or unrealistic time.Eleni: Speaking of time, you know, I know that like in school, you might have had extra time on, like, certain things.Luke: Everything I wanted.Eleni: Like, did you have any similar time accommodations or other accommodations in the competition?Luke: No. There was a producer actually named Taylor, who I think is amazing. He's a great guy. And he and his sister both have learning disabilities. So it's not like it was like, oh, you have what? Yeah, no, we can't do anything. I mean, there was one challenge that we were given a couple of paragraphs to read and have to research on someone and kind of get inspired by, you know, doing the research. We had 15 minutes to do this. I looked around and said, "You're giving me 15 minutes to read a page and do some research online?" You know, and I was like, "Well, I'm not even going to do the research. I'm just going to try my best to reread this as much as I can and figure something out.".So that was the first time where I kind of had old feelings come back when I was on the show. And I was given an option to if, you know, if you want to have somebody read this to you or something like that, they were going to do it. And I did say no. And I said I'll figure it out, because I didn't want any extra help for that. But it was provided to me for that challenge if I needed it.Eleni: Why didn't you want the extra help?Luke: I don't know. I just, I mean, I did get some inspiration from it, and I got it in a very different way. And, you know, the dish may or may not have come out very well, but that was on my execution, not from where I drew the inspiration from. So I ended up — I did OK.Eleni: So I know that you mentioned that it wasn't necessarily in your plan to be on TV. It sounded like you were actually going to say no to the opportunity. So now that you've had that experience, has that shifted, you know, your plans for the future and what you're thinking about doing with your career?Luke: I think one big thing that it did change for me and — I mean, it's not like I want to pursue the largest TV career or whatever — but I think watching myself for the first time, knowing the mistakes that I've made on the show and knowing they were coming. And I mean, I could I could have crawled under a rock and, you know, never came out, you know, after seeing myself on TV. But to be honest, I never would have thought that I enjoyed watching myself. And I think that was the biggest confidence booster that I needed from going on to the show and knowing that I felt great in a situation that I thought I would never feel good in. So I think that is giving me the growth to no matter what it is that I do foward, it might be hard, but I feel I can do it.Eleni: We had a chef with dyslexia on a previous episode and that really got me thinking. What do you think it is about cooking and dyslexia that's so compatible?Luke: I mean, I think it depends on the environment, of course. But I mean, in some situations, like in the classroom where it might, you know, look really unorganized, trying to be in one's one spot and, you know, having to look at all these words and things. And I could feel really unorganized and whatever. But when I'm in an environment where I'm in charge of 30 people, I have five tasks that are going. And we also have an end goal for the day. And I need to, "Oh, this isn't working, stop and go here" and organizing this giant orchestra. To me, being able to multitask in what we called an organized chaos felt very comforting. You know, I think maybe having the learning disabilities that I had were maybe giving me a different tool that no one else had to be able to organize myself through that chaos and not feel overwhelmed. I think that could be a big thing.Eleni: It just doesn't feel like chaos to you.Luke: I mean, it does, but I enjoy it.Eleni: What else do you enjoy about cooking?Luke: I enjoy the feeling that you do get when you when you're finding that new flavor, you're finding that new thing that you weren't good at doing before. It can be stressful, but not only is that end result going to either have you taste something that's very delicious, or you're going to serve it to somebody and you're going to get a reaction out of them that can then fulfill you as well and fulfill them. So I think that, you know, the overall feeling of either helping yourself, helping somebody else out, helping a community through just the act of what you might struggle with throughout the day and have it be such a positive thing to me, I think is great with it.Eleni: Well, yeah. Thank you so much for talking to me today.Luke: Thank you very much for letting me be part of this podcast.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 workspace. 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.

  • Social anxiety during social distancing: How to help your child cope

    She put all of her friends in boxes — her school friends were only for school, gymnastics friends were for the gym, and she never invited people over. But now she has no friends to call, and she’s desperate to talk to anyone.He refuses to video chat because he doesn’t know what to talk about and “it’s not the same.”Sound familiar? If your child was struggling with social anxiety before social distancing, it’s likely that it’s gotten worse. You want to help, but you’re in uncharted waters and it’s hard to know how.First of all, your kids are right — it’s not the same. For younger children, it’s tough to play through a screen. For older children (and adults!), it’s challenging to make eye contact and read social cues via video chat. You can only see head and shoulders, and even facial expressions can be hard to read, especially if the other person is moving around and reacting to things going on in their space.But the more you practice this kind of socializing, the easier it becomes, notes Janine Domingues, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. “It’s OK to feel awkward in the beginning and get over that hump,” Dr. Domingues says. “In the beginning, what we’re doing is helping kids feel comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.”Depending on what’s manageable for your family, you can experiment with some of the following strategies to help your child settle into new social norms.Open the conversationIt sounds simple, but if your child is avoiding connecting with friends, ask why. They may feel overwhelmed by the amount of school calls, be uncomfortable with the format, not know what to say, or worry about what others may think. Whatever the reason, don’t argue. Instead, show empathy and talk about what’s different or what upsets them. Just understanding your child’s hesitation might reveal some simple solutions — if video chat is what they dislike, maybe a voice-only phone call would work better.If your child resists sharing, talk about why social connections are important. Encourage them to connect with at least one person, and give examples of how your own social connections have helped you.Still, it’s important to respect their boundaries and show your child that you’re on their side. “Ask them to give it a try, but give them an out,” suggests Cindy Graham, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Maryland. “For instance, after a few minutes, you’ll pretend it’s time for lunch so they have an excuse to get off the phone if it’s not going well. But if it is going well, they can say they’re not hungry.”Ease into video chats and real-time communicationIf video chats seem too daunting, don’t jump right in. Instead, begin with email, texting, or even writing letters. “Often their fear is getting in the way,” Dr. Graham explains. “You can find a way around it by playing a game like Words With Friends where you don’t have to be online at the same time. Build on social interactions this way, working towards an actual face-to-face connection when they’re ready.”You can also try Marco Polo, a new app which allows you to make and send video messages back and forth. You can add filters, voice effects, draw or add text to your video, then send it to a friend. Encourage your child to make one or two videos a day and slowly increase the length or frequency, building up to a video chat.Once your child is ready to try some real-time communication, a helpful way to practice is quick daily calls with a family member or someone else they already know and trust. “Start with grandparents because they typically have the time and really want to see their grandchildren,” suggests Michelle Kaplan, LCSW, a clinical social worker at the Child Mind Institute. “Plus, it’s generally easier for kids to ease into a new, uncomfortable format with adults they have a relationship with. You can also enlist older cousins or other willing adults — the more practice the better. Once your child is comfortable speaking to adults, then you can try it with a kid their own age.”These same guidelines apply when it comes to remote learning. If your child is uncomfortable speaking up in a virtual classroom, talk to their teacher and ask to work up to real-time participation. They might start by sending the teacher ideas ahead of time and just listening during class, with their camera and microphone off. Then they might work up to text chatting in real time or talking to the class while still keeping the camera off. Going slowly, trying different strategies, and giving your child plenty of time to practice can help ease the challenges of this new format.Calm anxiety by playing gamesGames can be a great tool for helping your child get comfortable with video chatting, whether with peers or adults. They give everyone something specific to focus on, help distract your child from their nervousness, and turn chatting into something that feels more like play than work.For young children, try the following games, which can last as little as a minute or two:Scavenger hunt: “Go find something fluffy and bring it right back!” Then, the child describes the object and asks the other person to find something.I spy: The child shows the other person around their room and then finds what the other person spies.Would you rather: Be an astronaut or a basketball player? Ski or go swimming? Learn French or Chinese? Plan ahead so your child can ask questions as well, without being put on the spot.Silly faces and filters: Express how you’re feeling, demonstrate what you’re thinking, or answer questions through filters and effects.For older children, interactive games will help your child practice turn-taking, problem-solving, partner work, and spontaneous conversations.If both people have the same game at home: One player moves the pieces on the board while the other rolls the dice or picks the cards.If one person has the game: You can play games like Boggle with only one game owner. They’ll shake it up, take a picture, and send it to the other player.If both people have two devices: Play games like UNO!, Monopoly, or Settlers of Catan online with one device while connecting via video on the other.Get creative: You don’t need a board or pieces — our homes are full of useful items that can pull double duty as a game and an opportunity to help your child improve their partnership skills. For example, with just paper and a pen, your child can draw a tic-tac-toe board and the other player can tell them where to write their X or O.Build up to virtual playdates and group chatsOnce your child feels comfortable with it, a real-time playdate is a good way to help your child enjoy interacting with peers from home. If your child wasn’t interested in playdates before, you’ll need to help them make connections now. Kaplan recommends asking them who they miss the most or if they can think of any kids with similar interests. Reach out to parents through your school’s directory or their extracurricular activity instructor. Set your child up for success by telling the parent your child would like to play a game with theirs and how long you hope the call will last.If your child was very rigid and didn’t interact with other children outside of the places where they “belonged” (if your daughter only liked to see soccer friends at practice, for example), then work with your child’s rigidity by creating a schedule. (On Mondays, chat with a school friend, on Wednesdays a friend from karate, and a cousin on Fridays.) Keeping things structured and predictable can ease anxiety and give your child events to look forward to.For older kids, group chats and virtual activities like Netflix Party or Houseparty are also important tools for socializing right now. And, according to Kaplan, this won’t go away after quarantine is over. To prepare your child, talk about how to join a group conversation by creating different scenarios. If your child has been a mostly silent participant in group chats or activities, you can review their chat together and discuss where they could jump in and what they could say.Have patienceRight now, your capacity to guide your child may be limited — and that’s OK. Do what makes sense for you and your family during these stressful times. Remember that your support is valuable and that even small successes are meaningful. Be patient with your child — this is hard for them, too. Always prioritize keeping your relationship positive, and know that any effort you make will benefit your child, even when social distancing is a thing of the past.A Spanish version of this article is available here.

  • 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 Aha!

    ADHD and dyslexia, and the reading anxiety that comes with both (Carol’s story)

    Carol Blumenstein was called an unteachable student. Now, she knows she has ADHD and dyslexia, and supports her five kids who learn differently, too. Growing up, Carol Blumenstein was labeled an unteachable student. She was terrified to read during class, and school only brought huge anxiety. Luckily, her mom believed in her in a way teachers didn’t. She put Carol in community college courses and pushed her to turn her frustration into motivation.Carol didn’t know she had ADHD and dyslexia until she saw her own children — all five of them — struggle with the same things she did when she was little. But this time the issues were addressed and they were understood by their teachers.Now, Carol’s kids have founded their own organization, KidsRead2Kids, which provides free video audiobooks read by kids for kids and other helpful resources.Related resourcesVideo: Why do ADHD and dyslexia co-occur so often?Dyslexia and anxiety in kidsADHD and anxietyCarol’s family’s organization, KidsRead2KidsEpisode transcriptCarol: I remember I had a math teacher who was convinced that math was my worst subject. And my mother thought about it, and she's like, "That's ridiculous!" And so, she actually put me in computer programming when I was about 12 years old. And lo and behold, I was the best in the class. And I was a little kid and I was with college students. 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 Carol Blumenstein. Carol is the executive director of KidsRead2Kids. KidsRead2Kids is an organization that provides free video audiobooks read by kids for kids, along with lesson plans and other helpful resources. You can find more information at I also need to mention that Carol is the mother of five kids. Five kids who have learning differences — like dyslexia and ADHD — and her kids are the founders of the organization, which is so cool. Carol, welcome. Thank you for being here with me today. Carol: Laura, thank you. I am so happy and honored to be here with you. Laura: I'm amazed that you even have time to talk to me today, Carol. Carol: You know what? Very good time management. Laura: Carol. So, like your kids, you also have learning and thinking differences. You yourself have ADHD and dyslexia. And I have to say that, this is actually the first time on our show that we're going to specifically talk about ADHD and dyslexia, that co-occurrence, which really surprises me because it's so common for the two to co-occur. Carol: Right.Laura: I know you love to talk about your kids, Carol — which I think is so gorgeous — I'm first going to ask you about you, and what's it like for you to have both ADHD and dyslexia. Maybe through a specific example of how it impacts your daily life. Carol: OK so, you have to remember stepping back when I was growing up, there really wasn't testing for any learning differences. So, growing up I did not have a formal diagnosis. It just simply wasn't done. You are pretty much branded as somebody that was too slow, was distracted, didn't seem to care in school. I was considered a poor student, unteachable. All of these sort of labels that are never helpful and most likely are usually very wrong. Fortunately, I had a mother that understood my strengths, my gifts, and she was really able to help me become the person that I am today. School was very difficult for me. I couldn't read. I remember being the kid where — I don't know if they still do this today — but you would sit in a circle and the teacher would pull out a section that we were going to read in class. And paragraph by paragraph, you'd go around the room and each person would read the next paragraph. So, what would happen is, I would count up frantically, "OK, I am the ninth paragraph." And I would frantically look and all I would do is focus on the ninth paragraph. I didn't hear a word that anyone ever said. I was so terrified and so afraid of humiliating myself when it would come to my turn, that all I could do was focus that whole time on my paragraph, and then pray that nobody would get up to go to the bathroom. Laura: Oh my gosh, that sounds really stressful, and there's so much anxiety for such a young person. Carol: So much anxiety. Laura: I've heard a lot from our listeners who talk about having ADHD, and as far as I know — well they may or may not have also had dyslexia. It wasn't a topic of specific discussion for us for those interviews — but what comes up a lot in relation to ADHD is difficulty focusing on the reading. So, I can only imagine when you have both dyslexia and ADHD, how doubly difficult and the immense reading anxiety that can come with that. Carol: It's not only is it anxiety, but the reality is there is no fun. It is exhausting. It is challenging. It is stressful. When you're reading that slowly, oftentimes it's actually really hard to even comprehend what you're reading, because by the time you've got to the end of that page, you've completely forgot what you read at the beginning. And so, listening comprehension, reading comprehension is really important to help children with dyslexia and ADHD. And one of the ways that really helped me is — when I was growing up, I did not like to read at all — but my mother used to read to me all the time. And what she did was something absolutely brilliant, and back then there was not a lot of resources. But instead of picking a book she thought I should hear, she would pick books that I wanted to hear. She understood that learning should always come from within, and she knew that if she could motivate me and get excited about learning, I would want to learn. And if I wanted to learn, nobody was going to stop me. But if I didn't — if I felt discouraged, if I felt frustrated — if I felt like where I was to where I wanted to be so far that it was "What was the point? I'm not even going to try." My mother knew. No, she had to turn my frustration into motivation. Laura: Your mom is, she just sounds so incredible. And of course, not all kids have that same kind of — what's the word I'm looking for? — like parents who understand how to cope. But often by no fault of their own, don't know how to cope with their kids' challenges.Carol: Right, and my two older sisters, they just flew through school. They were straight-A students. They were incredibly smart. And my teachers would look at me and say, "What is wrong with you?" And I remember I had a math teacher who was convinced that math was my worst subject, because I couldn't regurgitate the multiplications, divisions really fast. I just couldn't spit them up fast enough. And my mother thought about it and she's like, "That's ridiculous!" And so, she actually put me in computer programming because she said, "You know, you really think like a computer. You're very logical. And I think that math and physics is actually going to be your best subjects." So, I enrolled in at a community college and I started studying, and lo and behold, I was the best in the class. And I was a little kid and I was with college students. Laura: How old were you in these classes with college students? Carol: I was 12. Laura: Oh my gosh. Carol: Yes, it's shocking. But the thing is, that's how my mind works. I'm a very logical person and I also am an extremely creative person. And what my mother realized is that oftentimes you're like one or the other, but I always actually both. I was just as comfortable in the art classes and the dance classes as I was in science, physics, math. And she started putting me in these classes. She started reading to me books that I was so fascinated with, and she started showing me careers that I had never thought about, that I never dreamed I could do. And all of a sudden I was like, "Oh my gosh, I want to do that." And then when I came back to classes, I was more motivated. I understood what I learned, what I did well in, and where I needed help. Laura: So, you didn't have a name for what you knew what you were strong at. You knew what was harder for you. Carol: Right. Laura: When did you...? I guess what I'm asking about is... Carol: My "aha" moment for me? Laura: What was your "ADHD Aha" moment, right? When did you — and we can talk about dyslexia too — when and how did you learn what was the root of your amazing brain? Carol: It wasn't until, full circle, I had five children and it started all over again with them. The same thing. Getting those notes back from the teachers. "Your child is a disaster. They don't pay attention. They don't care. They're not trying." And meanwhile, I knew they were running a marathon every day. They were working their hearts off, and everything took every ounce of energy for them. And I couldn't understand. And they were so smart and so intelligent. But then they would get, like, zeros on a math test, and I'm like, "How did you get a zero on a math test? I know you know this." But they were timed. And so, by the time my son would literally write his name, he would get a zero and then the teacher would be like, "You're bad at math." And I was like, "Oh my God, that's what happened to me!" And it turns out math is one of his best subjects. But again, they were using the wrong parameters to judge my children's strengths and weaknesses. And I didn't know much, but I fortunately had this wonderful teacher who said to me, she's like, "You know, Carol. I think your children should be tested." And I'm like, "Tested for what?" Because back then again, I didn't know. Laura: Right, right. Carol: I didn't have a support system. I didn't have moms coming to me and saying, "Oh, hey, here's all these resources. Let me help you." I didn't have anyone help me. I had moved to a new city to get married. I wasn't from the area. I wasn't, you know, in with everybody. And I was very much alone trying to figure this out on my own. My mom was sick. She had Parkinson's. So, I was taking care of her. And I had five kids to try to take care of and take care of my mom, which, thank God, I loved every second with my mom, believe me. But, when my kids started getting tested and we started realizing — because I would get dyslexic, ADHD, borderline autism, a selective mutism, anxiety, dysgraphia — all of these things have flooding in. And I was like, "Oh my gosh." And you start reading the reports and you're like, "Oh, that's me. Oh that's that, oh that's me. Oh, that's really me." Laura: What did you do when you discovered there might be a name for what your experience was? Carol: I was actually really excited about it. Believe it or not, I think that when I realized what it was, it wasn't so scary anymore. Because at first, I just thought something was wrong with me. I was always like, "Why is it so easy for my sisters? Why was everything so hard?" But after I was diagnosed and I realized that I was like, "Wow, I'm actually really grateful." Because, see there's one thing that I have that a lot of very intelligent people who do not have learning challenges don't have, is that I have this ability to keep working and not expecting everything to just go smoothly. I expect It's going to be hard. I expect it's going to take a long time. I expect I'm going to have to go through many, many, many iterations before I get it right. And so, I'm not as frustrated anymore. Because I kind of realize, for me to get from here to here, it's going to be a bumpy road with a lot of potholes. And I'm going to go slow. And I don't care what race car I'm driving, I got to go slow. And so, and I'm OK with that. In fact, my kids and everyone calls me "the turtle." And I say proudly, "I am a turtle." I go slow and steady and I love to learn. Laura: I do want to ask. You have five kids. Which of your kids' symptomology, challenges, strengths, do you feel like spoke to you the most in terms of like, what you are strong at and what you struggle with? Carol: So Alana, my second older, had selective mutism as a child. So, selective mutism is basically a fear of even speaking in public. In other words, you just hide. Your anxiety is so great, that the head is down and you just pray "Please don't talk to me. Please, just don't even notice that I exist." It's just such an unbelievable fear. I was very much the same way. I did not speak. So many of my parents' friends really didn't think I did speak. And yet at home, I never stopped speaking because I felt very safe and very secure at home. But it was just such a fear. And I remember my mother put me specifically in Russian ballet. She put me in theater because she realized that when I got out of thinking about myself and just got a part of a repertoire, a part of a group, I could become one. My confidence would build. And we did the same thing for Alana, and the same thing was so powerful. Because when you think about a theater troupe, it's very warm, it's very open and it's very family-like, it's a very safe environment. And so, what you're trying to recreate that sort of home life in other environments out of the home to help your child step up, to become comfortable in being themselves. And maybe for a child, it's a soccer team. It could be many things. And then my son Jacob was very much like me growing up. Severely dyslexic, very slow to read. His teachers would tell him math was his worst subject. You know, "Why are you even going for that?" You know. And yet, his brain was literally just like mine. You know, I put him in a computer program, which he just soars. His math is outstanding. You know, he uses all electronics now, you know, audiobooks, all of those sorts of things that are available to help him. And he went from a kid where they thought that he was never going to amount to anything. He's now in his final year at Ross, at the University of Michigan, and he's doing exceptionally well. Laura: Tell me about KidsRead2Kids and the inspiration and what you do at KidsRead2Kids. Carol: So, KidsRead2Kids is a 501(c)(3), Parents' Choice Award-winning nonprofit that my kids started back in 2016 because we saw that there was like this cycle that keeps continuing. Where I grew up and felt like there was something wrong with me, that I was broken, that I wasn't smart, that I was never going to account to anything based on what school was. And had I not had my mother, I don't know what I would be. Instead of having an MBA from Wharton, an electrical engineering degree, I could be who knows where. But I am who I am because I had somebody in my corner who really believed in me and understood that I had amazing strengths, and also realized that the weaknesses that I had, we could figure out how to work around them so that I could learn and be an independent learner for life. And then my kids came along and I felt like it was like deja vu. It was happening all over again. And my kids one day I said, "You know, we've got to do something, because there are kids around the world, there are parents around the world that don't have a resource to help. What can we do to help these kids so that they can become independent learners? They don't need to have a credit card. They don't need to have money. We need to teach kids that they can be independent, that they are in control of their learning, and we're going to teach them how." And so my kids decided they were going to start KidsRead2Kids, and they started by taking some of the greatest classic books that most children with learning challenges don't even read. They took abridged versions, which were less scary and easier to understand, but very important characters. These were all young characters that had struggles that they had to overcome. And they got their friends from theater and choir — many of which who had learning challenges themselves — and they filmed these books as a video-audiobook, chapter by chapter. Laura: So fun.Carol: Which took, each book, is months and months. You have no idea. Laura: I can't, I can't imagine, actually. I mean, that's incredible. Carol: You know? And then my kids would edit it and get it all set. And we wanted it so that a child could go on to our website or go on to our KidsRead2Kids YouTube channel. They could listen to these books completely free. They didn't have to ask for permission. They didn't have to ask for money. And they're listening to other kids just like them. And all of a sudden, kids in over 60 countries started using it. It was amazing. And then Covid hit, and teachers were like, "Ahhh! what do we do?" You know, "How do we teach kids online?" And so my kids created two complete free lesson plans to "Anne of Green Gables," that my daughter Alana Read and "Peter Pan" that her friend Steven reads. And this has creative writing prompts, active listening questions, vocabulary games to really help kids learn how to actively listen. You know, we were born hearing, but we have to learn how to actively listen. Laura: Well, it's just such an amazing organization, Carol. I mean, the fact that your kids founded it, and just the entrepreneurship, the scrappiness, the creativity, the empathy that it takes to do something like that. I really commend you and your kids. Your story is just phenomenal. The website for everyone who's listening again is That two is the number two, not the word two. So, So Carol, thank you so much for being here today. It's just been a pleasure. I really appreciate it. Carol: Oh, it is an honor. And on our website, there's always a way of contacting us if you have a question or a concern. When I was raising my kids, I didn't have anyone to help me, and it's a really scary process to try to figure out what to do. And I don't want any parent to ever feel that way. So, same thing for kids. We are here as a resource. This is our passion. We love it, we believe in it, and we really, really want to make sure that no child, no adult feels like they're broken or something is wrong with them. You are perfect the way that you are. Find your strengths, and then let us help you to improve the areas that are hard for you. And it will make life so much easier and way more fun. 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.

  • Social anxiety and kids with learning and thinking differences

    Many kids have social anxiety. For some kids with learning and thinking differences, the idea of having to interact socially can create a great deal of anxiety — even panic. Social anxiety may cause kids to avoid even fun-sounding activities like birthday parties. When social anxiety is really bad, it can play a role in kids refusing to go to school. Read more about social anxiety, how learning and thinking differences can contribute to it, and what you can do to help.What is social anxiety? Social anxiety disorder is a specific type of anxiety that gets triggered when kids or adults are asked to think about or take part in social situations. It’s much more than shyness. It’s an intense fear that can make it hard to build friendships and enjoy other people’s company.Social anxiety is a lot like separation anxiety, but for older kids and adults. Very young kids fear being away from their caregivers, because they need them to survive. Social anxiety is similar. Something unsafe might happen if I leave home. If I talk to that kid, it will turn out bad.Kids with this type of anxiety worry that they’ll be seen badly in social situations. When kids worry about making social mistakes, they may avoid going places where they could learn social rules or practice interacting with others. And then lack of practice makes them even more likely to want to avoid a social situation.The connection with learning and thinking differencesKids who learn and think differently can struggle with unstructured social interaction. They may get confused by the words people are using. They may misread body language or other subtle social cues. As a result, they may get anxious and withdraw from the situation. It’s social anxiety, but it’s caused or made worse by the underlying learning or thinking differences. Here are two examples:A child with ADHD blurts out something inappropriate at a birthday party. The negative reaction from friends causes that child to avoid parties in the future. A child with dyslexia asks to go to the bathroom to avoid reading aloud in class. Separation from the class can reinforce the fear of reading aloud. And missing out on instruction can make kids anxious about contributing to class discussions about the book. Strategies to help your child with social anxietyKids with social anxiety may want to stick to environments where they feel most comfortable, with people they know well.Your job isn’t to make sure kids never experience situations where they’ll feel socially anxious. Instead, it’s to give them support, help them manage their fears, and counteract their negative thoughts.Here are a few tips:Find out why your child is worried. Try to get specific. Ask questions like “What’s the worst thing that could happen at the party?” Or “Is there anyone in particular you’re worried about seeing?” The more you understand about your child’s social concerns, the more you can help with developing a plan.Think about less anxious ways to get your child “on stage.” For example, if having to speak in class is causing worry, ask the teacher to send a question home so your child can rehearse the answer or make a video at home. Develop social “anchors.” When going to a party or a new activity, try to have your child walk in with a friend. For school projects, ask if the teacher can pair your child with a friendly peer. Having a buddy can help make events feel less threatening.Make a plan for lunchtime and recess. Work with teachers and school staff to help your child deal with social anxiety during unstructured times, like recess and lunch. Make a plan for headaches and stomachaches. Keep in mind that physical complaints may be your child’s way to avoid something scary. Ask for specifics to help your child come up with strategies. For example, you might ask, “What would it take to help you feel better right now?” Then set some firm boundaries: “You can’t stay home from school unless you have a fever.”Don’t agree to leave early. If your child is feeling very anxious in a social situation, think about strategies together. But don’t agree to go home. Leaving won’t help your child cope better next time. Even agreeing to sit on the sideline and watch is better than leaving.Think about getting a therapist. Cognitive behavioral therapy can often help kids “trade in” negative thoughts for ones that help reduce social anxiety.Learn more about when and how to jump in with social problems at school. Download an anxiety log to look for patterns in your child’s behavior and find strategies to help.

  • ADHD Aha!

    Rejection sensitivity, ADHD drain, and the power of failure (Weston’s story)

    Getting diagnosed with ADHD (along with anxiety and panic disorder) helped Weston be kinder to himself and accept his ADHD brain for how it works.  “The cup that is draining.” That’s how musician and content creator Weston Gardner describes ADHD’s effect on him. He’d spent his whole life feeling like he couldn’t do things that came so easily to everyone else. Weston was at his wits’ end. Getting diagnosed with ADHD (along with anxiety and panic disorder) has helped him be kinder to himself and accept his ADHD brain for how it works. Weston is a musician and content creator who goes by Arcane Anthems (@arcaneanthems). His music sets the scene for podcasts, Twitch streams, tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, and more. This episode is guest hosted by ADHD Aha! alum Cate Osborn. Cate, aka @catieosaurus, is a content creator and co-host of Catie and Erik’s Infinite Quest podcast. Listen to this week’s episode to hear Cate and Weston talk about ADHD and gaming, rejection sensitivity, and the power of failure.Related resourcesADHD and rejection sensitive dysphoriaEmotional sunburn: What rejection sensitivity feels likeIn It podcast: The benefits of gaming for kidsEpisode transcriptLaura: Hey, listeners! There's good news for me and also good news for you. I'm going on an extended vacation. And we thought that would be a great opportunity to invite one of our favorite ADHD podcasters, Cate Osborn, to fill in for me for a couple of episodes. You may remember Cate, aka Catieosaurus, from our episodes on ADHD and hormones and ADHD and sex. Cate is a content creator and host of the podcast "Catie and Erik's Infinite Quest." You're in good hands with Cate. So enjoy, and I'll be back soon.Weston: Once I realized that embracing who it was that I was, embracing the limitations that I had, I found that vulnerability, that clarity, to be one of the greatest strengths.Cate: Hi, everybody, and welcome back to "ADHD Aha!" I'm not Laura. My name is Cate Osborn. I go by Catieosaurus on all the corners of the internet where I am a full time content creator focused on neurodivergent intimacy and accessibility and gaming. Your wonderful host, Laura, is currently on sabbatical.And so the kind folks at have asked me to step in to her very large and impressive shoes and guest host for this episode. And I'm so honored and excited to be here with my very first guest, Weston Gardner, aka Arcane Anthems. Weston is a musician and a composer with ADHD. Weston, tell the people what you do.Weston: Hey everyone. I run Arcane Anthems, which is kind of my online persona. I write tabletop music for Dungeons & Dragons games, for podcasts, for Twitch streams, and YouTube channels, and all of the above. So I get to work in all sorts of different styles and genres, and I get to constantly research new stuff. It's very good for somebody with ADHD like me, who gets to consistently change up what they're doing, learn something new, and use my skills in like new and unique ways all the time.Cate: So I'm so curious, and I love this because I feel like we have been to so many conventions together. But I've never gotten a chance to just ask you about what you do. So this is my shot and I'm taking it.Weston: Bring it on. Hit me.Cate: First, for all of the lovely listeners at home, I feel like we should spend at least a couple of minutes talking about what tabletop role-playing games are, and why they might be important to somebody with ADHD. Do you want to take that one?Weston: I always tell people it's the feeling of watching an epic fantasy movie, but it's — you're in it and it's your own. And it's you and your friends.Cate: That's a great way to do that.Weston: That's the way I like to describe it. Because in my musical life, I always describe what I do and the importance of what I do when describing it to movies or to video games, right? The importance of having music in a movie is the same as, you know, having it in a video game or having an any form of media, where it drives the emotion of the storyline.And so what I do is I support that role playing around a table you and your friends are sitting around. You have somebody who's kind of in charge of the world. And you have everybody else who's in charge of their own character and their own personas. And you create a story together within the confines of whatever rule system you're using.The one that everybody knows is Dungeons & Dragons, right? So that's just a rules system. That's just the physics of the world and how the game runs. But the story you're telling is the really important part.Cate: One of the things that is fascinating about that entire sort of genre of entertainment is that there is a lot of evidence and a lot of studies that are coming out about the benefits of playing games like Dungeons & Dragons or other tabletop role-playing games on the neurodivergent brain, on the ADHD brain. They can be especially helpful for things like processing executive dysfunction and the learning how to support yourself and developing social skills and all that kind of stuff.So there's a lot of like gameplay elements, but they can also be incredibly therapeutically beneficial, which I think is like really cool. And so that's why I'm so excited that you're here with me because we get to talk about creativity today.But first, before we do that, Laura would be so very sad and disappointed if I didn't ask you to talk a little bit about your journey to an ADHD diagnosis, and what your ADHD "aha" moment was when it came to sort of accepting that and learning about your brain for the first time.Weston: Well, mine starts very much with me in school. I think those are my earliest memories of me going to school and feeling like somebody who understood concepts very well, who tried very hard, who was among the kids who were, quote unquote, like more advanced. But I always felt something was missing. I just didn't understand how everybody else could do things that I couldn't do.I would write one paragraph and they would have four pages done. And it was this gaping hole in my learning, and it plagued me. It was actually one of the reasons that I dropped out of college. It was like there was a — like I was drinking out of a glass that had a hole in the bottom. And I could never really fill it up enough to satisfy my thirst or to keep up.And it wasn't until I had a breakdown in my early 30s — between work and being a dad and being a husband and managing all these other things — that I realized, you know, something isn't right. Something about me is different enough that things that seem normal to everyday people aren't normal to me, to everyday Weston, right? And so I — luckily the job that I was at had some really great kind of social services type benefits, right? And I was able to see a therapist. And I was able to see a psychiatrist. And they very quickly diagnosed me with ADHD and anxiety and panic disorder.And I — like what a pivotal, monumental moment in my life to hear those words and to hear that validation. And the change that it's had in my life, and the change that it's had in my family's life and my extended family's lives, in my siblings' lives, has been so important to understanding that our brains just work differently. And all of a sudden, all the shame and all the guilt that I felt growing up for not being able to catch up, not being able to keep up, was gone.Now for me, I know that I work differently. I know that I need to do things in a way that is going to support these conditions that I have, the way that my brain works, right? As opposed to constantly fighting against them, constantly feeling that I'm lazy or that I'm stupid or that I'm incapable of doing normal things. It has opened up my eyes to a world of understanding and acceptance and compassion. And I'm just so grateful for those diagnoses, honestly.Cate: Oh, my gosh. I love that you were talking about the cup that is draining. That's such just like a poignant image that just is like, oh, my gosh, I feel that exactly. So when we talk about that sort of like ADHD drain, I guess we'll call it for right now. When you started deciding that what you wanted to do was music, what you wanted to do was this like career based in creativity and creation and that kind of stuff. Did you find that that sort of drain went away?Weston: I was in the music industry for about 10 years, making music, playing shows in a band. And that did help me a lot to recognize that that kind of structurelessness and self-managing worked well for me. And then I got into a kind of a corporate retail job where I had to be on during these specific hours. And I had to do these certain things. And I needed to be there on time. And I — there was all these "hads" and "shoulds," and all these things that I needed to fit into somebody else created.And that I think was the biggest problem — was my brain with ADHD doesn't work like everyone else's brain works. And so when you're trying to shove me into a box that somebody else created, it's going to be extremely uncomfortable for me. And it's not going to work, especially if I don't understand why I don't fit. And I'm trying to remember the initial question. Uh, yes.Cate: That was OK. That was exactly, yeah.Weston: Moving into music, and in particular into social media, into music creation, into connecting with people, I have found that being able to use an expertise and a passion of mine, and working when I can work. And then also recognizing that there are going to be times when I will sit down and not be able to do the thing that I've been doing for 20 years. And that it's not because I'm dumb. It's not because I'm stupid. It's not even because it's a creative block that people talk about all the time.It's because my brain is just like, not today. There's no dopamine here today for you. You will not be as creative today. You will not be able to do these things. And instead of me saying, "No, I will do them!" and pushing through and blaming myself and getting angry, I'm like, OK, well, what can I do today?Cate: So I am a content creator, and you are a content creator. And I think the most dangerous and stressful part of being a content creator is that there is an expectation that you make content like all the time, constantly. So how do you balance that? How do you balance the kind of like, OK, I have to make the content. I have to make the video, you know, to bring people over to my music, to my creative process. But also my brain is screaming at me, you know, not today, not today. You know, I got nothing to give. Like, what do you do on those days?Weston: I have a lot of coping mechanisms and techniques that I've used so that I can do those things. And there will be days when you just cannot, you know, where it is a zero. And it's not even that there isn't something that you could do. It's that you can't figure out what that is. So that pushed aside, most of the time I — there's this idea in product development called a minimum viable product. So I like to say, OK, what is the very smallest teeniest, tiniest thing that I can do to check a box today and maybe like kick-start my brain?It's like one of those old cars where you have to kind of turn turn the rotor on them, right? Maybe doing this small little thing and accomplishing this tiny little thing will kick-start the rest of it. So I have these minimum viable products. And with content creation, sometimes it's just using an audio and recording like a three-second video.Sometimes it won't even be work related. Sometimes it'll be, oh, I'm just going to walk outside. And the reason I say that is that there's all these things in my life that I know that my brain needs. I need to move my body. I need to see the sunshine. I need to make sure that I'm drinking and eating food. There's all this kind of basic needs that as somebody with ADHD, it's very easy to neglect those things. Maybe I'll just put that one thing away. Maybe I'll gather my dishes from my desk. And maybe today is just a gather dishes from the desk day and move it to the kitchen day. And that's what I did that day.Cate: I did not come here to be attacked in this way. How dare you, sir?Weston: So I very visibly see those tiny things as victories, because I'm not fighting the same battles as neurotypical people. I need to recognize that me doing that small thing is a victory, just like somebody else working, you know, all day on a thing is a victory for them.Cate: One of the things that I'm so curious about, and it almost sounds silly when I say it out loud, but I think you're really hitting on this idea of how recognizing your needs, honoring them as a neurodivergent person, helps to sort of fill that cup. And then from that cup you kind of can draw your creativity. You can draw that sort of like process of making and composing and being a musician and all of those like really exciting things that you do. So that's not a question. But I just wanted to say that because I think that's neat. Good job, Weston. You're going a great job.Weston: The idea of shame, the idea of failing, the idea of all those things is a very powerful trend in neurodivergent people. And for me personally, it goes deep into this idea of that rejection dysphoria that at least I experience extremely heavily. The idea that you will fail people, will view you as a failure, and it will not be OK if you let people know that you're not all right.And the best way that I have found to remove the power that failure has over me is to understand that for me, failing is a way that I become better. Failing is a way that I grow. And it doesn't mean that my rejection euphoria goes away — dysphoria goes away. Can you imagine? Rejection euphoria? No.Cate: I feel like, yeah. Reject me!Weston: Reject me! Those emotions are something that is almost like a learned behavior with people who are neurodivergent. And unpacking those things in a personal, professional relationship sense and becoming very just like open about the ways that you feel with people, has been very vital to me to overcoming the spiraling that can happen when you begin to feel those emotions.Cate: I love that you say that because I'm also fascinated in how that shows up in your work. Because I think one of the really cool things — and for listeners who may not know, one of the things that Weston does is that all of Weston's music is royalty free. And it's available for the community to use in their tabletop games and their YouTube videos and their actual plays, like all of those different things.I've always really admired that you do that, because it really feels like this act of giving, and this act of, you know, creation for sort of the good of the community. And giving people access to stuff that can sometimes be, you know, very like cost prohibitive. Is some of that emotional involvement, does that have to do with like your willingness to sort of like give to the community like and back in that way, if that question makes any sense? It made perfect sense in my head, did it make sense out loud?Weston: Yes, it really makes a lot of sense. Cate: And I was like, I don't know what I'm talking about.Weston: I have never been asked that question in that way before in this context, and it's my way — oh, gosh. OK. Feel the emotions. It's my way of being there for people who.... Growing up, I felt very lonely.Cate: Yeah.Weston: And for me, it's very important that I help other people to know that they are not alone. That they have support. That there is somebody there who is looking out for them in kind of a mentor-type sense. I didn't have that growing up. All my music stuff. It always felt very lonely, stumbling through and failing over and over, and not understanding why I can't do the same things as everybody else.And this is definitely a response to wanting to be there for people. And I can't be there for hundreds of thousands of people. That's not something that I personally can do. But I devised this method of saying, yeah, but maybe my music can. Maybe I can use this to make other people's games better or other people's experiences better, other people's entertainment more interesting. Maybe I can be the person there who can provide something of value.They can be creative and just take this and use it and immediately see an improvement in whatever it is that they're using it for. And that definitely comes from a place of me feeling I don't want other people to feel alone. I don't want other people to feel abandoned. I don't want other people to feel to their own devices that no one is looking out for them and that they will fail and fail and fail over and over and over again needlessly.Cate: I love that so much. Also, you said this like beautiful, eloquent speech. And all that I was thinking the whole time is like, yeah, me too. But I just talk about sex instead of, like you said, with music. And I talk about talking about relationships on the internet. But like, I feel the exact same way.Weston: I love that. I'm so enamored and grateful for the things that I have learned from the videos that you have done. And being able to reframe my brain around intimacy, around relationships in the context of neurodivergency. And if we dive into relationships here, that's such an important aspect to why I was able to get diagnosed, is that I sat down on the couch with my wife Terena, and I told her all these things that were impossibly difficult for me.And I broke down and I said, "I am at my wits' end doing the bare minimum right now." And I was sobbing. When that realization hit me — because I didn't realize the amount of energy until I verbalized it, that I was pouring into being a dad and being a husband and doing the things you need to do in a relationship. And she really saw me in that moment. And all credit to her was able to say, "Yeah, I see that now. Let's get you help."Cate: Well, and I think that goes back to that sort of shame component, and that kind of loneliness component of like — for me it was that kind of like, you want to do a good job, You want to be the exemplary husband, partner, wife, employee, whatever. And so there's that, like the cup is draining, like you said earlier, straining and draining and draining. And you're trying to keep up. But at some point, like, it just becomes untenable.Like you can't keep going in the way that you've been going, especially, I think, without a diagnosis and without that sort of context of understanding your own brain. And it's, of course, there's such high rates of burnout. Of course there's such high rates of struggles with intimacy and relationships and that kind of stuff in the neurodivergent community — because of that, you know, wanting to keep up appearances of everything is fine.Weston: For me, that was the complete removal of the mask that we use to hide how much effort is behind the scenes. And Terena saw the cost and saw the inner workings and saw that everything was actually on fire, and everything is not fine. And I think that's where the compassion comes in. Having compassion for you and for yourself, and recognizing that the amount of energy that you pour into your every day is X times the amount of energy that some people — they don't have to do.Cate: You've spoken so eloquently about just the experience of being a neurodivergent partner. What advice do you have for a partner who is maybe coming to terms with their diagnosis, or in the process of getting one, and is struggling to really like open up and drop that mask, like you said, and discuss things with your partner?Weston: Being able to sit down and open up is a key part, I think, of any relationship. And if you and your partner are struggling with that, then that is where I feel like you need to start. Diving into the entirety of mental illness and all of that stuff might be a bit overwhelming if you haven't developed a relationship of open communication and vulnerability.And I think that we need to give space for people who may have had different upbringings, may have had different relationships with behavior and struggle and culture, and all these different things that play into mental health. And not everybody is going to be as receptive to those conversations. And it's not that they won't eventually be.Cate: You talked earlier about, you know, struggling in school and then sort of finding your way to music and that kind of thing. What advice do you have for the ADHD kids out there who might be interested in a career in music or composition, who might be, you know, struggling in school? Like, what would you say, a little, you know, I don't know, 10-year-old Weston.Weston: I would say to start. That is the most powerful tool that I think anybody can have. And especially nowadays, being able to make music anywhere with anything. If you have a phone, you can make music. A friend of mine who for the past three years, very talented musician, has just been making music on his phone, on his literal — the thing is like a 5-year-old iPhone — he has been making music on.Do not see the lack in your resources. See that there is an abundance of opportunity. And that music is all around you, even if it's just you writing out lyrics, even if it's just you expressing a melody. I always tell people that as you start to do things and as you start to tell other people that you're doing things, opportunities happen.And I think that that is why social media has worked so well for all sorts of people, of all sorts of different passions, is that you are consistently telling people about what you love to do and about the things that are important to you. And that opens up this world of opportunity. So for anybody who is just starting out in music, just make music. Do not expect it to sound like a top producing, you know, engineer. Like, that is not what's important right now.Try and write 100 bad songs. When you write a hundred bad songs, you are increasing your capability to write good things. And as a kid, because of that rejection dysphoria, I constantly wanted to write only good things. And so it would stop me from writing. It would stop me from showing people things I was working on. Try really, really hard to overcome that.Write and leave it, write and leave it, write and leave it. Because it will never be the thing that you think is going to take off that takes off. Write and write and write. And talk about it and talk about it and talk about it. Learn to speak about the things that you love to do.Cate: Incredible advice from Weston Gardner, aka Arcane Anthems. Weston, thank you so much for being here with me today. This has been incredible. It has been such an honor to get to speak with you. Can you please tell the kind people where to find you?Weston: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. So online. I am Arcane Anthems everywhere. You can find me on Instagram or what's left of Twitter or Threads or YouTube. I try and have a very wide brush. If you want to support my music and get it firsthand and get kind of some behind-the-scenes stuff and all the things you can find me on Patreon. Arcane Anthems.Cate: And where can they listen to your music?Weston: Oh, that's, that's all over the place. That's all over streaming. Are you on Spotify? Are you on Apple Music? Are you a Amazon person? Are you on YouTube? Are you on TikTok? You can you can follow me over there. So I try to make music as accessible as possible. If you want to download all my free music, which is over like 80 songs at this point, you can go to my Patreon and you can download those tunes for whatever it is that you're creating. Also, my DMs are up and if you want to shoot me a, shoot me a message. And I love chatting with people. I do that all day long.Cate: And thank you so much for being here. And thanks for being so honest and lovely and wonderful and amazing.Weston: I appreciate that.Cate: And I have been your guest host, Cate Osborn, aka Catieosaurus. You can find me on YouTube. You can find me on Twitter. You can find me on TikTok, Bluesky, Threads, pretty much wherever there's a Catieosaurus to be found, that's me. I'm also the co-host of "Catie and Erik's Infinite Quest: An ADHD Adventure." We talk about living life as neurodivergent adults, and occasionally we play TTRPGs. So if you want to check me out there, you absolutely can. And if you want to get in touch with me, you can head on over to 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.

  • ADHD, anxiety, and anger: How they’re linked

    Q. My child has ADHD and gets very anxious, but also has a lot of anger issues. Are these all connected?A. The short answer is “Yes, ADHD, anxiety, and anger are connected.” Here’s how. Children with ADHD have trouble paying attention and controlling their impulses. This often leads to instances where they become angry or begin to feel anxious. Anxious moments can leave a child feeling overwhelmed. And that stress can lead to aggressive behaviors like tantrums or meltdowns. So, it’s not uncommon for anxiety to look more like anger than nervousness for some kids with ADHD. This is where trouble with self-control comes in. Kids with ADHD are more likely than other kids to react impulsively to negative feelings. They typically don’t pause and reflect on those feelings. But the ability to reflect is an essential skill for learning to manage anger in a healthy way. As for ADHD and anxiety, the two conditions often co-occur. And they’re often misdiagnosed. That’s because their symptoms can overlap and look similar. It’s important for kids to be evaluated for each one in order to get the best treatment.Symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, and anger can feed off of one another. This may cause a cycle that can be difficult to change in the moment. For example, a child with ADHD may get negative feedback because of behaviors they can’t easily control. This feedback can result in low self-esteem. And it can leave kids feeling anxious or angry. Helping kids manage all parts of their ADHD, anxiety, and anger is key to ending this cycle.Luckily, there are ways to help kids. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, can help kids build the skills needed to manage their anxiety. Mindfulness can teach kids better ways to regulate their emotions. And ADHD medication can help kids with symptoms of impulsivity.Learn more about ADHD and anger and ADHD and anxiety. Find out why kids with ADHD have trouble managing emotions.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    “Math dyslexia” can’t stop this chef and business owner

    Raquel Fleetwood says cooking is her zen, peace, and love. It’s a place where her trouble with math and anxiety fade away, and learning is natural. By the time Raquel Fleetwood was diagnosed with a learning disability at age 8, she had already discovered her passion: cooking. By 16, inspired by her Black-Latina roots, she was selling cheese flans in NYC. Each gig that followed built her confidence more and more. Now, Raquel is the owner and chef of a catering company that delivers 75,000 meals in an average year. Listen to hear how Raquel turned her love of food into a career. Learn her secret for managing challenges with math, spoken language, and organization as an adult. And get her advice on how to make your strengths shine when you have learning differences.Listen in. Then:Watch a video of a chef with learning differences who went back to college.Take a quiz to find your career superstar.Read how a skateboarder with dyslexia started his business.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.I absolutely love food. So I'm really excited for our next guest. Raquel Fleetwood is a chef and caterer in Los Angeles who draws culinary inspiration from her Black and Puerto Rican roots. In a typical year, her company delivers 75,000 catered meals a year. She has dyslexia and other learning differences. She also struggles with things like spoken language, math, and organization. So Raquel, welcome to the show.Raquel: Thanks for having me.Eleni: Of course. So, yeah, I'm really excited to talk about food, and I'm really looking forward to hearing how you made that your career. So tell us a little bit about your job.Raquel: I'm the owner and chef of Catered By Raquel in Long Beach, California. And I am a full-time mom.Eleni: Four kids and a business.Raquel: Four kids and a business.Eleni: So, you're a chef and a caterer. Have you always loved cooking? And what do you love about it?Raquel: I've always loved cooking. My mom worked a lot when I was growing up; she was back in school to get her PhD. And I grew up on the Upper West Side of New York with a mother that didn't cook. So she would always order in; everything was takeout, which is, I guess, good for some people, but I remember figuring out at a super early age that if I learned how to cook, I could make anything I wanted. So I remember being 4 and trying to work my way into my grandmother's kitchen. And she eventually got tired of kicking me out, and they gave me a stool so I could reach the counter.Eleni: How very New York of your mother to order takeout every day.Raquel: Oh my gosh. She's like, I'm the best chef ever. Here's my phone numbers. These are all the numbers.Eleni: Yeah. And when you snuck into the kitchen, was there anything in particular that you liked about being in the kitchen or that you liked cooking — any favorite meals?Raquel: I just, I've always been attracted to it. My mom has stories of when I was a kid; she would put on "Sesame Street" and she would come in and Julia Child would be on the TV. So I always referred to Julia Child as my Big Bird. Cooking is where I met my zen, my peace, my love. It's a place where my nervousness, my anxiety, it doesn't play a role anywhere. And you know, I have trouble with numbers and math. And math and numbers, when it comes to food, it always makes sense. I'm grateful to have honed in on my talent super young.Eleni: Yeah, super young, 3 or 4.Raquel: Super young. Yep. My whole life.Eleni: Yeah. So, Raquel, you grew up in New York City, and, you know, you were diagnosed with dyslexia when you were 8. Do you want to talk a little bit about what it was like going to school in New York? Talk a little bit about struggles in school and, you know, anything that you want to share about that.Raquel: Yeah. I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, 93rd between Central Park West and Columbus. I lived in the same building for 27 years. So, I remember vividly starting the process of being tested. And, you know, my mom's a psychologist, so I think things might've been a little bit easier for me than some, because she was super, sometimes overly understanding of the whole thing. And in school I always had one friend. I was never the popular one. I'm an only child. And I have four kids, which is kind of ironic. I was never the one to play first, and I'm still not. So I think that growing up, it translated into who I am now, where I only have a couple of, like, really close friends. I can't really deal with too many personalities at once. And I kind of flew under the radar at school.You know, I graduated high school. I did what I had to do. Bare-bones, bare minimum. I was supposed to go to culinary school and I didn't, because my mom said she didn't want me to go to culinary school because if I went and graduated and I decided I didn't want to cook, then I wouldn't have something to have like a backup as. So I actually went to school for early childhood development and failed miserably.I took a math class like four times. And then just left. I missed out on an associate's degree for one class, because I just, I couldn't do it anymore. And I've always had issues, like, if I'm not interested in something, I really don't care. It's real easy for me to just look at a sparkly thing in the room and go somewhere else. So, I think I figured out actually later in life that there was a connection between having a learning disability and still being confident. I know sometimes that's where it affects people, in their confidence. But I think through food, through cooking, it kept me confident.Eleni: You were able to find something that you were really good at and then gain your confidence through that rather than focusing on the things that maybe were a little bit more challenging in school.Raquel: Exactly.Eleni: Yeah. It's interesting. I mean, it's so rare to hear that people find their passion at the age of 3 or 4. I barely have memories from that age, you know? And you know, it sounded like you were pretty clear about what you wanted to study but then kind of pivoted into this other direction. How did you eventually find your way back to the food industry?Raquel: It took a while. I had gotten a gig at, like, 16 in New York selling my cheese flans to a restaurant that I worked for.Eleni: What is a cheese flan?Raquel: It's a traditional Puerto Rican flan dish — tastes more like a hybrid between a flan and a cheesecake. So I was pumping out cheese flans out my mom's oven. Thought I was something.And then I went to college. Didn't graduate. Wound up being in retail for, like, 10 years. I was a retail manager. I didn't like it, per se, but I was good at it because the methodical folding and making sure the stuff is perfect and square and even, and all the visual displays, that was the best part. The people were just not my thing.And even to this day with the cooking, sometimes I'm like, "You know, I wish I could just cook for nobody." Because it's always the people aspect of it all that throws me off a little. But then I wound up meeting my husband. We had our first child, and I was approached about catering our — this was 10 years ago now — catering our Christmas party for our subdivision we lived in. And I was like, "OK." She was like, "It's 160 people," and I'm, you know, "Fake it till you make it. Sure, why not?" And came in there and made it all look really pretty, and the food tasted really good. And I was able to do that for a couple of years, and I also was getting jobs. The word was kind of getting out. So I had jobs here and there.And then when I moved to California, my husband worked for a company that catered their lunch every day. So they were like, "Oh, well, does your wife cater? And does she want to cater for us once a week?" And I was like, "Sure, why not?" So it was like a mad dash to cook for 200 people.Eleni: Wow.Raquel: Pregnant at the time, with two other kids and no childcare. So it was a lot of fun.Eleni: Wow. That sounds intense.Raquel: And then from there, they gave me the full program. So I was their corporate chef for three years, before the pandemic.Eleni: Wow. So when the neighbor approached you, you had never actually done catering before. They just knew you were a good cook and they asked you to do it.Raquel: I did it when my mom's friends and stuff would have parties; I would do it for them. And again, the artistic part of me, it was always really good at making stuff look pretty. And that, definitely, it helped tailor my craft.Eleni: Yeah.Raquel: So I had experience here and there, but it was never for anyone I didn't know.Eleni: It was a little bit more of a hobby.Raquel: Yes.Eleni: And then it evolved into something a little bit more serious.Raquel: I had worked in kitchens younger, as a teenager, but it was never my thing. I definitely have a tough skin and stuff, but the demand working, you know, 15, 16 hours straight, to then double — I just, it's not me.Eleni: Yeah.Raquel: So the catering was a really great way for me to be able to cook and still have a life, essentially.Eleni: Yeah. And it's important to have balance, especially when you have four kids.Raquel: And they're little — we've got a 9, 7, 4, and 1. So, yeah, it's exciting. I just need them to get older so they can help with the company. I'm like, "Come wash these dishes."Eleni: I'm sure they will be super cute doing it. That's great. So I personally definitely prefer to cook than bake, and a big part of it is I just cannot follow a recipe. Like, I always want to change it a little bit and mix it up.Raquel: Yeah, not with baking.Eleni: Yeah. So for me, cooking is a little bit more of a creative outlet. Is it similar for you?Raquel: Yeah, I think baking is definitely more of a science. We can mess it up, but it's not my forte, baking. I still do it. And I still mess around with the recipes. And that's the biggest thing with cooking. I always tell people, "Don't be afraid to make mistakes, because it can either come out absolutely disgusting or you could make something that you really like, so why not try, you know?"Eleni: Yeah. Do you think that in terms of baking and following a recipe, do you think any struggles with reading have anything to do with that at all?Raquel: No. And again, the only numbers that make sense to me and my head are food measurements. So cups, quarters, converting grams. That just — it's so easy. But if you ask me to, like, do a simple math problem, I had to hire tutors to do homework when my second and third grader, and they learn math all kinds of different now. So I, you know, it still plays a big role. And my sense of direction is terrible. I can't go to the corner store without my GPS. My husband makes fun of me all the time. But yeah, cooking and numbers, like, I'm able to convert the recipes in my head really quick. It makes sense. I can see it in my brain, and in my brain it makes sense. Whereas with other numbers and, you know, applying math to things, when I see it in my brain, it just, there's no translation to it. It's just numbers. I can't apply it to anything.Eleni: That's so interesting. So what kind of food do you like to cook, and what influences some of the cuisine that you serve or your recipes?Raquel: Yeah. Right now we do just about anything. So we're known for doing custom menus. So, recently we had a Filipino repast, and they wanted me to do all traditional Filipino food. And I think the best thing about being a chef in 2022 is that if you know food, you can figure out how to cook the recipe. And, you know, once I'm able to look at recipes, I can make sense of it and be like, that's too much salt, or that needs more, or that's not enough garlic. So, I'm able to do basically whatever the client wants. And I am a foodie myself, growing up on the Upper West Side, being of mixed race, you know, having that Upper West Side melting pot really helped develop my palate.Eleni: And that's so cool that you can just kind of look at recipes and then bring your own —Raquel: Yeah, I can taste stuff, too, and I can tell you what's in it. So if I taste something, for the most part I can replicate the recipe.Eleni: I love it. So you just mentioned being mixed race, and we talked about it a little bit in the introduction. Do you want to share a little bit about how your ethnic background has had an influence on your cooking and your career? And then also maybe how it's played a part in other parts of your identity? And even how your learning differences have been perceived.Raquel: I love the question. I was raised by my Puerto Rican side. So, even though I am half Black, I do identify as Latina, and I'm fluent in Spanish. It's like my thing. We got married in Puerto Rico.Eleni: Oh, lovely.Raquel: And I feel like I was able to discover my Black side through food. So, yeah, when I moved to Atlanta, like, really being able to discover my roots. Their food was, like, amazing. I gained, like, 35 pounds —Eleni: Worth it!Raquel: Because I was eating mac and cheese, all the yumminess, fried chicken. But definitely felt more in touch with my dad's side through food, and have memories. Every now and then, I would go to one of his family members' house for Thanksgiving and like smelling the collard greens. So, like, even to this day, the smell of collard greens reminds me of his side. So really identifying who I am through food. There's a, such a push on my part, I feel like, to be able to expose people to what Puerto Rican food is, which is a mixture between the African slaves that they brought over, the Spanish, and then the Natives, they're called Taíno Indians. So it's more African-forward than what a Mexican dish would be.Eleni: That's amazing.Raquel: Yeah.Eleni: So, given that you love the cooking aspects but not so much the customer-client side, do you think that you'll stay in catering? Or are you thinking about other ways to incorporate cooking into your life or another business?Raquel: We're thinking about it. It's not as easy as it was pre-pandemic. I think that the food costs are astronomical. The same brisket that cost me, like, $36 before the pandemic now cost me $100. So, the increase in food prices and people just not understanding. And they're, like, "Well, this is too expensive." And I'm like, "I can't make any money to be able to pay a storefront."And you know, it's not that I don't like the client. It's more that the confrontation or the idea of confrontation and having to work my way through it, which I'm actually really good at, even though inside I'm, like, screaming, it's the anticipation and the anxiety of having to deal with people. Because they're spending a lot of money and it's warranted, but I don't want to deal with it. So I think me and my husband were talking more about possibly going more toward the TV food side.Eleni: That's interesting.Raquel: Yeah. So we'll see.Eleni: Well, earlier in the conversation, you said that while you struggled at school, you were able to have cooking as something that you were able to focus on and really enjoy. You mentioned struggle with math but it doesn't really come up in terms of recipes and things. Are there any struggles that come up that are related to your differences at work?Raquel: With cooking? Oh yeah. The organization part of it. You're supposed to be super neat. And my brain was just firing. It's firing, and I want to do like a million things at once, so then I look around and, like, the kitchen's on the floor. So, like, I've hired people specifically to clean up after me because you know, my brain’s just like, ah, like, “I can't, I can't do it.” I tried. I've done well sometimes, but it's not fun. That's a bit of a struggle, the organization part of it. You know, sometimes, you know, the ability for me to organize my thoughts definitely comes through on the cooking side.Eleni: Yeah. How do you think that relates to your differences, or do you think it relates to your differences?Raquel: Oh, I totally think it does. I think now, you know, at 40 years old, I know myself, so it doesn't bother me. It used to bother me. My saying was "I get on my own nerves." But now I know to step back. And I also think that it's really important, if you have a learning disability or not, owning a business, to surround yourself with people that balance you out, that can take up for your weakness. So, I tell people, "I don't need a five-star chef. I just need somebody that's organized, that can clean, that doesn't mind doing dishes, all that stuff." I've been able to kind of balance myself out with my staff. And I tell them the organization on my end is shot, and I'll have to sit there with a pen and paper because even the phone gets annoying. And I write everything down so that I can see my list of things, because if I leave it up to my brain, it's going to jumble it all up and mess it up. But again, you know, I also think that being learning disabled, when you immerse yourself in a day-to-day activity that causes you to have those issues and figure it out, the more it happens, the less it bothers you, the less anxiety there is behind it. Because you know that you fixed it before, and you fix it every time, so this time shouldn't be any different.Eleni: And, you know, you've mentioned being a mother and having four kids. Are there any challenges that come up related to learning differences when you're parenting?Raquel: Sometimes my patience. That's why I had to hire a tutor for my second and third grader, because I couldn't do it. And then my oldest daughter, who's 9, just got diagnosed with dyslexia.Eleni: Oh, wow.Raquel: So we have her in a special program to get her caught up. And I do think that me having it and letting her know — I'm being very vocal about it. I can't stress enough, especially being in the Black and Latino community, how that was seen as, like, a handicap. And it's not.The main thing as a parent with a child that has a learning disability is to make sure that you figure out what they were put here for. Hone in on it and run with it because it's about building that confidence as a kid.My daughter, she's super into science and drawing and art. She wants to be an animal scientist. So stuff like that, just really trying to make sure they're doing something on a daily basis that makes them feel good about themselves. And I feel like it counteracts the other stuff.Eleni: And you mentioned in the Black and Latinx community, there are some perceptions of differences being handicaps, I think is the word that you used. Do you want to talk a little bit more about what your view is on that? How stigma comes up, and how you have handled that within your own community or family?Raquel: I think it's just kind of embedded in who we are, because we're coming from generations where there was no exposure to this. People didn't know; you were just special. You know what I mean? So now that they're able to actually break it down and specifically tell you, it's kind of lightening the load. But I think that again, within the Black and Latino community, because there's so much more exposure to this stuff, I do feel like it's getting better. But it takes people to talk about it to see that you can still be super successful and be OK.Eleni: That's great. Do you have any advice for people that are thinking about starting a business that perhaps was previously a hobby or a passion, especially if they have some sort of learning difference?Raquel: You know, I think that if you have someone — I got lucky enough, my husband is in marketing. So I guess I did it with my marriage too. So I kind of filled in where I lacked. And just really making sure that you have someone that backs you that maybe knows more about business than you do, if you don't know anything about it, and to do it. Because if you don't try, you already failed. You know what I mean? Like, the worst that happens is you fall on your behind and you're still better off. You're more experienced than had you not tried at all. I have my days here with four kids and I want to pull my hair out, and I get in my car and I go to my kitchen and I blast my music and I mind my business, and it's the best feeling ever. I really appreciate it, because I know that a lot of chefs don't get to experience that. And I always used to say growing up, that, when I died, I would go to Heaven and be in the kitchen by myself with music playing.Eleni: And you can do it while you're alive.Raquel: And I didn't have to die to do it!Eleni: Thanks so much for being on the show, Raquel. It was so great having you.Raquel: Thank you so much for having me.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?!" was created by Andrew Lee and is produced by Gretchen Vierstra 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.

  • Could anxiety in girls actually be ADHD?

    Q. My daughter was recently diagnosed with anxiety. But I wonder if it’s a sign of ADHD. Should I look into an ADHD evaluation to be sure?A. This is a great question, and I appreciate that you’re digging deeper and looking to advocate for your daughter. I encourage parents to trust their instincts. As a parent, you’re the first and best expert on your child. If you have questions, further evaluation for your daughter is completely reasonable. Especially since she’s been diagnosed with anxiety. Here’s why.ADHD in girls: Overlooked and misunderstoodADHD has long been overlooked and misunderstood in girls. While awareness is growing, girls are still diagnosed only half as often as boys. There are a few reasons for this.First, if you ask someone to close their eyes and picture a child with ADHD, one image will likely come to mind. It’s a boy running, jumping, or climbing, as if he’s driven by a motor. Many people don’t realize that ADHD can exist without any hyperactivity. This is the “inattentive” type of ADHD that’s more common in girls. Kids with this type aren’t hyperactive. But they still have other symptoms of ADHD — like being disorganized, losing things, and forgetting information.While these symptoms are challenging and stressful, they aren’t all that disruptive in school or similar settings. So girls with ADHD often fly under the radar. Teachers and other adults may describe them as “a daydreamer” or “sweet and smart but scattered.”Girls are expected to be well behaved, polite, organized, and cooperative. And kids pick up on the expectations we have for them. That’s why girls develop strategies to keep ADHD-related challenges hidden. For example, they might nod along when someone is speaking, even if they’re having trouble paying attention. Covering up might help in the moment. But it makes their struggles even more invisible.The anxiety-ADHD connection in girlsWhat does this have to do with anxiety? Girls with ADHD are often diagnosed with a mood disorder like anxiety before they’re identified as having ADHD. These two conditions frequently co-occur. So it’s not unusual for girls to be diagnosed with both.  There are also cases of mistaken identity. Girls may be diagnosed with anxiety but not ADHD, even though they have it. That’s because there’s some overlap in the signs and symptoms of anxiety and ADHD, signs like: Trouble concentratingTrouble sleepingFeeling restlessOne trend we see now is many women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s getting diagnosed with ADHD for the first time. These women often speak about having been misdiagnosed and overlooked for years. They wish they’d had an advocate who had just dug a little deeper or had asked a few more questions. Knowing they had ADHD would have allowed them to better understand and work with their unique brain wiring.I can’t tell you if your daughter has ADHD. And certainly, having an anxiety diagnosis doesn’t mean she does. But I can tell you that advocating for your daughter, asking more questions, and getting further evaluation will help you understand and address all of her needs.Hear personal stories from women with ADHD on the ADHD Aha! podcast, including this episode about ADHD, anxiety, and perfectionism. You can also learn more about: Signs of ADHD at different agesThe connection between ADHD and anxietyWhat goes into an ADHD evaluation

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    Dyslexia is why this production manager is so good

    Dyslexia helped him find his strengths — like thinking ahead. Frank Imperiale explains why he excels as a production manager for live events and concerts.As a child with dyslexia, Frank Imperiale always had to think 10 steps ahead to account for his reading challenges and anxiety. Today, thinking ahead is a skill that’s served him well in his career as a production manager for live events. His impressive list of credits includes the NYC Marathon, comedy shows, concerts, and more. Get Frank’s advice on how to turn your learning and thinking differences into strengths. And hear what Whoopi Goldberg, who also has dyslexia, once shared with Frank backstage. Listen in. Then:Watch a video about a jeweler with dyslexia who found his strengths.Check out Whoopi Goldberg and a dozen other Oscar winners with dyslexia.Episode transcriptAnnouncer: On the Understood Podcast Network, there's a podcast for everyone. Find your new favorite today at 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.Frank Imperiale is a production manager for live events. His credits include the New York City Marathon, comedy shows, political debates, and concerts with stars like Whoopi Goldberg and T-Pain. He's an expert in audio-visual technology, and he has dyslexia. Welcome to the show, Frank. Frank: Thanks for having me. Eleni: So as part of your work on live events, you're an expert in audio and sound. So was sound always your thing, or do you have a story of what you were into as a kid and where it all began? Frank: Yeah, it's kind of funny. I was the little toddler running around the theater because your teacher didn't have a babysitter. My dad, he used to do kind of high school dramas and that situation. And I was just always around theater sound and lighting, and it was something to keep me busy. And instead of me just sitting there or playing games, I was like, how does that work? And that's how my mind kind of works a lot, is I just want to know how things work and why. So I started getting involved with it and I stuck with it.Eleni: So Frank, I would love for you to describe how dyslexia shows up for you. Frank: My version of dyslexia is I definitely have issues with sounding out names. Words and spelling are just not my forte at all. And then a big problem is when I read, I just get line convergence. So I can read the same line five times and not realize it until I'm like, wait, did I read this? And it happens constantly. And still to this day it does. And you know, I learned tricks. I put a piece of paper under it to try to keep me on track. And it works, but it's still there. And it's never going away. It's just, I know how to deal with it now. Eleni: When I heard that you are an audio and sound person or that you've gravitated towards audio, that kind of made sense to me because I often imagine if you have dyslexia, perhaps like reading might be a challenge, so you might lean into other things. But I was wondering if that is a fair assumption to kind of think, oh yeah, like having dyslexia means that you're more into audio. Like, is that actually true for you? Frank: I don't think so. I mean, audio? Yes, it does help. Yes. I've listened to a million books on tape. Podcasts are the same for me. Like, I'll get a lot of information from that versus reading from a book. For me, when I have to read, it's usually manuals or instructions, that kind of thing, or something that I'm really interested in. But when I was in school reading, no, no, thank you. I'm good. Cliff Notes, please. Cliff Notes helped me so much. And most of it was, I would try to find audiobook versions of everything and listen to it. So maybe subconsciously it was built in for audio. But I think it's more of just the adventure of it. I don't think I can ever do like a nine-to-five office job. It's just something that I'm not built for. Eleni: Yeah. So as you said, it's more interesting because you don't really know what's going to come up day-to-day. What do you think it is about audio that makes a good fit for you?Frank: When I was a little kid, it came easy to me. I was very good with technology, and I have that kind of brain for technology. So it fit and then it was something I did and I enjoyed. And then I moved on farther. And then in high school they found out, oh, actually this kid knows what he's doing, so great. We'll give him even more. And then when I went to college, I was like, I'm not going to go to school for theater because I know what I need to know. So I said, let me dabble in television. And I went for broadcasting, and TV added to my toolbox we would say in the communications world. It just kept adding to that toolbox of what I know, but I kind of fell back into that live event.And maybe it's the adrenaline, maybe it's the crowd that there's kind of this feeling that you get from an audience. I kind of noticed a lot, even as a technician, it's not just being on stage, but you can just feel it from them. And it was missing in television and things like that. Eleni: What I'm hearing is that it's more about the environment and the setting and like the thrill of live events, as opposed to like day-to-day tasks that you do around audio and visual.Frank: Yeah. I think it's just like, there's an end product. There's something you can see, and every time it's different, but you're doing the same thing. You're moving levers, you're tweaking knobs, you're adjusting volume. That kind of thing. To me, that's the boring part. The fun part in the stuff that I do is it's organizing and managing and making sure that we complete our goals and get across the line. So that way we can have that performance. Eleni: I want to talk a little bit about like how dyslexia shows up for you at work. Have any challenges come up in the work that you do, or is it more so that you've found a role where you're not really impacted day to day by the challenges associated with dyslexia.Frank: I don't know. I feel like now I've grown to be able to compensate in a lot of areas. Like there's still the sending of the emails and reading it like five times and reading it out loud. And is this the right word and googling that to make sure that it's perfect and right, because I'm always thinking that it's going to be wrong. So that's a big problem. But otherwise I feel like because I have dyslexia and because I've figured out ways to compensate, maybe, it's those skills that I bring to the table that a lot of other people can't: the multitasking and the thinking, the thinking way ahead to avoid potential problems. It just happens now.Eleni: What is it about dyslexia that makes you good at thinking ahead? Frank: It came from when I was in school. I had a whole bunch of anxiety. I mean, sick every day before I go to school, because I didn't know what was going to happen. And the big thing was trying to control that feeling and making sure that I could figure out what was going to happen and anticipating that. So I think, OK, well, what are we doing in class? What could happen? Is there a potential chance for like a pop quiz? Well, what would be on that quiz? How can I study for that? And all that would process for every class. And then depending on how the day was going, it would change. And I would just think constantly about what's going to happen next in English class when you're sitting in class and we have to all read in class. Dreadful, dreadful experience. And I would be constantly monitoring and calculating. All right, well, this person's reading this paragraph. There's five people in front of me and then you count down and then of course you have the one kid that decides they want to read too. And then all of a sudden that changes and you have to reevaluate. And then it would be like, OK, one, can I say, "Hey, I got to go to the bathroom." So they skip over me. That's another opportunity to do that. So it was always that process of calculating. And I think it's more now that I do it and I don't even realize I do it.Eleni: Where you're anticipating?Frank: That I just anticipate all the problems, even like the smallest thing possible. And it's the same thing. Like people laugh at me when I'm at work, because I always say, oh, hang on, I got it in my car. And they're like, why do you have all this stuff in your car? Like, why do you have extra tools and all of this and timeline and whatever it is. And I got it in my car because I don't want to be unprepared and I don't want to be stopped.Eleni: You said that you always had to feel really prepared when you went to school. It sounds like there was a little bit of anxiety that showed up. In what ways did that anxiety show up for you day to day? Frank: School was horrible until probably about my junior year. But before that, I would literally throw up every morning to the point where I would even make sure that I had something in case I was on the bus and I got sick. It wasn't carsick. It was purely anxiety because I didn't know what was going to happen that day. Eleni: Wow. That's so intense. Frank: It was. And it sometimes comes up now, too, surprisingly, that it's still at work. Sometimes I'll get that same feeling. Eleni: It's really interesting to hear how two things that maybe you wouldn't necessarily associate as being related — I wouldn't necessarily think, oh, because you have dyslexia you're really good at thinking ahead and planning. But I can see now, like after you've explained it, how those two things can relate to each other. Frank: Yeah, it was the only way that I figured out how to survive. And that was a big thing. My mom was really a big fan of figuring out what works for you. Yes, it's a learning difference and it's true: I learn differently. So I needed to figure out the way that I was going to fit in to what I was given. And the anticipation was the only way I could figure it out. Eleni: I've heard a lot through interviews I've done with people. it actually becomes easier when you focus your energy on your strengths and maybe the things that you can change as opposed to either dwelling on challenges or like things that can't change, or like maybe accepting that there are certain things where you can't fit into that box. And that's actually OK. Frank: Oh, absolutely. My motto is "I'm not doing brain surgery." And that is what I tell everyone. I mean, I deal with clients and they think that it's the end of the world if something doesn't happen or if a cue's late or something like that. And I literally say one, no one's probably going to know. Because they don't know the show or they don't know the performance. And two, it's OK. You can't sweat the small stuff. You can't dwell on the past. And I think that's part of my anticipation. I can't dwell on the past because I got to keep going. Like, I don't have time to complain about, oh, we should have, or we could have. There's just no time for it. You've got to keep going and keep moving forward. Eleni: It's interesting that you bring up the audience won't necessarily be able to pick up on if there's a mistake a lot of the time. I often will attend concerts and events and you know, I'll be blown away by the light effects, especially if it's coordinated with sound. I'm like, how do they do that? Can you give us like a peek into how the magic happens? Frank: Honestly, how it works a lot of the times is it's just, you do the same show over and over. I ran what a lot of people term as a roadhouse. What would happen is about seven in the morning or so two tractor trailers would probably back in, and we would unload them and basically set up their sound, their lighting, their set, whatever they had for the performance. Most of the time that would bring us all the way to lunch. And we'd come back. We'd focus some lights and keep moving forward. And then we get to the showtime. And half the crew, all of my staff, which could have been anywhere from 10 to 50 people, had never seen the show, didn't know what was going on. And so they have a stage manager. And the stage manager says, OK, do that. And then we just listen to them and we're almost in a sense trained professionals that we know our operation and what we have to do. And there's some lead person that gives them the command. Now, sometimes that fails miserably and sometimes it doesn't. I can't tell you how many times you just have to fly by the seat of your pants.Eleni: Do you have any crazy stories you can share of things that have gone wrong?Frank: One of the funniest times was we were trying to load out a show because once the show is done, we then take everything and pack it back up and put it on the trucks. And they leave that night. So we had one show that someone had snuck around the truck and parked in the loading dock and it's on a college campus. So they just went to go party or wherever they want. And we couldn't get the stuff on the truck. So we finally devised like a ramp and we wheeled everything on this 53-foot tractor trailer over this little tiny ramp over this car. Got it all out. And then at the end of the night, we aired out all of its tires so that way it would be stuck there for the weekend. We had to get that truck packed. It had to be, I don't know, in Connecticut the next day. But it's like, yeah, it really got under our skin. So we're going to get a little bit back on them. And then, I mean, there's been simple things, like all of a sudden, company I worked for, their truck driver got injured and they need someone to drive their truck. And next thing you know, I'm a truck driver for the day. And I think that's why I do like the line of work I'm in. Because one day I'm a sound guy. One day I'm lighting guy, one day I do video. And the other day I'm a truck driver. Eleni: Well, it sounds like you wear many hats. But you're also in a managerial role at these live events, right?Frank: I mean, the management role is a little different and weird because I'm not a manager that is very hands off. I'm always like, no, I'm part of the team, I'm going to help you where I can. And when I have to step away, I have to step away because I have to do something. But yet also I'm not your typical manager again, because I just can't do one thing. And I'm also a big fan of teaching. So if I see someone doing the wrong thing, I'm not going to say no, you're doing the wrong thing. This is how I want you to do it. I explain to them why. And a lot of people start learning my process of my mind. They understand. They're like, well, why does it matter that we run the cable this way or that way? It's still getting point A to point B. Like, yes, but when you're loading out, it's going to be much easier if it goes this way, if it goes around this one piece that I know is going to be a problem. And they're like, why are you thinking about the load-out? And I was like, you always think about the load-out, because you want to get home. You want to get out of there. So again, it comes into that mind of anticipation and already solving those problems before anyone thinks of it. Eleni: Yeah. I see how that's related. So, I was told you see a lot of celebrities backstage and you once met Whoopi Goldberg, who also has dyslexia. Can you tell us that story?Frank: Whoopi was awesome. I mean, Whoopi literally, when we sat down, she came up to the stage and we were sitting and we were like, oh, you probably have about 15 minutes before we start. And she sat down and she just started talking to me and like, what are you doing in life? What are you this, what did that? And to the point where I was like, you have to go on stage now and she's like, they can wait. And we just continued to have a conversation. And it was, it was great. I was like, really? This is happening right now? Eleni: Earlier, you mentioned that you do think differently. And then now you just talked about how it's also important for you to kind of communicate how you're thinking or why you're thinking that particular way and for other people to understand that. Do you think that you have like a desire to be understood and for your thinking to be understood because it's different?Frank: I think so. I think that's a big thing. Like even the last gig I just finished was working the New York City Marathon. And we only do a small sliver of it, but that small sliver is still covering sound for 200 acres for all 30,000 people that came this year. But even that I was bouncing around doing 50 things, four sets of communication. I had two different radios, two cell phones, and everything was going off at the same time, but yet I was still also loading a truck. And people constantly ask me, I don't know how you do it. And I said, I really don't either, but I do it.But then I do try to convey a lot of why I do things and how I do them. And I want people to understand, like, I'm not like an advocate or like, oh yeah, I'm special and I'm different. No. But it does keep rearing its head that yeah, I'm dyslexic. And you know what? That's why I'm doing what I do. Eleni: Do people at work or colleagues and peers, do they know?Frank: Oh yeah, absolutely.Eleni: Do you talk about it in that way? Like, yeah, I think that that's because I'm dyslexic.Frank: It comes up. Like in conversation, I don't shy away from it. Why should I? It's nothing to be ashamed of. Even when I was a kid, like I remember when my mom wanted me to get tested. And I was kind of like, I don't want to be the dumb kid. Oh, you're the kid in special ed. You're going to resource. But that changed when I was like in high school, because no one thought of me as the dumb kid. And they're like, wait, you have resource? And then I would try to be an advocate in that case and explain it. And I think that's where I learned, don't be ashamed that you're dyslexic. It is who you are. You can research and you can find out so many like CEOs and amazing people have dyslexia. And I think it's because they're wired that way and that's why they're successful. And that's why they have that kind of drive because they've always had to do it to survive. Eleni: Yeah, there's like a little bit of a correlation there between dyslexia and entrepreneurship. Frank: And what's funny is I have no interest in running my own business. I mean, I've done it. I've been there, done it, but no thank you. I'm good. For me, that's too much. Eleni: You mentioned that when you were a kid, people would ask you why you were going to resource. And you know, you didn't really feel any shame around telling them why. Where do you think you learned that? Because it's not an easy thing. It's something that I hear people struggle with a lot, especially when they're younger. Frank: I think that ultimately came from my mom, because my mom was a big supporter. And she said, use your resources, use that as you need. Do want to look up that or study more. That's just time for you to figure out what you need.And I think that's a lot to do with why I am the way I am today, was during our, you know, IEP meetings and anything that was dealing with us, my mom made sure that we were at them. I was one of very few kids in my circle that I knew that actually went to their IEP meeting. Everyone else, they were like, the parents kind of hopefully went but barely. And my mom said, no, this is your educational program. Like, this is your educational plan. You should be involved, and you should know what's going on and help them make the proper decisions.And even now, like, I'll take on a job that I'm like, oh, can I do this? I don't know. And I'll just talk myself up. Yes, Frank, you can do it. It's the same concept that you've been doing. It's the same elements. And I'll talk to myself about it. And I'll just convince myself that even if you don't think you can do it, try.Eleni: How does that apply to work now, like, are you having those conversations? Is there anything that you ask for in a work setting?Frank: Not really — accommodations I don't ask for. It's more of, at this point with work, I think it's partly again, because I enjoy what I do and I took that driver's seat. So I'm in a position. I don't think I could work an office job, partly probably because for me it seems very — the same job over and over every day, that kind of thing.But it's also a lot of writing and reading if you're thinking about data processing and typing and things like that. I mean, now that I'm talking to you literally right now, I'm like, huh, maybe I haven't had an office job because of dyslexia. And I've just said, I'm staying away from it. Eleni: And again, it's about leaning into your strengths and being aware of that. And it's OK. An office setting isn't for everyone.Frank: Absolutely. I learned at a young age that I definitely have a mind for technology, and I understand how things work. And it definitely was a natural progression that I was going to go into some type of production or technical stuff, because it's just how my mind works.And now with the management stuff, I know the terms, I know what the devices do. And then I just now am understanding more and more the best way to get the players to fit. And the other thing is, I keep learning. I joke about it, but I don't stay with just one company in one job. I'll stay with my main company, but I'll always do some side jobs here and there, because I'm always wanting to learn new techniques, new ways to do things, new ways to understand what might make and what I could apply to make what I do better.Eleni: Yeah. And also it's so important to be able to reapply knowledge in like different settings. And I think that relates back to what we were talking about in terms of reapplying what you learn in school in like a work setting.Frank: Oh yeah. And pivoting. I mean, life's such a fun journey. and it's like kind of one of those things, like, you never know what you're going to get. And it's totally true. Know what you know, and try to apply it. Pivot all the time. Just constantly. Every job I've had has been some random connection. I mean, even this interview, I met one of your producers in a different way, and that's how we're connected. And we're having this conversation. You never know where anything's going to lead.Just be a happy human. Talk to people, enjoy life, and enjoy what you're doing. And if you're not, then go find something that you do enjoy. Because there's gotta be a job for whatever it is. Eleni: Thank you so much for sharing your story. Frank: Oh, thank you. It was a pleasure.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.

  • Download: Anxiety log to find out why your child gets anxious

    An anxiety log can help you spot patterns in your child’s behavior. And that can make it easier to find strategies to help your child feel less anxious. Tracking signs of anxiety in your young child or signs of anxiety in your tween or teen can also help you figure out if what you’re seeing is typical anxiety or an anxiety problem.This anxiety log, created by Understood and CHC, has three pages. Each one includes a filled-out sample. Try using them in this order:Anxiety tracker. Use the tracker to take notes on when and where your child gets anxious. Think of it as an organized diary.Anxiety pattern finder. This can help you spot trends based on what you logged in the anxiety tracker. Two to three weeks of entries may be enough to help you find patterns and start looking for ways to ease your child’s anxiety.Calming strategies worksheet. This worksheet can help you think about what works best for your child. Does your child need to be near you to calm down? Or is it better to have quiet time alone? Your child may have helpful insights, so look for a calm moment to brainstorm together. Filling it out can also help you get ready to talk with your child’s teacher or doctor, if need be.Keep in mind that all kids feel anxious from time to time. But kids who learn and think differently are more likely to have anxiety. If your child’s anxiety is interfering with everyday life, reach out to your health care provider. Together you can come up with a plan for reducing your child’s anxiety.

  • 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.

  • ADHD Aha!

    From ADHD perfectionism to empathy and grace (Livingston’s story)

    Livingston Steele was diagnosed with ADHD about a year into working at His experience and work have given him immense empathy for people with ADHD.It’s the hair twirling that always gives it away. After silently coping for years, Livingston Steele can spot the signs of ADHD, and the anxiety it can cause. He’d been working here at for about a year when he was officially diagnosed.Livingston talks about his perfectionism and what led him to get evaluated for ADHD. He also shares how ADHD helped him build empathy for his brothers (who also have ADHD), and for himself.Related resourcesADHD and perfectionismIs ADHD hereditary?ADHD and anxietyEpisode transcriptLivingston: One of the reasons why I did get diagnosed is I learned that both my brothers do have ADHD. So, once I got diagnosed, we got even closer together because I understand them a lot more. And as an older brother, I had a lot more grace towards them because I wasn't being such a perfectionist or wanting everything done and doing it my way. I also was learning how they work as well and accommodating them. 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 Livingston Steele, my colleague, my buddy, social media manager here at Hi Livingston, how are you? Livingston: Hi Laura. Thank you for having me. Laura: This is so nice to now be spending time just talking with you. Folks who are listening or watching don't know, but we've had a very busy day and Understood today. And so, now we get to just sit back and have a nice conversation. So this will be great. Livingston: Definitely, definitely. Laura: I just want to ask, because we're in this moment together, is it hard for you to focus at the end of the day? Livingston: It's hard for me to focus any part of the day. Laura: I'm sorry I'm laughing! What a great answer. Livingston: Yeah, me particularly, I get a lot of my energy later in the day. So, sometimes I'll get a burst of energy to focus or to work at like four. Whereas, you know, that's probably the wrap of the day. So, sometimes I would have to like, stay until like six or so, not because I'm prone to overdo work, but that is when like, sometimes my biggest focus-time is between like two and four. Laura: Wow! So, this is perfect timing for you. I'm so mesmerized by that because, listeners watchers, we are recording this at 3:25 p.m. at this moment, which is why I'm feeling drained because that's usually my "I'm out of here" kind of moment. Like I'm just overwhelmed from the day. So, I'm always interested to know when people's like, sweet spots for focus are. I'm glad we're in yours. I'm going to do my best to be here and present with you. Livingston, you were diagnosed recently. After you started working here, right? Livingston: Yes. So, I got diagnosed after a year of being here. So I got diagnosed in May of 2022. Laura: Did working here have anything to do with your getting diagnosed? Livingston: It was one of the main reasons why I decided to get diagnosed. Before working here, I had very little understanding of ADHD or learning and thinking differences and how it affects different types of people. So, as I was working here at Understood and social media — and there's so much we have to learn to be able to run those channels — I started to learn a lot of things I was resonating with. A lot of symptoms, a lot of challenges. And once I got diagnosed, there was like an ease, because now I realize that I was always trying to make myself work harder or always pushing myself to do more than others. And I realized there was a challenge that I never really prepared for. Laura: What were some of the things that you were noticing — and for instance, our content from working at Understood — what specific ADHD challenges spoke to you?Livingston: So, one of the ones that really stuck out to me coincidentally had to do with you, when you talked about your story and talking about ADHD and perfectionism.Laura: Oh my God! I'm going to cry. I actually didn't know that. I know we pre-interviewed, but I didn't realize that. Oh, wow. OK, keep going. Livingston: So, reading your story and realizing that you were a student that had straight A's and did very well in school and no one would see any type of challenges that you may have. I resonated with that, because I was a decent kid in school when it came to working. But a lot of people didn't see the extra work that I was putting in to even and just be able to — I wouldn't say compete — but compete. Being able to be considered a good student or having straight A's. What it was for one student was completely different from me. You just didn't see the extra work or the extra time or me getting up a couple of hours early to do certain things to be able to be on that same level. Laura: So, you remember that looking back growing up, that you would use those kinds of like strategies to cope and to compensate and like working extra long hours. Do you do that at work as well? Livingston: Yeah, I did that at work. I did at any time I was doing any type of task. You know, something that I realized led to a lot of burnout quickly. And I just was always a burnt-out person and not realizing that, "Oh, I'm not always working hard." It was because of like, the way I was working and the steps that I wasn't taking to make it easier for myself due to my diagnosis. Laura: I have to tell you Livingston, having worked with you, you don't seem like a burnt-out person. And that doesn't mean, I'm not trying to invalidate how you feel and what your experience is. But you seem so high energy and always on it, and sharp and focused all the time. Which is why, you know, I actually didn't know that you had ADHD until very recently. Do you feel like you're masking that? What's going on there? Livingston: Absolutely. I didn't even understand the term of masking until coming here and then seeing it within myself. Seeing it with other colleagues that have ADHD and now being able to acknowledge it in other people. Yeah, I was masking the majority of my life where everything looked great on the outside, but inside I was struggling. And I think that ties back to perfectionism. Like, making sure that no one can see an issue or a flaw within yourself. But a step further, having a diagnosis or having ADHD, you don't want to be considered less than others. Laura: Do you share openly here at Understood about your ADHD? Or is this relatively new, having this conversation, say, with me or with others? Livingston: I thought I did. I thought I did openly kind of explain to other people, particularly that I'm in a lot of the TikToks and Instagram posts that has to talk about ADHD. Laura: As a plug for our TikTok channel. Everybody check it out. Livingston: Definitely follow our TikTok and Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, everything. Yeah, we want to make it more authentic. So, a lot of us who are in those TikTok and Instagram do have a learning and thinking difference that we can relate to. Laura: Yeah, I mean, I knew that. I just, I know the last time that we chatted, you've talked about being afraid of oversharing, so it wasn't necessarily about disclosing, but was that related to something else? Livingston: Like everyone else, I can remember a time where I've probably overshared or shouldn't have given that much information. Whether it's in a friend's setting, whether it's at work, whether in any aspect. And you don't want to get on anybody's nerves, you don't want to rub anybody the wrong way or think about how people may look at you. So, it all ties back to masking your diagnosis, masking your symptoms. Laura: How do you cope — or what happens if you were, say, at a gathering or in a work setting and you feel like you overshared — what happens after that? Livingston: So, what you won't be able to see on the outside is the amount of anxiety that's riddling me on the inside. And that even sometimes, I don't even have to speak to have that said anxiety. But like, oversharing or if I feel like I'm oversharing may lead to even more anxiety, which causes social anxiety, which causes me to kind of shut down. Laura: I think that our perception as people with ADHD is that we're always oversharing. And I bet that like 95% of the time it might not even be the case. I think the anxiety that comes with it is just so suffocating. The ruminating the lane in bed, can't fall asleep, like, replaying all of the conversations in your head. Livingston: And also giving more of yourself that you're afraid to show. Laura: Yeah. Can you say more about that? I want to dig into why. Livingston: That may be either a personal thing or something I've just realized with people in general. I'm not sure if it's only ADHD that's connecting too. But like the anxiety of being able to show yourself authentically or full of yourself the things that you're interested in, things that you may be thinking of, or your thoughts. You may have thoughts at work that, "Oh, this could improve this, but if I overshare and the boss doesn't like it, or doesn't care or dismisses me." Not necessarily my particular thoughts, but just in general, that's more so where that can potentially be tied to. Laura: So, in the spirit of authenticity, I'm actually going to say right now that like, I get that feeling of looking back and worrying and feeling anxious about what I did or didn't do, not just with oversharing, but with almost everything that I do that I feel could be ADHD-related. In this very moment, Livingston, I'm worried that I'm not focusing well enough. That I'm just like I mentioned earlier in the call, that it's towards the end of the day. Am I doing this conversation justice? Right? Like, am I as present as I need to be? And I know that I'm going to go home and think about that over and over again. And I'm going to try not to, because I'm going to remember this conversation and remember that we don't need to use our precious energy for that. But it's hard, you know, because when you're conscious of it... Livingston: It makes it a little bit hard, and that's why when you get diagnosed — not saying it makes it harder — it's like once you acknowledge it, you're like, "Why do I keep doing this?" Which makes you also realize this is an ongoing thing. There's no cure for ADHD, but the acknowledgment helps us to be able to cope better and give ourselves grace and give other people grace, with ADHD. You may not have it, but understanding this aspect of things. If somebody with ADHD is twirling their hair silently, you would know not to push them too much because they may be in a cycle of getting through their anxiety or trying to get through their thoughts or overthinking and trying to narrow certain things down. Laura: Do you do that, do you twirl your hair?Livingston: I do. I definitely twirl mine. When my hair was out, I twirled my hair when I'm either anxious or overthinking. Laura: So, do you wish that you had been diagnosed earlier? Livingston: If I was diagnosed earlier, I would have been more aware of my symptoms, how they affect me and like, how I could move through life not masking my symptoms, but understanding my symptoms and understanding myself better. I don't know. That's a good question because, I would say, when I was growing up, there were resources for ADHD, but not as it is today. One of the reasons why I did get diagnosed is I learned that both my brothers do have ADHD. They both were diagnosed with ADHD at a younger age. And I also learned that having ADHD can also be hereditary. So, I noticed a lot of symptoms that we had and shared, but that they were diagnosed and my youngest brother was getting a lot more like, help in the sense of how to cope with his challenges and how to move in everyday life, whereas I wasn't diagnosed at all. So, I was just doing regular coping methods which weren't working for me. So, once I got diagnosed, we got even closer together because I understand them a lot more. And as an older brother, I had a lot more grace towards them because I wasn't being such a perfectionist or wanting everything done and doing it my way. I also was learning how they work as well, and accommodating them. Laura: Why do you think that they were diagnosed with ADHD as kids and you weren't? Livingston: I was doing well in school. I was getting straight A's. I was playing sports. I was doing a lot of different things in middle school into high school. But when I look back at it, I was spending a lot of time doing my work, that people did not see. And I just thought it was just me as a person, I just took too long or I liked to wait until the last minute. But that wasn't it. It was, it took me a while to be able to structure certain things out and then finish it. Laura: Were your brothers' symptoms, were they the more, I guess more noticeable type symptoms like hyperactivity?Livingston: So, one of my brothers had more of a hyperactivity, so his was more noticeable. And then my younger brother was more inattentive like mine. It was more so his anxiety that gave it away. So then, I didn't show my anxiety. It was more inward. So, he was more vocal about it than I was. I just thought, you know, "I'll get over it." He was more vocal about having anxiety as a kid and seeking help, which is why he got help. And I just thought nothing was wrong with me. I just needed to buckle down and just make things happen. Laura: I think that's just so interesting. Three brothers, all with ADHD, that presents differently. Livingston: It's an interesting household. I would say after I got diagnosed, there was just a lot more sympathy to both of my brothers and vice versa, because we realized now that we understand, like our different types of symptoms, how we can help each other. And how you can also be there for each other, because having that type of support is very beneficial. Laura: You've mentioned your mom in the pre-interview. What's her take on all of this? Livingston: I mean, she doesn't really like, dwell on it. I told her I got diagnosed and she was like, "Oh, right that's good for you." I mean, in her eyes it's like, "Well, you're of age. You've been doing well for yourself so if that helps you do better, great." Laura: Yeah, good for you. She's like, "I've paid my dues as a mom. Deal with it on your own." Livingston: But she was very supportive. She'd been supportive of us in that aspect. Talk about symptoms and how it affects us differently. So, it helps her understand more because I don't believe she has ADHD, so it helps her to be able to see that. And we talk about it more and more only because she works in a field where she has to work with people. So, as she's working with them, she's learning like, "Oh, this person could have a learning and thinking difference. So, I should be more aware or be more accommodating, because they may not be intentionally not listening or intentionally not focusing or intentionally not getting certain things done. There may be another layer to it." Laura: What I hear you say in there is, I'm hearing you passing on the beautiful empathy that I always see in you, to your mom. So, when you got diagnosed, what was the first feeling that you had? Livingston: I was relieved. I was really relieved, because I always thought something was particularly just wrong with me as a person. Because whether it was either social or academic or professional, there was always little symptoms that like, caused challenges for me. And I always just thought that I just had to work through them. But then once I was diagnosed, I realized like, "Oh, OK. So, everything I know — for being at Understood like — oh, this all makes sense now. OK, this makes sense even with my brother, this makes sense with everything."So, I need to really give myself grace and create just coping strategies. And those coping strategies are not going to come all within the next couple of days, next couple months. This is an ongoing thing for myself as I learn more and more about what triggers me, which challenges me, and how to get better. So, like being able to give myself grace. But then it taught me to be able to give others grace as well. Because I mean, I know I have, I'm diagnosed. I know my brothers are, but we don't know the rest of the world. I can't just see it on you. It's not like you can see that someone's diagnosed, but you can start to relate to the symptoms. You can have empathy and understanding on how someone can, as they look confident and they move confident, can be suffering behind closed doors, so giving them that type of grace. And then someone who's suffering in front of you, you can still give them that said type of grace and being able to help them, because they may have a different aspect of ADHD than me. You may know that better than they do because they have no experience or doesn't have the environment that fosters for them to understand challenges specific towards ADHD. Laura: The way you're talking about it tells me that this is coming from an actual experience that you've had with at least one other person, where you were noticing something that maybe they didn't even notice in themselves. Is that true? Livingston: Definitely, yeah. From learning about different specific challenges, like, we were just talking about the twirling of the hair. I mean, everyone twirls their hair, but you can see it specifically in someone that has ADHD. Now for me, because it's similar to me, and I've learned that when I see that, like don't be so hard on them when they're about to present or they're presenting. You know, make it easier for them and then, give them words of encouragement. I don't have to acknowledge it like, "I know you have ADHD," but that type of energy is something that I would have needed if I was that said person. Laura: If I weren't the host of this show, right? And if I weren't open about my diagnosis, do you think that you would be able to tell that I have ADHD? Livingston: Absolutely. Laura: Tell me why! I want to know. This is — I'm getting a little bit narcissistic at this moment, I'm sorry — but just tell me. Livingston: I think we talked about the twirling of the hair before like, a presentation or before you have to speak, you...Laura: What are you talking about? I don't know what you mean.Livingston: That was one of the main things I would see. Our conversations — you're similar to us sometimes, you would just go off track — but we're still talking and having a good time. And I realized, "Oh, so it's not just me. So, she's similar to me, that's cool. And she's running a podcast and a director. So that means, you know, it's great." Laura: You're very kind. You are a creative person, you're a content creator, you're a social media manager. If you had to title your story, what would it be? And now I'm just asking you to do my work for me. I'm sorry, but like...Livingston: That's a very good question. Would it be "ADHD and Diagnosis?" Because my diagnosis is what led to my thought processes now, when it comes to empathy and grace with those with ADHD and being able to help those with ADHD, and then help people who don't have it be able to see it. Laura: I think it's the empathy and grace part of it that is really unique to your story. I mean, the thread that I'm hearing here, the way that you've connected with your mom and she's learning from you and bringing that into her job to have empathy for people. The empathy and grace that you've given to me and to your colleagues. You seem to be a very intuitive person. Give me one more example of that. How do you want us to approach each other to achieve this empathy and grace for people with ADHD? Livingston: I would say you would have to learn more about the signs of being able to see the signs. Me, like I just said, I was able to see signs of you beginning to twirl your hair. And it's not just you, there's other people in our office that do the exact same thing with ADHD. And I see them like, "OK, so that's, you know, a common symptom." And then, as you're talking to someone that's inattentive or hyperactive, they may be quicker to be like, have an outburst or quicker to be offended because they're so emotional. And when you say something that's against them, that their emotions kind of tie in. So, they're very defensive. And learning how to break those defenses with empathy because you're able to see those things. So, I've worked with people like — even with my own brothers — I've seen different types of challenges they may have had. Or if one may get louder than the other. But like, I actually realized "I shouldn't get loud with him. I should hear where he's coming from and seeing why he's getting so loud or why he feels as though he's not being heard."And I realize I've had better conversations and been able to get to more roots of problems with one of my brothers because of that understanding. Like, I didn't understand that beforehand. I didn't even realize those differences in ADHD, like inattentive and hyperactivity, and an aspect or even being combined. So, most people just think ADHD focus. There's so many different ways it can affect a person, which if you listen and try to comprehend with the understanding of how it affects them, you can help that person accommodate themselves or help yourself accommodate that person to the best of your ability. And that's past the professional setting. That's more so, in just everyday life. Laura: That was beautiful. Thank you so much for being here today. Can you get, you want to give a plug to our social channels? Livingston: Yes. Please follow, all of our channels are Understood. Understoodorg on Instagram. Understood on Facebook. Understood everywhere on TikTok, YouTube. Definitely follow us on our journey as we are growing and expanding and showcasing everything from ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and more learning and thinking differences. Laura: Pro! That was a pro plug right there. And everybody tune into TikTok, where you can see Livingston. He is a star. I was going to say the star, but we have a lot of stars. But I don't know, I think you're the star. Yeah. Livingston: Thank you, Laura. I really appreciate you having me come on here and talking about my story. I really appreciate 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. 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. 

  • Signs of anxiety in young kids

    It’s not unusual for kids, even young ones, to sometimes feel anxious. But how do you know if anxiety is a problem for a child? It can be confusing. That’s especially true of kids who learn and think differently, who are more likely than other kids to feel anxious about school and friendship.If you’re wondering if a preschooler or grade-schooler may be struggling with anxiety or stress, here are signs you might see, according to John Piacentini, PhD, and Lindsey Bergman, PhD, experts from the UCLA Child Anxiety Resilience Education and Supports (CARES) Center.Physical signs of anxietyOften complains of headaches or stomachaches, even though there’s no medical reason for themRefuses to eat snacks or lunch at daycare or schoolWon’t use bathrooms except at homeIs restless, fidgety, hyperactive, or distracted (even without having ADHD)Starts to shake or sweat in intimidating situationsConstantly tenses musclesHas trouble falling asleep or staying asleepEmotional signs of anxietyCries a lotIs very sensitiveBecomes grouchy or angry without any clear reasonIs afraid of making even minor mistakesHas panic attacks (or is afraid of having panic attacks)Worries about things that are far in the future, like worrying about starting middle school in third gradeIs worried or afraid during drop-offs (at daycare, school, relatives’ homes, etc.)Has frequent nightmares about losing a parent or loved oneBehavioral signs of anxietyAsks “what if?” constantly (“What if an earthquake happened?”)Avoids joining in during class activities like circle timeRemains silent or preoccupied when expected to work with othersRefuses to go to schoolStays inside alone at lunch or recessAvoids social situations with other kids, like birthday parties or extracurricular activitiesConstantly seeks approval from parents and caregivers, teachers, and friendsSays “I can’t do it!” without a real reasonHas meltdowns or tantrumsHow you can helpUnderstanding what’s causing the anxiety is the first step toward helping. Take a closer look at the behavior. You can use the anxiety tracker below to take notes. See if you can pick up on patterns. Share your observations with the people who are partners in finding the best support for kids. These include parents, caregivers, teachers, and pediatricians.Learn about the difference between typical anxiety and an anxiety problem.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    Managing your emotions with ADHD: One lawyer’s story

    Dina Ragab got an ADHD diagnosis after finishing law school. Now, she’s found the right work environment as a lawyer for California high-speed rail. Dina Ragab is a lawyer with ADHD working on the California high-speed rail project. Dina has always known that she was “neurospicy,” but therapists couldn’t see past her anxiety to the ADHD underneath. It wasn’t until after law school that she was diagnosed, went on medication, and realized there were ways to manage her sometimes all-consuming emotions. Dina’s job path wasn’t always a smooth one. She went through a few positions and work environments until she found the honest, straightforward boss that she needed. In this week’s episode of How’d You Get THAT Job?!, hear Dina describe her journey through misdiagnosis — and how self-advocacy is an opportunity for co-workers to take one another’s needs into consideration.Related resourcesADHD and emotionsWhat is self-advocacy?A day in the life of an employee with ADHDEpisode transcriptEleni: Before you begin, we wanted to let you know that my guest Dina and I talked about ADHD and anxiety, as well as past suicidal ideation. It's an important part of her story and many others. If you or someone you know is struggling, you can call or text the Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 988 or visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website I hope you enjoy the episode. Dina: I had gotten glasses when I was in second grade and that was the first time in my life that I realized that trees had leaves. And putting... taking that medication for the first time in my life was when I realized that emotions had skin, that you could have emotions that stayed within the barrier of your own soul. 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. Right now, if you want to get from San Francisco to Los Angeles, you're probably going to have to sit in traffic or fly. My guest Dina Ragab is using her legal knowledge to finally help California get high-speed rail. Dina has ADHD, but she didn't get diagnosed until after law school. That information helped her figure out the best way to regulate her emotions, which wasn't always easy in the past. She found a job where she can keep it cool and also do work she's passionate about. Dina, welcome to the show. Dina: Thank you so much for having me. Eleni: Yay. So, you're currently a lawyer. Dina: I am. Eleni: Have you always wanted to be a lawyer? What attracted you to law? Dina: So, we moved to the United States when I was six, and one of the most formative recollections that I have as a child was the O.J. Simpson case. And someone told me how much Johnnie Cochran made. I think it was like something like $30 million or whatever. And I was like, "I want to make that money, like, let me do that." That made sense to me. Eleni: That seems like a lot of money. Dina: That seems like it would fix everything, you know? But yeah, I guess that's kind of the funny answer. The other answer is just kind of as a child that is, I don't want to say difficult because I wasn't a difficult child, but I was raised by two parents who read a lot, who were very much critical thinkers, and who really considered every opportunity an opportunity to, like, engage. And I think when you're raised in that kind of an environment, you're naturally curious, you naturally ask a lot of questions, and you're seen sometimes by other people as potentially combative because people don't like answering questions that they might not know the answer to, but they were supposed to know the answer to. That narrative began from when I was very young, from that like "Haha, money," but then also "You're combative, you like to argue, you like to be right, you're stubborn," naturally lent itself to "I guess you're going to be a lawyer one day." So, that's how we got here. Eleni: Well, I know that you got your first law job before you went to law school. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Dina: So, I graduated undergrad in 2009, which I don't know everyone's backgrounds, but it was not a great time to graduate in terms of the housing, economic everything collapsed. Boom. And yeah, boom. I had taken the LSAT and I had gotten a good score, but I just wasn't ready to apply to law schools. It was for me, just I needed a little bit more time. So, I actually went to Egypt where my family was, and I wanted to live with my grandmother, spend more time with her. At that time, 2009, 2010, there was a lot of refugees in Egypt because they hadn't yet closed their borders to Iraqi, Sudanese, Eritrean, Somali refugees. And the United States had processes for the UNHCR and all these other entities, the IOM, International Organization for Migration, they were doing interviews, but the migrants weren't getting that relief because there was no one that was doing the advocacy portion. So, we did that testimonial work between someone coming to tell you that they have a story and then actually presenting it to UNHCR and we'd prep all of our clients. And then because I was the only Western-educated Arabic speaker, I also became an interpreter. It was an extremely rewarding experience and I think it really helped me make the most out of law school because sovereignty, national rights, just even in human rights, changed from being this abstract notion from a fairly privileged life to, "Oh my God, like I am meeting people who don't have a nationality, they don't have a place that is allowing them to call that place home." To see that otherness, really shadowed a lot of my work in law school and then a lot of what I would do thereafter. Eleni: So, I know you didn't get an ADHD diagnosis until after graduating law school. So, looking back, what were some of the greatest challenges like throughout your studies and, you know, throughout grad school that you can now reflect back and attribute to ADHD? Dina: I always go back to being a kid because I think so much of my ADHD experience, and learning about that, was forgiving myself as a child. I could never just focus on what was happening around me. My first-grade teacher — so I didn't speak English in first grade — and in the beginning of the year she was mostly sending my mother notes about, you know, "You need to get your daughter warm clothes. Like this is winter in the East Coast. Like you're not just because it's sunny, does it mean that she doesn't need a hat and gloves." And then by the end of the year, we were already getting notes about "Dina won't stop talking to her neighbors. She's learned two words, and she won't shut up." And there was no contextualization of any of that, right? For the first 25, 26 years, I was mostly reacting to other people's stimuli and not understanding why I wasn't OK. You know, the first time I remember having suicidal ideation, I was 11. You know, I started going to therapy, I started going, and all they could see was anxiety. All they could see was, you know, eating disorder, because I was fat. All they could see was these extraneous outside things. And this went on for nearly 20 years. And that really upsets me. That like viscerally upsets me. During law school, I had doctors who had me on Klonopin, Ambien, which isn't prescribed anymore, Lexapro, and I think a fourth drug that I can't even remember anymore. It's all part of the journey, right? So, I found the right person who knew me well enough to understand that I wasn't a drug seeker. And so, he said, "Let's just put you on 10 milligrams of Ritalin and see what happens." And I had gotten glasses when I was in second grade, and that was the first time in my life that I realized that trees had leaves. And putting... taking that medication for the first time in my life was when I realized that emotions had skin, that you could have emotions that stayed within the barrier of your own soul, that you didn't have to feel literally every single ______ thing that everyone was feeling or that you were feeling out loud. Eleni: Firstly, I know you had mentioned, you know, being misdiagnosed. And I just wanted to say, you know, it's not the first time I've heard that. Dina: Yeah. Eleni: You're definitely not alone there in terms of, you know, doctors not going deeper with symptoms and like kind of thinking more about the root cause as opposed to just like what's on the surface. So, yeah, you're definitely not alone. So, I know that you mentioned that, you know, things have changed a lot in the last decade since your diagnosis. I would love to hear more about, you know, what you're up to now and how perhaps your diagnosis kind of like set you on the path that you are on now and how you're able to kind of manage things at work. Dina: After my diagnosis — I was unemployed during my diagnosis — and again, I mean, you know, it is not a great time to be a worker in America, but my parents, my family friends, my older relations, my, you know, the Arab mafia, as I don't like to call it, they really, you know, rallied around me and they knew that I was capable and that I wouldn't disappoint them. And, you know, I had a lot of people who put me out there and supported me. And I started getting consulting jobs, working for different pharmaceutical companies, helping them with regulatory stuff and kind of that nexus between law and project management. And you know, I remember distinctly one of my first jobs that was like that, that was full-time consulting, so you're kind of on-site. And I was living in New York at the time, and I had to commute two and a half, three hours each way to get to work. 0% chance, 0% chance I could have done that unmedicated. So, I did that for a couple of years, and I ended up getting the opportunity to move to California to work for a company as their full-time legal counsel. And I knew that I really didn't want to do consulting anymore. It was really tough on me not feeling like I had a 401k, which, I mean, in this market, OK. But health insurance was really tough for me, Obamacare was there at the time, but it was super expensive. And I just wanted to be able to, like, afford my own life, you know? So, I made the huge step of moving to California, again totally by myself, and I got this opportunity. I just sent application to a consulting company where I would be working for California High-Speed Rail. And I don't know if a lot of people know about this, but California High-Speed Rail is, you know, the largest infrastructure project in the country. We are trying to connect Sacramento all the way down to San Diego, but most importantly, Los Angeles to San Francisco right now. And we're going through the Central Valley of California. So, it's a lot of heartland and farmland. And it's, I work for the real property branch, which means that our particular subset of that project is acquiring all the land that we'll need. And I was interviewed in that position by an individual who was the deputy director at that time, and he is an honest person, and I can't express this to like the stratosphere of the universe enough, but working for an honest person, like, is literally like my brain getting hugs. Because I know that I can screw up, I can do good, I can do indifferent, I can be sassy, I can be weird, I can be whatever, and he's just going to tell me how he feels about it. I don't have to contain myself within myself because I have an environment that allows me to have that conversation and then pulls me back. Also, on the other side of it — and I think this is just luck — but you know, COVID happening when I got this job made it that this job that I absolutely love was remote. And, you know, I don't know if this is my ADHD or if it's just who I am as a person, I never want to work in an office again. It is immensely important to me to be able to decompress alone. It is immensely important to me to be able to express myself off-camera, and where my body and my face are not being policed by other people, because it is more difficult for me as someone with ADHD or maybe it's just who I am, it is more difficult for me to create a neutral body positioning just for someone else's comfort. Eleni: So, we talked earlier about your passion for social justice. In addition to working with refugees, you also worked with public defenders when you were in law school. How does your job now fit in with your interest in making the world a better place? Dina: You know, we talked a lot about my advocacy early on in the podcast and I found in my work and maybe this will change as I get older, that it is really hard for me to stay in the human atrocities part of the conversation. Like working, going to jails every day when I was working as a public defender like assistant, you can't just like remove yourself if you start to have a panic attack. I couldn't do that. And I knew that about myself. And so, to be able to work in something that I consider like a positive impact on our communities, a positive impact on infrastructure, a positive impact on climate change, it's a different form of advocacy. How can we create those structures where we're feeling fulfilled, where I can create a safe space for myself, and then where I'm also allowed to be my honest self without it creating rubber bands, you know?Eleni: It sounds like in this role it's a combination of, you know, great people that you're working with, like the right environment in terms of, you know, being able to work remotely and then also actually doing like impactful work. We talked a lot about managing emotions and self-regulating at work as like one of the key things that has shifted for you over the last decade. Is there anything else that like or are there any other, like, coping mechanisms or, you know, like tips and tricks that work for you in terms of like things that like help you in the workplace with your ADHD? Dina: Yeah, I think, you know, advocating for yourself in a way where you are honest about what you need, but without putting your issues as front and center. So, what do I mean by that? I have ADHD, right? And that means that I need to do things a little bit differently. But if I spend all my time explaining to everybody else, "I have ADHD, and these are all the reasons why I need to do this stuff," I'm actually neglecting the part of the conversation where someone else who may be neurotypical or who may be neurospicy to just simply explain to me what they need to make their lives easier. A lot of people don't know that they're suffering from something, because I didn't know I was suffering from something. And the people who really helped me the most weren't people who said "This is a disease" or "This is an impact," or whatever. They just said, "This is how I do stuff. Does this stuff work for you?" And to just work through that, "I just have these tools. What are your tools?" Like we are all Doras, and we just need to, like, really fill our backpacks. And instead of filling our backpacks with other people's feelings about us, instead of filling our backpacks with water bottles that we're never going to drink or books that we're never going to read, like let's fill it up with tools. So, make sure that they get you through what you need, but that you're also flexible to take on the things that you want to take on and to release the stuff that isn't working. I hope that helps. Eleni: Yeah. Thank you for that answer. And I think that's also a really helpful reframing, where it's really about just having a conversation and also, it's almost an opportunity to connect. So, it's like, "Hey, like this is, this is what works for me, what works for you?," as opposed to kind of positioning it in a way where you're like asking something of someone. It's more just like a little bit more collaborative. Dina: Yeah, because I always like to give the other person the opportunity to collaborate instead of it just being a accommodation. Eleni: Yeah, exactly. And then it's more of a conversation. I love it. Cool. Well, yeah. Thank you so much for talking to me, Dina.Dina: Thank you so much for having me, Eleni. I appreciate 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. 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 a production director. Our 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.

  • Dyslexia and anxiety in kids

    Kids know how important reading is. They hear it from their parents and teachers starting at a very young age. For kids with dyslexia, struggling with such a vital skill can create a lot of stress. And that can lead to anxiety.Usually, these feelings are limited to situations that involve reading. But some kids with dyslexia develop a bigger problem with anxiety. They worry far in advance about having to read and may even dread it.When kids with dyslexia have anxiety, they often get caught up in “what ifs.” What if the other kids see me reading an easy book and think I'm stupid? What if the teacher calls on me to read and I trip over the words?They might be afraid of failing, or of being judged or embarrassed. There may even be moments when they fear they’ll never learn or succeed at anything because of their reading challenges. That can lead them to stop trying or avoid challenges.Getting the right type of support and reading instruction can make a big difference. Kids see that their skills improve with support and hard work. And those improvements can help reduce anxiety and build self-esteem. 

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    Inattentive ADHD: A freelance writer shares her journey to diagnosis

    Hanna Brooks Olsen is a freelance writer. She doesn’t fit the ADHD stereotype, but soon saw a connection between it and her mental health diagnoses. Hanna Brooks Olsen freelance writer ADHD. Coming ADHD diagnosis long journey. Like many, Hanna thought ADHD purely hyperactivity, didn’t fit description. learned inattentive aspect ADHD, saw connection life. realized ADHD symptoms intertwined bipolar disorder, anxiety, eating disorder. As freelance writer, Hanna all — editing nonprofit newsletters writing tweets. didn’t set become jack-of-all-trades writer. Like many college graduates, wanted earn enough money pay rent student loans. working odd jobs, Hanna discovered could use skills time loves: write.Related resourcesWhy people ADHD self-medicate — including me, Hanna Brooks OlsenADHD eating disordersADHD girlsEpisode transcriptEleni: Hi, everyone. It's Eleni. begin episode, wanted let know guest Hanna talked ADHD eating disorders, well Hanna's past drug use. issues ADHD show together may think. Hanna's story isn't one like this. hope enjoy conversation. Hanna: He's like, "What know ADHD?" like, "Very little. know little. don't know. don't that." like, I'm hyperactive. I'm hyperactive person. I'm actually fairly stagnant. starts running things. like, "Oh, yeah. OK, then." realized workarounds I'd using career life long like, oh, makes sense. scans. Eleni: Understood Podcast Network, "How'd Get Job?!," podcast explores unique often unexpected career paths people learning thinking differences. name Eleni Matheou, I'm user researcher Understood. means spend lot time thinking find jobs love reflect learn are. I'll host. next guest, Hanna Brooks Olsen, freelance writer. writes everything tweets politicians reported articles essays journey mental health ADHD. Growing low-income household, Hanna didn't even know careers like existed. she's boss, contribute projects she's really passionate about, including ones tackle class labor rights. Welcome show, Hanna. Hanna: Thank you. I'm excited here. Eleni: know previous conversation mentioned grandmother doesn't understand do. let's dispel mystery now. would describe job 5-year-old way grandma might actually understand? Hanna: actually came life niece who's 5½. point asked like always working computer, always house. mom goes job she's dog groomer. like, "You don't go work?" like, "No, work is — it's computer. It's online I'm writer." don't know why, watching show watching. like, "Oh yeah, like journalist. Like, that's what — that's do." that's used really. day, like, "Oh yeah, journalist...." stopped goes, "Auntie Han, thought journalist." like," Great. Yes, good point. OK.". explain this? journalist. started radio public radio. print, worked alt weekly worked in, know, commercial news. sort went away. entire industry kind disappeared — least didn't keep needs local economy living. now — I'm writer. That's do. assign something need sound good communicate and, know, narrative structure, like, you, regardless sort industry is. I'm always trying find way use skills. I've worked local governments. I've worked campaigns candidates. worked think tank while. I'm sort like hired gun writer. get use journalism skills, use like policy issues. Eleni: mentioned growing small town. also grew pretty poor. want talk little bit influenced career choices ended up? Hanna: Yeah, would say it's small town — it's really not. grew Eugene, Oregon. much smaller lived there. it's, guess mid-size town. Although brother described suburb bigger city doesn't exist, like true dynamic. parents working class. Neither university degrees. sort like did. didn't see writing looked like job. didn't know anybody copywriter. didn't know anybody was, know, like digital strategist. didn't exist time. me, wanted go college get degree could immediately put career, could immediately make making money. even single period two weeks wasn't getting paycheck, that's it. Like I — live outside. Like that, know, safety net. financial resources stretch amount time. way grew going school always like, OK, going make work? Like, going get next step going get next week? always guiding me. Like, always decided things whether would able to, like, get paycheck. Eleni: Yeah. main driver career choices really living wage? Hanna: Yeah. Yeah. worked, know, minimum wage long. worked diners coffee shops bars. like janitor decent amount time. Like, just, like, took jobs, whatever jobs could take — also hoping point would able to, like, thing good loved amount money made sense. Eleni: Mm hmm. Hanna: Like, remember someone asked me, like, "Oh, what's dream job?" was, like, 21, like, "Oh, want work Stranger," alt weekly Seattle. like, "That's really much dream." like, "For me, is. Like that's exactly want do." couple years later, position offer job. salary literally would covered rent, let alone student debt still had. Or, know, food. so, lot inflection points like sort like decide thing wanted worth going make living two things completely divergent. Eleni: you're freelancer, feel structure supports financial goals? kind land that? Hanna: started freelancing full-time job OK. like job marketing. fine. started freelancing top that. make money also like figure area. got point enough doors open freelancer able like, OK, like quit. quit day job and, know, retain amount sanity like amount work unsustainable. remember first day full-time freelancer, getting pace, checking email phone, walking dog, like sitting couch day's worth work without commuting, without make small talk office, without interruptions day. like, oh, amazing. Like, great only, like, met needs, know, far workplace. also realized could control income way better. job marketing — remember we'd get called hands meetings CEO would like jumping around celebrating like, "Oh God, like, guys helped us make, like, much money" like, hyping corporate profits whatever. remember like, dog, made amount. Like, check's same, don't really know celebrate you. Like, cool. income literally nothing success failure company. sort moment like, I'm trying make money somebody else either. I'm freelancing, like get control rates, get control hours. say I'm time this, huge person, one ADHD. will — think lot people probably know relationship ADHD perfectionism. older I've gotten I've gotten this, actually time track say like, no. Like said, would four hours today. got four hours today. Every minute spend four hours either losing money I'm working another client making money making money. like ability cutthroat like been, like, incredible. Eleni: Totally. would love hear little bit diagnosis story. haven't actually really touched ADHD except mentioned. think get

  • Signs of anxiety and depression in different grades

    When kids learn and think differently, it can impact their emotions. In some cases, there’s a greater chance they’ll experience anxiety or depression. Use this information to get to know the signs of anxiety and depression at different ages. Look for patterns and take notes on what you’re seeing. And be sure to reach out to your child’s doctor if you have concerns.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD frustration and anger, plus ADHD and tics (Adam’s story)

    Adam Sosnik was diagnosed with ADHD after 15 years of therapy and wrong diagnoses. It clarified a lot about his life, but it didn’t solve everything. Lawyer Adam Sosnik was miserable in his job. Miserable when he couldn’t concentrate, which was often. Miserable because it was physically uncomfortable to focus on even a small thing, like writing a single sentence. The trouble was, he was being treated for anxiety and depression, but not ADHD. When he began working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, his wife noticed his frustration. And with her encouragement, he booked an appointment with a new psychiatrist. That led to an ADHD diagnosis, which validated the discomfort Adam felt. But it also marked the beginning of a new struggle.Also in this episode: Adam talks about ADHD and tics and his experience with Tourettic OCD (TOCD). And how he’s charted a new way of living that’s finally made him happy.Related resourcesADHD and ticsADHD and mood swingsA day in the life of an employee with ADHDEpisode transcriptAdam: The most "aha ha ha" was during the pandemic when I was continuing to work a job that made me miserable and my wife was recognizing that as it made me more miserable, my ability to continue to pursue it in the face of frustrations was decreasing. So, I finally said, "I can't take this anymore. I'm miserable. And I want to see another psychiatrist. You know, I do want to ask him about ADHD."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 Adam Sosnik. Adam is a listener who wrote in and shared his ADHD "aha" moment with us and we wanted to invite him on the show. He's also a lawyer who's based in Florida. Adam, thank you so much for being here today.Adam:Thanks a lot for having me. Really excited to talk to you.Laura: I'm excited to talk to you too. And I love already like the energy that you bring is just it's very, it keeps me up. I like that.Adam: I've been wired for a little bit. I've only walked through this conversation about a thousand times over the past three days, and I tried everything in my power to not do that thing.Laura: Oh, no, it's hard, you know, we're just going to keep it casual. We're just going to chat. And I guess we'll start with you telling me and the listeners when you were diagnosed with ADHD.Adam: Yeah. So, I'm 36 right now. I was diagnosed formally in February of 2021.Laura: Pandemic diagnosis.Adam: A pandemic diagnosis. So, once the pandemic started and I was working remotely, my wife was able to see me and how I worked and what made me miserable, and I'd been miserable for a long time in my job as an attorney. And she was able to see that when I was miserable, my concentration lacked, and I would be walking around the house not knowing why I was in rooms and looking for any kind of distraction or side project other than the work. She said, "Maybe you do have ADHD," because we had previously talked about it. I'd been in treatment since 2005 for what I was told was just anxiety or depression, and I was told maybe a little of ADHD, maybe a little bit of bipolar.Laura: It's that helpful to hear? Just maybe a smattering, right?Adam: A smattering, a touch. I can manage a touch of whatever this.Laura: Right.Adam: You know, I later learned that those things don't have a touch of it. It's just symptom severity. But I have it through and through, and I've been on every medication you could possibly think of for anxiety, depression, bipolar, some OCD-type medication. Nothing worked. Surprise, surprise. So, I finally said, "I can't take this anymore. I'm miserable. And I want to see another psychiatrist. You know, I do want to ask him about ADHD." We had one appointment and at the end of it, he said, "It really looks like this is ADHD." And I had your classic instantaneous reflection on every single second of your life, and I just saw everything differently. It was kind of like those like crime movies where at the end they realize who the killer is, and then the detective starts thinking back to all the different events that he participated in, or she participated in. All of a sudden, they see it from a different perspective. It was just incredible, and it felt awesome. It was just this surge of validation, which validation is probably what I have just been seeking my entire life.Laura: I want to stick with the conversation with your wife for a moment. That sounds like her telling you what she was seeing in you about concentration was really a tip off for you. I'm wondering if you could just speak a little bit more about your thought process when you were trying to concentrate and you couldn't. Like, what was it about that period of time that was obviously the coming together of the comment from your wife and whatever was happening with you, that was a tipping point?Adam: So, I was at the time practicing corporate law, you know. I liked law school. From the second I graduated and started working, I realized I had made a mistake. Absolute first second I walked into work. So, I was miserable, and I felt stuck. The salary was good. I didn't know what else to do.Laura: Why do you think that is?Adam: I have motivation issues. I have impulsivity issues to allow myself to be distracted by things that are more interesting. And so, she was seeing the increase in my inability to sit and do my work. And a lot of that was hard, but also a lot of it as a younger associate is a lot of mundane work, just drafting mundane, boring stuff. And she saw as I got more frustrated and miserable, I was able to do less and less of this to the point where it was starting to impact significantly my interactions with the world around me. You know, my temper was a lot shorter. Traffic was making me even more frustrated than it usually is, and I couldn't relax on the weekends, you know, any time I could be getting a phone call or an email saying, you know, this thing on Monday, we have to do and it's going to rain, it's going to ruin your life. And so just to have that unknown constantly hanging over my head, my happiness and my health and my sleeping ability decreased.Laura: You used the word miserable, which I think is a great adjective to use, but it wasn't like some people may hear the word miserable and they may think sadness or depression, right? And I know that you maybe had been, maybe had a smattering of that or a misdiagnosis of that, but it sounds like the "miserableness" it wasn't necessarily a depression so much as it was "I'm bored, I'm frustrated. I can't make decisions. I'm distracted. I'm constantly waiting for the next thing and that's leading to irritability and moodiness," which is all part of that ADHD cornucopia.Adam: You nailed all of it. And all that manifested almost into a physical discomfort where it's like, if I had a type of sentence, I just couldn't physically do it because it was so painful to focus all of my attention on writing a coherent sentence. And it was physically painful to do, and it would just take me so long to do things. And then I, you know, it was a catch-up and a mad dash, and that never works out. But you're right, it wasn't sadness. I didn't know what it was. I just knew I felt bad. And if you feel bad, it's probably anxiety or depression, because that's what the TV commercials tell you. But every single therapist I had... the balloonist in those depression commercials is not me.Laura: Yeah, and to your point, like your productivity at work wasn't suffering, even though maybe it felt like it was. But it sounded, based on what you said earlier, right, you managed to just push through it.Adam: Yeah. So, with and especially with law — I don't know anything about other careers — you're basically competing against every other person to first to make partner and then to attract clients. And eventually, it would get to the point where I would be of a certain age where you're either on track to, you know, making partner and becoming a bigger deal at work or you're kind of just going to fade into mediocrity. And I kept thinking that that breaking point was going to be coming. Every single day I'd wake up thinking that today's going to be the day where all the peers my age who've been practicing as long as me are going to be recognized as more talented or more reliable. So, that was the constant feeling that I wasn't meeting expectations. And to a certain extent, I really don't think I was, you know, my goal was to do as little work as possible, just get through the day and try and find the pleasure in it, which is really tough when you have to account for all of your hours, you know, billable hours. And it doesn't matter if you're working from 9 to 10:30 at night, if you've only billed for two and a half hours of work, that's all they see as your workday. Every single thing about that career was wrong environmental-wise. It just exasperated all the preexisting conditions that I knew I had, and I just didn't know that put together as a package it's ADHD.Laura: It was ADHD.Laura: I want to hear you talk about what I'll call your second "aha" moment. Your wife approached you about your concentration and that seems like an "aha" that led to your diagnosis. After you got diagnosed, then you had a childhood home "aha" moment that it's extremely resonant for me because I had the same thing. So, will you tell us about that?Adam: I would love to tell you about that, and I hope my parents never listen to this.Laura: I feel the same way.Adam: So, I found out I was diagnosed, and it actually came on that very same day, literally on the way home from a doctor's appointment. My wife was pregnant at the time, 20 weeks pregnant, and she had that 20-week ultrasound. And we found out our daughter was going to be born with what's called a congenital diaphragmatic hernia that spirals into a whole lot of other conditions, but ultimately, it's a lung issue. If you can't breathe, nothing else matters. So, that's when I kind of realized that everything we thought about ADHD was true. So, I was dealing with that literally the same hour that I was dealing with what we found out was going to be a significant life-altering medical condition for my daughter. And we ultimately decided that Florida would be the best place to move to. They had a hospital here in Saint Petersburg, Florida, where they had the best unit in the country to treat my daughter and my parents had moved to Florida. And just for fun, I went through some of the boxes of my old stuff that my parents had — my artwork, my report cards, not looking for anything in particular — and I found in it and I'm actually holding it in my hand right now...Laura: Oh wow!Adam: ...and so it's this 12-page report from when I was five years old in 1992. Apparently, my preschool teachers had suggested that I might not be ready for public school kindergarten, whatever those high standards are. So, I found this in my parents' house and I read through this, and at the end of reading it, I was like, "What the F! You guys didn't tell me about this? It is literally a play-by-play of what an ADHD diagnosis looks like." "Adam is an extremely active boy who is constantly moving or fidgeting throughout the session. For example, he was either shaking his foot or moving around his chair. In fact, his favorite activity was to spin around and around in the examiner's chair. Adam seemed to have a lot of energy, which he constantly needs to keep in check. The level of activity interferes with his ability to focus and to concentrate on work. He seems to manage to harness his energy well for approximately one hour after that amount of time, his attention begins to wander, etc., etc.."Laura: It's like out of a dictionary. Adam: It was like textbook, textbook. And I brought this to my parents, and I said, "Why didn't you tell me about this?" And they kind of thing, you know, they're boomers, we're Jewish. Their parents were first-generation Americans. Their grandparents were from the old country. Mental health wasn't something that was talked about. It was a shanda to say in Yiddish.Laura: What does that mean in Yiddish?Adam: It's just, it's a shame on the family.Laura: Oh wow.Adam: And, you know, it's a stigma. Not that this was openly talked about, but that's just kind of the impression you got just from growing up in my household. And they didn't really know what to say. My mom, I think, said "We just didn't know what this meant at the time, and so, we didn't know what to do." And that's when all of my excitement that I was diagnosed and now I could begin the process of recovery turned into anger without my ability to stop it. I was angry that this existed and that I could have known about this, and I could have brought this to other therapists. Throughout my process. I was angry that the psychologists doing the report didn't say that it was ADHD. The recommendations at the end were to go to a smaller kindergarten and then afterwards to public school, I guess, and go to occupational therapy and to have more structure at home. So, that timeout was created in my home where I sat and looked at a wall to calm down.Laura: That was the, that was the structure?Adam: Exactly. That was the structure. And for a long, long, long time after that, their lack of understanding maintained the anger inside of me. And it wasn't until recently where my acceptance of their lack of understanding kind of became my own understanding in and of itself, right? That open issue that I was angry about was now finally going to come to an end. Finally, that chapter was closed out because I came to that acceptance. And once you accept it, that's the understanding of the situation, and nothing to do but go forth from there. And so, a lot of that anger has gone away. But I got to say that the treatment itself didn't really begin and I didn't really begin to learn coping mechanisms until recently because that diagnosis happened right before we were going to move to Florida permanently for this hospital. And then my daughter was born, and she was in the hospital for five months, continuously hooked up to every machine imaginable. I'm walking around knowing that I have these issues, that I'm not going to be able to manage all this. And surprise, surprise, I didn't, and my mental health deteriorated even further. My relationship with my wife deteriorated even further. So, it wasn't this immediate. "Oh, I have ADHD. Aha!" Now it's time to start addressing it. It was "I have ADHD. I don't know what to do. No one has been able to help me before. I'm angry about it. And now the universe is throwing me a curve ball that no one ever wants."Laura: How is she doing now?Adam: She's doing great. She'll always have some management, but she is doing great. Cognitively, she's healthy. She's doing great.Laura: I want to pause and reflect for just a moment on everything that was happening. You had the pandemic. You have your daughter coming into the world with severe health issues. It's so much to go through and at the same time an ADHD diagnosis. And it sounds like that's a lot, a lot, a lot happening. And then, it sounds like maybe with about a year of processing because you got diagnosed in 2021 and everything that you went through, then you started towards treatment and then there was another diagnosis that came into play. Is that right?Adam: Correct. I also have a kind of an OCD and Tourette's combination called Tourettic OCD, is what the new term for it is. And I kind of figured that one out on my own. And then I did reach out to psychologists in the area, and it was just my process of elimination. I did always have tics, and I knew about that and the tics, I do you remember started when I moved before fourth grade, I moved from New Jersey to New York, and I loved where I lived in New Jersey. I had all these friends. Now I move somewhere where I have nothing, and I had no one. And all of a sudden, I developed tics.Laura: And I don't know much about tics. And I will not pretend to be any sort of expert on them, but I know that from content on Understood that's expert vetted, about half of all kids with chronic tics have ADHD, and about 20% of kids with ADHD have chronic tics. I know that the issues are highly co-morbid. Highly co-occurring.Adam: Yeah, I kind of call it the Holy Trinity, the ADHD, OCD, Tourette's Holy Trinity. And I will say this: the Tourette's and the OCD are child's play compared to what the ADHD does to you, especially as an adult.Laura: Wow, that's so interesting. Tell me more.Adam: So, as an adult, I've kind of learned to suppress the tics. There's always a bubbling energy underneath me that wants to tic. I've learned to kind of deal with the OCD, and it's a different type of OCD. I don't have any irrational fears. The compulsions are exclusively physical. A good example is I could walk through a door and close it and then say, "Uhm, let me just go back and close that door again so that it feels better so that it closes a little better and I can hear it click perfectly." An hour later, I can walk through that door and not even have that thought. So, it's a very odd physical driving urge. But the ADHD, I can't control my thoughts when my instant reaction to something is driven by ADHD wiring. And so that's the part — it's the emotional aspect of ADHD, which has by far scarred me the most, which does and continues to cause the most damage because managing emotions is really important in every single interaction. And you can't hide it, especially engaging with other people. You know, your reactions, you can kind of read them on your face. And so the ADHD, it just was so much more devastating and continues to be and it's so much less manageable and unpredictable than the Tourette's or the OCD. So, ADHD is the nastiest of those three.Laura: I imagine that for some listeners that will come as a surprise to hear that. And of course, everyone's story is different. For some folks, I'm sure that they're OCD or their Tourette's is much more difficult to manage than their ADHD. But I hear you. I mean, the managing emotions aspect of ADHD, which so many people don't even realize is a thing, but that is all tied up with executive functioning challenges. That's really hard. How in particular have you struggled with managing emotions?Adam: I realized my whole life I've been lost in thought. Everything I'm doing, I'm not thinking about that thing. I'm thinking about something else. And so, it took a lot of retraining my muscle memory to pay attention to what I am feeling. And I think that's a really high-level skill for everyone. And so, as a child, as an adolescent, as a young man, I just didn't have the skill. Something was blocking my ability to see the misery and then to connect it to in the moment when I’m miserable, "What am I really feeling?" And I don't know how to better explain it other than it's just a matter of paying attention. And I realize every single thing I do, I mean, I drop things all the time and I'll go to pick something up and I'll drop it immediately, and I believe it's because I'm not paying attention. I go, my fingers touch the thing that I'm going to pick up, and my mind immediately says, "Job done. You've gotten that thing, time to move on." But the fact of the matter is, all that happened was my hand went around it. There's also you have to pay attention to closing your hand and feeling the grip and then lifting it up and walking and recognizing there's something in your hand. And all those are specific tasks and things you have to pay attention to. And if you don't, you're liable to miss one of the steps and I miss steps all the time. Every single thing is multiple steps, and I realize I just don't pay attention to it. I really don't think that's exclusive to ADHD. I think a lot of us walk around diverse neurodiverse everything in between, everything outlying. I think we all walk around lost in thought for the most part, with very little attention paid to what's going on right now.Laura: I just want to reflect for a moment on, you've used the word "miserable" so many times in this interview, and I'm not saying that as judgment. It's just as something that I've noticed, that you quickly tend to follow it up with this moment of reframing what that is. And it seems like a big part of your journey is unpacking those little, tiny tidbits of like, "What do I mean by miserable and how can I turn that around?"Adam: 100% correct, especially because objectively, more comparatively, my life isn't miserable. It's great, but it's hard to see that, and it's hard to accept that when everything is frustrating. And if you can't manage all these frustrations, it's going to tear you apart. And there was no better word other than miserable. And misery builds on itself, and misery is addicting. And once you're addicted to misery, that's your comfort food. And so, to this day, it still feels weird to be happy about something or to start feeling miserable at something and then taking that beat and saying, "Why is going out with my in-laws to dinner making me miserable? Why is planning this project or this meeting, you know, making me miserable?"Laura: And some of those things have nothing to do with ADHD, but it sounds like...Adam: Nothing to do with it.Laura: ...this process has like kind of helped you with self-awareness, maybe on all aspects of your life.Adam: It helps me package the issues together and then attack it, seeing the whole picture.Laura: Well, Adam, I'm excited for you on this journey of finding coping skills and understanding yourself, and glad that your daughter is doing OK.Adam: And she's going to be a big sister, so...Laura: Congratulations!Adam: Thank you. Thank you.Laura: And I want to thank you for listening to the show, for writing in to the show, and for being on the show.Adam: I commend you guys. Your show is so refreshing. I haven't been able to talk to anybody about what coming out means with ADHD. And now I'm listening to all these stories and holy cow, this is a huge event in all of our lives. It's like being reborn, so it's just a super refreshing twist.Laura: Thank you. I really appreciate it. And now you're part of it.Adam: And now I'm 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. 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.

  • ADHD and anxiety

    It’s common for people with ADHD to have anxiety. In fact, they’re more likely to struggle with anxiety than other people. That’s partly because the challenges that come with ADHD can create frequent problems — in school, at work, and at home.People with ADHD have trouble with executive functions — a group of skills we rely on to get tasks done. These skills help us to get organized, plan, manage time, and follow daily routines. They also help us manage our emotions. Struggling with executive skills day after day can be overwhelming and stressful. And chronic stress can lead to anxiety.Typically, anxiety isn’t constant. It comes and goes and may be limited to specific situations. But when the feelings are more frequent and start to take over, people may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Many people with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder. At first glance, it may be hard to tell whether a person has one condition or the other or both. Not only do the two disorders co-occur, but their symptoms can look the same. So, it’s important to be evaluated for both, and to treat each disorder individually.

  • In It

    Parenting while anxious

    Being an anxious kid has its challenges. But what happens when that anxious kid grows up to be a parent? Being an anxious kid has its challenges. But what happens when that anxious kid grows up to be a parent? In this episode of In It, hosts Amanda Morin and Gretchen Vierstra have a candid conversation with Morra Aarons-Mele, author and host of The Anxious Achiever podcast. Morra describes herself as an “extremely anxious introvert.” And she often wonders how that anxiety affects her parenting. Hear Morra describe her own strengths and challenges — as an anxious kid, a neurodivergent adult, and a mom.Related resourcesAnxiety in people who learn and think differentlyThe difference between typical anxiety and an anxiety problemAnd check out Morra’s book: Hiding in the Bathroom: How to Get Out There When You’d Rather Stay HomeEpisode transcriptAmanda: Hi, I'm Amanda Morin. I'm the director of thought leadership for, and I’m also a parent to kids who learn differently.Gretchen: I'm Gretchen Vierstra, a former classroom teacher and an editor here at Understood. And this is "In It."Amanda: "In It" is a podcast from the Understood Podcast Network. On this show, we talk to parents, caregivers, teachers, experts, and sometimes even kids. We offer perspective, stories, and advice for and from people who have challenges with reading, math, focus, and other types of learning differences.Gretchen: Today, we're talking about being a neurodivergent parent and parenting neurodiverse kids. Amanda: And our guest for this episode is someone I have known and admired for a really long time. Fellow blogger, fellow podcast host, fellow introvert Morra Aarons-Mele. Gretchen: Morra is an expert in online marketing, and she hosts a fabulous podcast called "The Anxious Achiever" for the Harvard Business Review.Amanda: Morra also wrote a book that is really near and dear to my introverted heart, "Hiding in the Bathroom: How to Get Out There When You'd Rather Stay Home." And it's an Amazon best-seller.Gretchen: Last but not least, Morra's married and is a mom to three kids between the ages of 6 and 12. Amanda: Morra has had her own challenges — as an anxious kid, as a neurodivergent adult, and as a mom — and, as you'll hear, she's someone who's not afraid to get in it real fast. So this conversation may be a little more focused on her journey than the kinds of conversations we've had before. Gretchen: Morra, welcome to the podcast. Morra: Hello!Gretchen: So happy to have you. And I know we gave a little bit of an introduction, but can you start by just telling us a little bit more about what you do in your professional life?Morra: Sure. I feel like I have a really amazing job. I have actually two jobs. By day, I am a digital communications executive. I actually just sold my business, Women Online, which was a digital consulting firm, to a public relations firm called Geben Communication. And there I act as EVP of social impact and I get to work with lots of amazing nonprofit world-changing clients and create digital communications programs. And then I, as you mentioned, am, geez, I've been a blogger since 2004 or 5. I write books and I have my podcasts. So I get to talk to really smart, interesting people about all matters mental health and leadership. Amanda: And I know you've described yourself as sort of an extremely anxious introvert, which I totally relate to. Can you tell us a little bit more about what makes you different in terms of how you think and exist in the world? Morra: Yeah, so, I am introverted, but more than that, I am pretty socially anxious and I have pretty intense clinical anxiety that manifests in many different ways. And I got my diagnosis when I was 19, and I'm 45. I also have major depressive disorder. So, I can alternate between periods of high anxiety where, ironically, I'm super productive and kind of, like, go-go-go. It's not manic, but it's also not far from manic in its look and feel. And then every couple of years, it seems, I will get hit with a pretty strong depression. And that's way worse for me to deal with, frankly, than the anxiety. The anxiety is with me a lot but mostly manageable, but I find depression, even after all these years, just really awful. Amanda: That is really relatable to me. Gretchen: I'm wondering, um, how does all this show up in your day-to-day life? Maybe give us a hint of what it was like when you were a student and then now, as an adult.Morra: Oh, it's tons of fun. Um, you know, I was always a very anxious kid. When I was 3, I had such bad agoraphobia that I wouldn't leave the house. You know, I was always a pretty highly strung, anxious, temperamental, intense child, apparently. And then by the time I got to college, a string of events in my sophomore year set off a really, really bad season of my life, where I had really intense panic attacks and clinical anxiety, and then also severe depression. So, I would say that I sort of learned to cope. You know, anxiety is really comfortable for me. I don't know if any of you out there can relate to it. Like, in our society, when you're anxious but you can also channel it into your work, you get rewarded, right? It's kind of unfortunate, but it's the truth.That's why my show is called "The Anxious Achiever," because so many of us have become socially conditioned to sort of throw our anxiety into our work. And it works until at some point it doesn't, and then we really have to change things. So I would say that my pattern has been sort of when I'm in a highly anxious phase, I think it's really difficult to be around me probably.And my experience of life is very hard, but I'm also very productive and outwardly quite successful. Amanda: And that's hard in its own right. It's hard to be anxious and productive because sometimes people don't believe you can be both at the same time.Morra: A hundred percent. And I have OCD, as well, although it's less. But I think that OCD and anxiety — again, not a scientist, not licensed to say this — but my totally layperson's opinion is that very anxious people who are perfectionistic can really get a lot of OCD symptoms, uh, that are not about washing your hands a hundred times necessarily, but are about driving to completion something that may not need to be, and also intrusive thoughts that can really power you forward. And so I find those really difficult as well. Amanda: Totally. Does that affect how you parent?Morra: Oh, of course. Right? And it's only as my children are getting older and we as a family are doing a lot of exploring and therapy that I'm realizing that my anxiety totally affects how I parent, and it affects how my children live in the world. I'm really trying to work on that right now, because I think it's one thing for me to try to deal with all of my anxieties and intrusive thoughts and fears, but I don't want to infect my kids. And I'm really trying to work on boundaries while also, of course, modeling to them that feelings are normal and it's OK that Mommy gets sad sometimes and blah, blah, blah. But, like, I want to protect them from my fears in a very strong way.Amanda: Our household, you know, I think I mentioned this to you, Morra, at one point, that it's like neurons gone wild in our house. We have, we, you know, I have anxiety and OCD and sensory processing issues. My husband has ADHD. My kids have learning and thinking things, are neurodiverse. Do you have a household like that too?Morra: I do. I don't want to go into too much detail because I think I'm not as far along in my journey, maybe, as you are, Amanda, but, yes, my house is definitely neurons gone wild. Um, and the funny thing is it's all we know. Gretchen: Right. I'm wondering then, you know, you have three kids, and that seems like a challenge enough. What is, like, a day in the life, or, like, what are some of the typical challenges that you might encounter in your household because of all that's going on?Morra: You know, I think also the thing that I've realized and the pandemic helped me realize that I'm going to throw in as a layer is that, um, my kids have two very career-driven parents.You know, we try to be really great parents, but we are very, very career focused. And before the pandemic, we traveled a ton, you know; we've had long periods where we both worked for ourselves, which adds its own pressure. So, there's that. I would say that what has been super interesting over the pandemic is that one of my kids has had pretty severe mental health issues of his own, anxiety and depression.And so that has been a huge wakeup call for me as a parent, really trying to be super conscious about my own actions and how I parent, as someone who struggles with this. I also have a kid who has an ADHD diagnosis. He's been diagnosed now for five years. And so, you know, when you have a child who has that sort of diagnosis, you learn to work with it as well. So every day in our house is an evolving circus. I'm trying to keep everybody calm, and that includes Mom and Dad. Amanda: I'm going to tell you something really personal that, you know, when my husband and I first started thinking about having kids, we worried about how our own differences were going to play into how we parented, whether or not our kids would be a little bit, you know, at the time we were calling them "quirky and complex," kind of, right? Do you mind answering whether or not that's something that went on in your mind, too, when you first started parenting? Morra: OK. Well, I'm going to tell you something super personal. When I first got pregnant with my first son, I had the worst depression I've ever had in my life. So, I think we're all pretty familiar with postpartum. This was prepartum. So, it hit me so bad in my first trimester that, like, it was like, uh, the world's coming to a halt in our family because this is a crisis. And thank God I got help. And I would say by the mid-second trimester I was in really good shape again, you know, emotionally and sort of, like, worked my way out of it.And then when I met my first son, this miracle happened, like I fell in love with him. But the fear of what I had experienced being pregnant with him, I don't know if that's ever gone away, you know, and that experience colored everything. And I worried because my mental health challenges were so strong with that first pregnancy. Would that be epigenetic, like, would that be genetic with all my subsequent children? I've been under a psychiatrist's care. It's been a process now. I love being a mom more than anything else. And I wouldn't, I mean, I had three kids by choice. Like, it's not, it's not even an issue for me, but there is always that layer of, you know, did I make my kids this way? Am I shaping them? How is this affecting them? And I don't know that that — I don't know, is that ever going to leave me? I don't know. And then when my son got his diagnosis, you know, again, it was this moment of, oh my God. Right? We sort of knew that things were needing addressing with him, because he had had a lot of issues in school, but when we got the ADHD and anxiety disorder diagnosis, I definitely had a moment of real questioning in myself.Gretchen: Well, can you tell us a little bit about the son that you fell in love with, your oldest? What is he like now? What's going on? Morra: So here's the thing, right? So I'm going to brag, OK?Gretchen: Please, yes, please.Morra: He had really wonderful early intervention. So he got diagnosed when he was 8. And being a mom with mental health issues who had been extremely therapized my whole life,I was like, let's do this, you know? I mean, there was no group we didn't go to. I went for it and I'm so glad I did, because I joke that, like, putting a kid, basically, in some form of therapy, five days a week, since they're 8 years old, can really make a kid self-actualized. My son is independent. He has incredible empathy. He has incredible social skills. There was a back-to-school picnic last week. And there was supposed to be a parent on-site for each kid — to supervise. But my son was like, "Nope, I'm going by myself, Mom, I got this." He came home. He ordered a pizza. He had it delivered. He paid for it. He took our little cute dog to the picnic 'cause it was outside and he knew that a dog is the best way to meet new people. Like what's better than like, "Oh my God, I love your dog." Right? So he rocks out carrying the pizza and the dog and his little picnic blanket and walks to school and walks to the picnic. And that was it. And I can't even tell you, like, I had this moment where it was, like, my kid is amazing. He's self-sufficient, he's independent, he's solving problems, and he understands, like, how to talk to people in this giant school. Um, I'm going to cry. So it's been such a bumpy road, but I really believe in the power of great adults. And my son has had the best support teams. I mean, I am so lucky. I think he's going to do great things. Amanda: You know, one of the things that I hear in that story — first of all, as a former early intervention specialist, woo-hoo, yes — go, intervention, for the win! Also, I think one of the things I'm hearing there is that you understanding him, right, because of your own differences and lens on the world, interacts with him in a way, too. Do you think that you have a better understanding — or maybe not a better understanding — of how to parent this child, this wonderful, amazing picnic-going child that you have?Morra: Well, I mean, I think that one of the amazing things about parenting is that you learn to understand and parent your kids differently, right? Each kid is so different. I think the thing about my son is that we kind of swap skills, because I'm a big believer in cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to manage my day and my OCD and all of my issues. I don't have ADHD, but when I'm in a really anxious phase, I get really distracted, and it's really hard to pay attention. I don't know if any listeners out there can relate to that feeling of being super anxious and sitting in front of your computer and, like, your heart is racing and you can't sit still. And like you're not getting anything done, right? Because your mind is an F1 engine. So, sometimes I'm like a person with ADHD, and I need to break things down and schedule and plan and use techniques and breathe and use mindfulness. And so, like, I'm on that journey too. And my son teaches me a ton of things.Gretchen: Well, Morra, you've brought up things that have affected your life, you know, and are different. So, I'm wondering as a parent then, do you think that makes you better? Does it make you more empathetic? Does it give you more tools? Like, what do you think? Morra: I, you know, it's, like, I hesitate to call myself a better parent because every day the other shoe could drop, with three kids, but I definitely think that our children, they're nice. They're empathetic. And we work really hard at trying to stop and take other people's perspectives in our family. And I think that that's probably because we all have a lot of feelings that we can just dive straight into. I call it a feelings tunnel, when you're so flooded by your own feelings it's really hard to step back.This is one of my worst character traits is that, like, I get flooded and I lose perspective. And so I think that, like, we, as a family really work on that. And I have to say that as a result, I think my kids are, like, nice and empathetic in a way, they open to the world. And I'm proud of that. Even if the reason we do it is because it can be a struggle sometimes.Gretchen: And it sounds like your kids have impacted you, right? And perhaps have made you better in some ways. Morra: Oh, yeah. And especially my two older ones, you know, they check me. Sort of, like, the, "Not now, Mom. OK, Mom, I've got this. It's going to be OK, Mom." One of them broke their wrist biking this summer and I, like, oh God, that was really hard for me. And my husband was great too. He was, like, "They're boys. It happens. It's going to be OK." Like, you cannot lock them up forever and not let them leave the house, because of course that's what I wanted to do. So they definitely can be like, "No, Mom, this is what I need to do."Amanda: That's amazing. It's also interesting what I hear you describing is, it's like the inside things that you do, the flooding and talking about the emotions, you're doing them outside, right? With your family. You're, you're doing it out loud. And I wonder if more parents need to be doing that. Morra: The flip side is you shouldn't be doing that, right? Because you're putting too much on children, who don't need to carry your crap. Amanda: That's fair. Morra: Sometimes. Absolutely. I mean, I will say, and, you know, in full disclosure, I've had therapists very kindly suggest to me, "You have one kid who's extremely empathetic, as you are. He's sort of an emotional sponge. Maybe, like, try to not emit so many emotions." So, I don't know how I feel about that one. Amanda: That's fair. And I appreciate you saying that out loud. You know, we started this whole conversation, talking about anxiety. We went in all these different directions, Morra. And I'm wondering if there's something that we didn't ask you that you wanted us to ask you. Morra: Wow. This is going to sound corny, but it's something I've been thinking about. I'm 45. And while not from a generation where people with learning differences were sort of shamed or punished, from definitely a different generation than now.And my mom actually tested for IEPs. So, I was immersed. I knew what an IEP was when I was 6. But I learned from the public school system and the amazing educators that, like, there is not shame about this. Kids are so open about their IEPs and their ADHD and their anxiety. I feel like adults need to learn from kids.When we struggle with our own feelings of either getting our child's diagnosis, that makes us uncomfortable, realizing that we are ourselves neurodiverse and having bad feelings. I mean, when I see kids who I know really well from, you know, having been in the system for so many years, they like themselves. They're cool. They integrate with everyone else in school like it's not a big deal. Amanda: Morra, thank you so much for sharing such personal stories with us today. I really appreciate it. Gretchen: Thank you so much for being with us. Morra: My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.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 and find resources from every episode.Amanda: That's the letter U as in Understood, dot O R G, slash in it. And please, share your thoughts. Email us at We'd love to hear from you.Gretchen: 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 Amanda: "In It" is produced by Julie Subrin. 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 are our production directors. Thanks for listening, everyone. And thanks for always being in it with us.

  • Signs of anxiety in tweens and teens

    For tweens and teens, life can be a giant emotional roller coaster, with mood swings, unpredictable behavior, and endless drama. You can chalk some of it up to hormones. But kids this age also face a lot of pressure — especially kids who learn and think differently.School and their social lives are getting more complicated. Plus, they’re supposed to start thinking about their future. This stress can build and lead to anxiety.Here are signs of anxiety to look out for, according to John Piacentini, PhD, and Lindsey Bergman, PhD, experts from the UCLA Child Anxiety Resilience Education and Support (CARES) Center. Physical signs of anxietyOften complains of headaches or stomachaches, with no medical reasonRefuses to eat in the school cafeteria or other public placesChanges eating habits suddenlyWon’t use restrooms away from homeGets restless, fidgety, hyperactive, or distracted (but doesn’t necessarily have ADHD)Starts to shake or sweat in intimidating situationsConstantly tenses musclesHas trouble falling asleep or staying asleepEmotional signs of anxietyCries oftenBecomes cranky or angry for no clear reasonIs afraid of making even minor mistakesHas extreme test anxietyDoubts their skills and abilities, even when there’s no reason toCan’t handle any criticism, no matter how constructiveHas panic attacks (or is afraid of having panic attacks)Has pressing fears or phobiasWorries about things way off in the futureOften has nightmares about losing a parent or loved oneHas obsessive thoughts or worries about bad things happening or upsetting topicsBehavioral signs of anxietyAvoids participating in class activitiesStays silent or preoccupied when expected to work with othersRefuses to go to school or do schoolworkAvoids social situations with peersRefuses to speak to peers or strangers in stores, restaurants, etc.Becomes emotional or angry when separating from family or loved onesBegins to have explosive outburstsStarts withdrawing from activitiesConstantly seeks approval from parents, teachers, and friendsHas compulsive behaviors, like frequent handwashing or arranging thingsHow you can helpIf you see some of the signs of anxiety on a regular basis, use the anxiety tracker below to take notes. See if you can pick up on patterns. Share this information with the people who can find the best ways to help. Parents, caregivers, teachers, and pediatricians can work together. Learn about the difference between typical anxiety and an anxiety problem.

  • 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,

  • Classroom accommodations for anxiety

    It’s not uncommon for students who learn and think differently to also struggle with anxiety. They might worry a lot or be withdrawn at school. They may hesitate to participate in the classroom, make frequent trips to the bathroom or the nurse’s office, or even refuse to go to school at all. All of this can get in the way of learning.Here are some of the supports teachers can use to help students who struggle with anxiety. You can also download and print a list of these accommodations.Providing emotional supportEncourage the student to use self-calming or anxiety-reducing techniques that a counselor or therapist taught them.Allow the student to have a self-calming object or family pictures on hand.Check in frequently for understanding and “emotional temperature.”Build in “call home” breaks (for students with separation anxiety).Let the student seek help from a designated staff member with mental health expertise when feeling anxious.Classroom setup, schedules, and routinesClearly state and/or write down classroom expectations and consequences.Allow the student to sit where they’re most comfortable, like near a teacher or a friend.Let the student sit near the back of the room or by an exit during assemblies.Provide a “take a break” pass to let the student walk down the hallway, get a drink, or leave the classroom when needed.Assign the student a designated buddy for lunchtime, recess, and/or hallways.Allow preferential grouping for field trips so the student is with a teacher or friends.Create a plan for catching up after an absence or illness (for example, excusing missed homework or having a known time frame for making up work).Give advance notice of planned substitute teachers, changes in routine, or transitions.Rehearse transitions in a private or low-stress environment.Provide a signal before calling on the student and a signal for the student to opt out of answering.Completing assignments and testsBreak down assignments into smaller chunks.Use both oral and written instructions.Exempt the student from reading aloud or demonstrating work in front of the class.Let the student present projects to the teacher instead of to the entire class.Give extended time on tests and/or separate test-taking space to reduce performance anxiety.Allow word banks, notes, and fact cards for tests (for students who freeze or “go blank” during in-class tests).Set time limits for homework or reduce the amount of homework.Assure that work not completed in that time won’t count against the student.Provide class notes via email or a school portal for the student to preview.Give notice of upcoming tests (no “pop quizzes”).When a student is being treated for anxiety, people who work with them at school should be in contact with the student’s mental health care provider. You can talk about strategies and make sure the accommodations are a good fit.More resourcesDo you have a student with anxiety? Learn more about school anxiety. And find out how to use compassionate curiosity to show students that you’re trying to better connect with them and their experiences.Does your child have anxiety? Learn more about treatment options for mental health challenges.

  • 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.

  • Back-to-school anxiety in kids: What to watch out for

    Some kids get anxious over the start of school every year. That’s especially true for kids who struggle with learning or with making friends, and those with anxiety.Here are some things kids are likely to be anxious about as school starts this year:Being behind and not being able to catch upNot knowing their teacherNot fitting in with kids in their new classNot being prepared for changes or not knowing what to expectSchool safety Kids may need extra support as they head back to school. But families and educators can ease the transition and help kids manage anxiety.

  • ADHD Aha!

    Masking ADHD symptoms to go above and beyond (René Brooks’ story)

    ADHD advocate and content creator René Brooks shares her multiple ADHD diagnosis stories and unpacks the idea of ADHD as a superpower. René Brooks diagnosed ADHD three separate times — ages 7, 11, 25 — she’s plenty “aha” moments. When René child, mental health medication stigma kept family receiving vital education ADHD. diagnosed age 25, ready tell everyone ADHD diagnosis. René started Black Girl Lost Keys empower Black women ADHD. She’s advocate, content creator, host “Life Lost Keys” podcast. In week’s episode ADHD Aha!, René unpacks childhood ADHD diagnoses. shares she’d mask ADHD symptoms, led anxiety depression adulthood. Also episode: ADHD really superpower?Related resourcesRené Brooks’ podcast: Life Lost Keys ADHD medicationFrom Opportunity Gap podcast: ADHD race: Black families need knowEpisode transcriptRené: said, "The meds don't take away ADHD couple hours. still you're still things always did. It's you're able mask even better you've got one tool help move along, you're quite want be, you?" I'm like, "Oh."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: Oh, gosh. René Brooks Black Girl, Lost Keys, amazing René Brooks, content creator, advocates, Twitter, Instagram, podcasting. Hi, thank today. René: Thank me. real pleasure. Laura: first question you, René, ears ringing lately? René: Every get little bit ringy. trying say somebody talking here? Laura: I've folks show recently also colleagues office told "I going interviewing René Brooks," flipped out.René: Oh, sweet. Thank you.Laura: You're star. mean, really got much discussion around ADHD going community we're grateful you. René: grateful here. I'm grateful, it's really gratifying. It's long eight years work now, it's beautiful see direction conversation moving in. know, community's changed wildly past decade, so, completely different landscape we're dealing with. So, little like we've got growing pains, think we're headed positive direction. Laura: Right. mean, pioneer conversation woman ADHD particularly Black woman ADHD. first started speaking ADHD, think, know, third diagnosis — we'll get to — important messages get there? René: So, definitely wanted make sure Black people knew Black people ADHD. Like, course, know logically, don't see don't hear them, they're somewhere don't know are, that's really accessible you. So, wanted kind record least one person ADHD experienced living life Black person. really isolating conversations family friends, also difficult also person ADHD knew. show people isn't bad thing? it's frightening I'm wandering somewhere, can't reach anymore unless someone also see go, "Oh, OK, means." Laura: myths tried dispel first got started? René: Well, know, course, time bring ADHD, first thing anyone ever thinks of, it's frustrating us, meds. So, controversy stigma around medication, going me, going affect long term, dispel that. course, first, don't even know whether you're going try medication. That's tool. That's choice. So, shouldn't even first thing people think think ADHD. it's often is. So, stigma around meds. stigma around dealing kind mental health stuff Black person pull place danger know people committed will, who've experimented medical system, who've children taken away. So, open inquiry one's mental health also invite opinions professionals may culturally competent enough understand they're seeing find something sinister use penalize person. So, you're taking risk you're treating mental health. Laura: know mentioned earlier lot growth terms conversation community itself. around two particular myths stigma brought up? talked medicine, talked mental health, perception Black community. evolved, think, still, we? René: I've seen conversation meds shift much would like to, think that's everyone's burden bear. We're pulling along. think time there's something sensationalize topic, people going initially grab for. So, maybe always thing. hope it's not. hope one day someone make decision medication medicate without feeling like they're joining huge discourse maybe don't feel like identify with. far conversation around diagnosed ADHD different ways affects you're woman, you're person color, conversation could asked anything more. really feel like many new perspectives. There's much information. accuracy information always perfect, anyone perfect they're starting off? just, we're growing community I'm glad see directions we're shifting in. Laura: Yeah, completely agree those. would love see meds conversation evolve more. think particular medication shortages happening, vitriol around medication just, it's nasty. someone takes ADHD stimulant medication, battle every month getting prescription filled brutal. listeners don't know, diagnosed three times ADHD. René: was. Laura: age 7, age 11, 25. So, start 25, actually? want go backwards. sound? René: 25 favorite think says something finally able make decision myself, chose treatment. also, like, OK, we're going stay 25 saw jump past. Laura: know what? you, tell story want tell story. René: know what? It's jumbled story like ADHD stories are. like... Laura: Buckle up, everybody. Yeah.René: It's so, dark stormy night. So, 7 years old, brand-new teacher, fresh student teaching really fresh training knew look child might ADHD, correctly identified it. so, mother took pediatrician, pediatrician right edge retirement like, "Oh, new thing they're doing. They're trying medicate children." scare tactics used '90s. So, mom like, "Oh, well, OK. told give responsibility. I'll try create responsibility her." think worked? Laura: No, definitely not. kind responsibility? mom do? René: So, like basic chores, know, dishes and, like, dishes sensory nightmare me. hate day. So, like, know, go dishes, water's hot, it's cold, there's icky stuff on. just, war entire lives together. created lot misery didn't need to. known issue sensory one, like family, even though may understood neurodivergence, certainly understand giving someone tools need thing, kind point moving forward, kind tone took, push-pull civil war kind feeling household. René person who's given tools needs form responsibility, she's still not, we're getting performance her. So, I'm doctor said. child need, defiant child point? Defiant children get grounded, things taken away. you've got stress school you've got teachers fall anywhere spectrum agreeing ADHD thinking exists. so, you've got various levels frustration coming various different places want well child. Children want well. don't want displease adults around them. makes feel unsafe. So, wasn't lot safety there. Laura: feel like house? I'm thinking kids. can't help it. know, there's push-

  • Dyscalculia or math anxiety? Compare the signs in kids

    You may have noticed that your child seems anxious about doing math homework or getting ready for a math test. And then your child makes math mistakes. But what’s causing it? Is it a case of math anxiety? Or is it dyscalculia, a learning disability in math? Or maybe both? Dyscalculia and math anxiety often overlap. Both can affect how kids perform in math. But while these challenges sometimes look the same, they’re actually different.Dyscalculia is a learning challenge that causes trouble with math. Dyscalculia can make it hard for kids to understand math concepts or do tasks that involve math. Math anxiety is an intense feeling of worry about math. Math anxiety can make kids question their abilities in math, even if they have strong skills.Think of it this way: Doing math with dyscalculia is like hiking with an injury and not being able to climb to the peak. Doing math with math anxiety is like hiking while constantly worrying about what might happen if you try to climb to the peak.This chart can help you understand what you’re seeing in your child.Watch as an expert explains more about the difference between dyscalculia and math anxiety.Knowing what’s behind your child’s difficulty with math helps you to respond in the best way. Find out what to do if you’re concerned that your child has dyscalculia. If you think your child has anxiety, use this anxiety log to keep track of what you’re seeing. If you have concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s health care provider.

  • MissUnderstood: The ADHD in Women Channel

    ADHD and: Perfectionism

    The need for things to be perfect can be a common challenge for some women with ADHD. Learn more. Imagine a teacher spending countless hours perfecting her lesson plans. But never feeling quite satisfied with her work. And her desires for perfection begin to create a cycle that ends in exhaustion. The need for things to be perfect can be a common challenge for some women with ADHD. These challenges often stem from other symptoms of ADHD, like trouble with focus or organization. Listen as Dr. J explains the connection between ADHD and perfectionism. And shares ways to help. Related resourcesADHD and perfectionismADHD, anxiety, and perfectionism (Laura’s story)Episode transcriptDr. J: If I were to poll a group of women, I'm sure that many of them would say that they're a perfectionist. But is that really what it is? Today we're going to talk about perfectionism and similar behaviors that can mimic it. And I'm going to give you a few tips on how to cope and move past it. This is "ADHD and," where we talk about everyday living and ADHD. I'm Dr. J and I'm a clinical psychologist that works with those with ADHD and coexisting disorders. And today we're talking about ADHD and perfectionism. Now you might be wondering, "Dr. J, what do you mean that my perfectionism may be something else?" Well, when looking at the operational definitions of perfectionism in research settings, what we see is how it's defined is typically a combination of high standards of performance, being overly critical of your own behaviors, and a series of other factors. For example, when looking at perfectionism in research settings, one clinical measurement scale breaks it down into concern over making mistakes, personal standards, parental expectations and criticisms, doubting of actions and organizations, etc. It's important to break all of this down so that we can see which elements of perfectionism are elevated in ADHD and which ones aren't. Now here's a spoiler. Perfectionism as a whole doesn't appear to be elevated in those with ADHD. The research that looks at ADHD and perfectionism shows that those with ADHD are more likely to rank highly on factors like concern over mistakes and doubting their own actions. But on other required elements like organization, they score a lot lower. So, while adults with ADHD may say that they're suffering from perfectionism, when we break it down, it's more common that those with ADHD don't actually have high standards of performance and some of the other elements of perfectionism. But instead, what is happening is they do harshly judge themselves for making mistakes. So, what's important to keep in mind is that being overly critical of your mistakes or doubting your actions is just one component of perfectionism, so it doesn't lead to an elevation and perfectionism as a whole. But it does leave you with the problem of being unsure of yourself and beating yourself up over having everyday struggles. So, this hypercriticalness is where those with ADHD can really get themselves hung up, because what you're trying to do is avoid making an initial mistake or replicating a mistake that you've made in the past. And this can get you stuck in a loop, because what you're trying to do is look for the ideal pathway. And that ideal pathway is seen as the one without a mistake, which is frankly impossible in most circumstances. You can burn through all of your energy engaging in what I like to call faulty avoidance tactics. So, these are where you try to create the perfect or ideal environment where everything is just right or just so before taking any action steps. And what this can do is lead you to not making any movement toward the desired outcome. One of the things to understand about the brain and human attention is that it naturally gravitates towards negatives. So, these can be things that would have an undesirable outcome, an emotional experience that you're trying to avoid, an interpersonal difficulty, or simply failing at the thing that you're trying to do. Now, this is difficult for anyone to cope with. I even have times when my brain gets stuck on a negative feedback loop. But when you have ADHD, one of the things to keep in mind is that one of your core difficulties is attentional control and distractibility, and all you can focus on is not wanting to mess up, which in turn increases your anxiety about making the mistake, your self-doubts, etc. And you can burn through all your mental resources just on this. It can be completely immobilizing and typically lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy where we get the outcome that we were trying to avoid. Now that we have an idea about what perfectionism can look like and those with ADHD, I want to give you some helpful tips on how to cope with the hypercriticalness and other perfectionistic traits that might come up for you. So, my first tip is that you can develop a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. Growth mindset is a concept developed by psychologist Carol Dweck, which states that our abilities and our intelligence can improve over time based on learning, hard work, and dedication. This mindset contrasts with a fixed mindset, which is the belief that our traits and abilities really can't change over time and that they're static. People with a growth mindset see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, and they're also more likely to bounce back from setbacks because they see these as a natural part of the learning process. They also tend to embrace constructive criticism as it helps with the growth and development of them as a human being. This mindset encourages a focus on continuous learning and personal development, making it useful whether your issue falls in an educational setting, professional environment for personal growth, or really all of the above. A growth mindset can lead to increased motivation, resilience, and achievement. If you've adopted a growth mindset, when you face a mistake, you'll be more likely to be compassionate with yourself, objectively, look at what went well and what went wrong, and set realistic steps for how to overcome and continue your growth. Which really leads me to the next two point I'd like to make. Building a strong self-compassion practice can be a useful tool for mitigating hypercriticalness and perfectionism. Self-compassion is a concept that involves treating yourself with the same kindness, support, and concern that you would a dear friend who was struggling with a bunch of difficulties.Self-compassion is a great tool for counteracting the effects of hypercriticalness and perfectionism, and I'm going to share with you a few reasons why. The first reason is reduced self-criticism. Self-compassion encourages you to be kind and forgiving of yourself, which can counteract the often harsh criticism that comes up in those with ADHD when they make mistakes. This can also help to counteract that like need to be flawless or to have the situation be perfect before getting started. The second reason why self-compassion is helpful is actually increased resilience. By fostering a compassionate view towards your failures, your mistakes, what ends up happening is this self-compassion helps you to bounce back a lot faster. It's actually your criticism that slows you down. The next reason why self-compassion is so great is that it can help you to embrace imperfection. Self-compassion helps you to understand that making mistakes is a universal human experience. This acceptance can decrease your shame and fear and shift the focus away from avoiding failure to learning and growth. Self-compassion allows individuals to put their failures and their successes in a broader, more realistic context, and this can allow us to shift our focus away from I have to be perfect all the time to being able to view yourself across the spectrum and having an understanding that sometimes things go really well, sometimes they don't. And if I can look at myself across a span of time, I can see that I'm improving incrementally. And lastly, I want to talk about setting realistic goals. I often fall back on the acronym of SMART goals for this, and I usually add in a few of my own Dr. J pointers, which I'll give to you as well. The process of setting realistic goals involves crafting objectives that are challenging yet achievable. Here are the key components to ensure that your goals are realistic using the SMART acronym. The S and SMART is for Specificity. Goals should be clear and specific and avoid any sort of vagueness. Being specific helps to focus your efforts and to be really clear on what you're going to do. M is for Measurability. It's important to have your goals be measurable so that you have an idea of how to track your progress across time, and so that honestly, you realize when you've reached your goal. A is for Achievability. So, goals need to be realistic and attainable. This means that you want to consider whether or not the goal is achievable based on your current capabilities and constraints. The R is for Relevance, so you want to ensure that whatever goal you have is relevant to your broader life plans. When goals align with your values and just where you want to be going in life, this will increase your motivation toward that goal and lead to you working harder and being able to work longer at attaining that goal. T is for Time-bound. So, every goal should have a deadline. This creates a sense of urgency around it and motivates us for action. And then lastly, I want to give you my couple of Dr. J pointers that you can use along with the SMART acronym. The first one is to be flexible. While goals should be specific and measurable, if they're really rigid, this actually will get in the way of you accomplishing that goal. Life changes and your circumstances might as well. So, your ability to be flexible and to adjust your goals or adjust your timelines is necessary. And being flexible allows you that space to make these changes without feeling like you're failing and understanding that I can make these adjustments without changing the core purpose of the goal. My second tip is around positive framing. Framing your goals in a positive manner actually improves motivation. So, what this means is instead of having a goal like "Stop eating junk food," have the goal of "Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day" as that is a lot more helpful. Incorporating these components when you go about setting your goals will actually create a structured path towards achieving them, it will reduce the likelihood of setbacks, and also enhance your satisfaction derived from the achievement. In closing, I really just want to say that you may never feel good about making a mistake. In fact, it's really natural to want to do well. But where the issue lies is when we're unduly harsh with ourselves. My hope is by adopting a growth mindset, fostering self-compassion, and also setting realistic goals that you actually increase the amount of success that you achieve and learn how to be kinder to yourself along the way. Thank you for joining me on this episode of "ADHD and." If you decide to try out any of these strategies, or you have any questions or topics you'd like us to address in the future, please let us know. This show is brought to you by, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering people with learning and thinking differences like ADHD and dyslexia. Learn more at "ADHD and" is produced by Tara Drinks and edited by Alyssa Shea. Our video producer is Calvin Knie. Ilana Miller is our supervising producer, Briana Berry is our production director, Neil Drumming is our editorial director. Our audio engineer and music composer is Justin D. Wright. Our executive directors are Laura Key, Scott Cocchiere, and Seth Melnick. And I'm your host, Dr. J.

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