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  • As president of Eye to Eye, the largest national mentoring organization for kids with learning and thinking differences (and an Understood founding partner), I get to talk to a lot of parents. Right now, the biggest thing on their minds is back to school.Academics is a big concern for many parents. But there’s also a social-emotional side of the new school year, especially the stress and anxiety that kids face.I understand this firsthand because I went through these struggles as a kid. I remember my ninth-grade year as being a particularly tough back-to-school transition.During the first week of ninth grade, my English teacher assigned us Shakespeare’s Macbeth to read.“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”—Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1I have dyslexia and ADHD, and I started worrying that reading this play was going to be impossible for me. How was I going to do this? I could feel my hands shaking and my palms sweating — my stress level went through the roof.It didn’t help that this was my first year of high school. I was in a different building than last year, with new classrooms and a new locker. I didn’t know my way around.In middle school, I’d been one of the oldest students. The teachers knew me. I had a support system of people I could talk to. Now I was a lowly freshman, starting all over again. It was scary and nerve-racking.But it was an opportunity as well. This was a chance for a fresh start. And soon, someone would give me the chance to talk through how I was going to handle ninth grade.After assigning Macbeth, my English teacher pulled me aside.“Marcus,” she said, “I’ve seen your IEP. I know you have dyslexia and reading issues. And I know what accommodations the IEP provides for you in class.”I was quiet. Then she continued, “I know all that, but I’d like you to share with me in your own words: What’s going to help you be successful in my class?”I was a little stunned. This was the first time I’d had a chance to talk with someone who wasn’t my parent or a special education teacher about the way I learn.She gently nudged me, and then I opened up.Yes, I told her, I love to participate in class and share my ideas, but please don’t call on me to read aloud. I’m not good at it, and reading aloud will terrify me and ruin my focus in class.As we talked, I started to remember things that had worked for me in middle school. I do better, I recalled, when I sit in the front of the class. It helps me pay attention.“What about the reading assignments?” she asked.Oh yes, I said, I’m going to have difficulty keeping up on the reading. Suggestions popped into my head — maybe I can get the assignments ahead of time so I can start early? Maybe there can be understanding if I’m a little behind because it takes me longer to read?She listened to me and nodded. My stress level started to go down.It’s not like everything was instantly better. I still struggled, and I didn’t have everything figured out. For instance, I wished I’d embraced audiobooks in ninth grade as a way to keep up with reading. It’s a tool I use every day as an adult!But just the act of talking about what I needed made me feel empowered and more confident about school. My teacher made it OK for us to discuss what would have been frightening for me to think about alone.If your child is struggling in school, he may find it really embarrassing and scary to speak up. These self-advocacy skills aren’t easy. Students with learning and thinking differences need to practice them over and over again, and consistently.The good news is that the start of each school year is a chance to get your child talking about their needs. It’s a natural time to do this because everything is new. And for many kids, talking about the changes helps reduce stress and anxiety.How do you go about getting your child talking?In ninth grade, it was a teacher who gave me a push. In previous years, my parents had done so. In later years, I initiated these talks. In fact, I took these skills into college and the workplace.Every kid is different. Some are natural talkers. Others need hand-holding from parents and teachers. Many kids can benefit from having a mentor to help guide the way. Personally, I’ve always felt that these conversations are easier if you schedule them right before doing something fun, like going out for ice cream or shopping for new sneakers.The key is to start somewhere, no matter how small. And then keep talking. Self-advocacy is an essential skill that takes years to learn.

  • In It

    Starting a new school year can be overwhelming, especially for kids who learn and think differently. Get tips for making it more manageable. For many families, the new school year brings a real mixed bag of emotions. There’s the excitement of a fresh start combined with jitters about all of the unknowns. For families of kids who learn and think differently, there may be IEPs or 504 plans, and new teachers to connect with about all these things. It’s a lot to think about — and to navigate.In this episode, hosts Gretchen Vierstra and Rachel Bozek talk with returning guest DeJunne’ Clark Jackson, an education consultant and parent advocate. She’s also the mom of two kids, one with an IEP. Tune in for back-to-school strategies that have worked well for DeJunne’ and her family. Find out how she sets goals with both of her kids, keeping in mind their strengths and challenges.Related resources Download: Back-to-school update for families to give to teachersDownload: Goals calendar for kids who struggle with planningMy kids have different strengths and challenges. Here’s how I set goals with them.Hear more from DeJunne’ in this episode about parent-teacher conferences from last season Get back-to-school tips from executive function coach Brendan Mahan in this episode about building executive function skills 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 with a family that's definitely in it.Gretchen and I have been away from our microphones for most of the summer, apart from a bonus episode here and there. But with the new school year very much upon us, I think we're ready to jump back in.Gretchen: Actually, here in California, school has already been going on for a few weeks. But that doesn't mean we couldn't use some tips on how to help our kids get off to a good start.Rachel: Not to mention what to do if things get bumpy fast.Gretchen: So to help us with that, we've invited back DeJunne' Clarke Jackson.Rachel: DeJunne' is a former teacher and school counselor based in Baton Rouge. Now, she works as an educational therapist and student advocate.Gretchen: She's also president of the Center for Literacy and Learning, a nonprofit that supports teachers who teach reading.Rachel: And she's a parent of two kids, one with learning differences and one without.Gretchen: Last time she joined us, we talked about how to prepare for parent-teacher conferences. And we will never forget her describing herself as "the five-inch binder mom."Rachel: We're so glad to have her back with us today. DeJunne', welcome back to "In It."DeJunne': Thank you for having me. So glad to be back.Gretchen: We are so happy to have you back. And last time we had you on the podcast, you talked about your two kids. And I know one of them learns and thinks differently and has an IEP. And I'm wondering if you're talking to your kids before school starts, and what kinds of conversations you're having with them.DeJunne': So, yes, I am having conversations with both my boys, age 9 and 14. So we're going into the fourth and the 10th grade. My oldest, of course, is the one with learning differences. So their conversations are the same, but different.And so we actually started having those conversations at the end of last school year. So we don't reserve those conversations for just the start of this upcoming school year. Mostly because my boys really try to avoid knowing that school is starting. So we — I really want to capture their attention when they're in this mindset of like being open to having those conversations about what the next school year looks like. What did this last school year look like?And my conversations with my 9-year-old look a lot different than my 14-year-old because his conversations are, you know, a lot around like social norms and expectations and, you know, our friendships in the social media realm and navigating teenager hood.Gretchen: Yeah, I'm so glad to hear you brought up social things. I'm wondering, especially with your older child, do you kind of reflect on last year in terms of academics and then set academic goals for the following year? Talk a little bit about that.DeJunne': Yeah. So we set academic goals for both kids. One thing about goal setting, though, our expectation is that both kids do their best. And it varies per subject. So we lean into the strengths.And if I know that science is your jam and you're good at it, then we set the expectation to match your ability. And if it's an A and we know you can perform at an A, then we set that expectation at an A. And if math is your challenge and we know you struggle through it and you show up every day to try your best and be your best, and if your best in math is a C on your best day, then a C is what we, you know, high-five you for.Rachel: I really like that — leaning into strengths and challenges. Because sometimes it can be easy for us to say, well, you got an A in science, so that means you can definitely get an A in math too, right? And then that can feel really defeating for your kid, because maybe they can't get an A in math too.DeJunne': And this is coming from an educator. So when I tell my friends this, they're like, Oh my God, I can't believe like, you don't want, you know, you don't want to to breed this like Harvard, you know?Even with my youngest, who, you know, who performs really well academically, and at the end of the day, I just want to create human beings that are, you know, wonderful law-abiding citizens, that are helpful, that have good hearts, and who are proud of themselves because they showed up every day and did their best.And so sometimes you just need to lean into those strengths. And then really appreciating and celebrating the strengths that are nonacademic, right? So having and appreciating the fact that your student may not excel. They may be a straight C student. But they're an extremely talented artist. Or they can play an instrument really well. Or they excel in sports.And that's the thing that keeps them going. That's the thing that helps them show up to math class every day that they hate. But they're doing it because the goal that you set is, you know, for them in order to get to that area of strength and to continue in that, you sort of tied in, you know, well, you know, we're going to make sure that we maintain our C average in all these subjects in order to support your love of art or go to this art showcase this year, you know. And so you just want to make sure it all marries together.Gretchen: Well, I'm going to switch gears a minute and get to a kind of more nuts-and-bolts question. A lot of times for many kids, the new school year also comes with like new organization methods. Maybe it's like a new folder. Or maybe they've gone to like the Dollar Store and gotten some caddies to organize things in. And it's going to be great. I'm going to be so organized with my pens here and this here.And then perhaps after a month or two, all this flash of new caddies and whatnot starts to fall apart. Do you have any strategies for this — of how to set like organization kind of goals that will actually work and won't break the bank too?DeJunne': Yeah, this — honestly, a very transparent moment as a parent. This has been one that we've struggled with. We had a laundry list of things that didn't work. We've tried binders and dividers and labeled folders and journals and agendas. And I think that's sort of where you begin. You try. And if it doesn't work, you try a different way. And you just keep trying something until it works.And we've, for a number of years, lived for a checklist. I mean, checklists got us through everything — from waking up in the morning, to tying our shoes, brushing our teeth, you know, taking our medicine, getting out the door. If we did not have a checklist, it did not get done.And that's one thing that we realized: Our kiddo was a minimalist. So the more things we gave him, the more frazzled he would be and trying to remember how to use those systems. Right? So that's why we we sort of came to the conclusion of, Oh, this is why a checklist was so easy, because it was simple.And so now we function with one notebook. We don't even have the fancy notebook with the divided sections. Because we tried that — like math, science, social studies. Everybody's getting written in one section. We do one folder and pray to God that all the papers get into the folder. Sometimes they are crumpled up at the bottom of the book bag most times. Rachel: But they're there.DeJunne': Yeah, but they're there. And then his computer and his phone are the most valuable assets for us, because his phone, the notes app — and of course I'm talking about the oldest kid with the learning challenges — the phone, his notes app. It's a running record of God knows what, but it gets there. And then his computer because his teachers in the communication, everything is on that computer. That's what we've sort of teetered along those lines.But yeah, we've struggled through a number of years because we wanted it to be all nice and pretty with the caddy and the different colored pens and the highlighters and stickers and, you know, and that works for some. And I say, go for it. And Dollar Tree will be your best friend, you know? But for some, less is more.Rachel: So for families with kids who learn and think differently, and maybe they have IEPs or 504s and maybe they don't. But they still want to kind of level-set at the beginning of the school year. Who should they touch base with? Teachers or school counselors? Specialists? And like, when is the right time to do that? Should they wait for their parent-teacher conference? Or, you know, how much time should they give for a conversation to happen that's just kind of like, hey, just want to touch base.DeJunne': Yeah. So I want to preface my answer by saying, yeah, there are categories of parents who have sort of been in this space of students with learning differences. I would probably be categorized as the crusader parent, right? I've been in this fight for a long time. I am probably the one that's on the horse with the shield, you know, with the sword in the air leading the calvary behind me.And so have to say that, right, because it depends on where you are in this journey. So I say that because my answer is everyone. Who you should touch base with is everyone at the start of the school year. Elementary looks much different than high school. Those "everyones" look a little different on each campus.But I also say that with — I use the sort of target or dartboard model when I work with the "everyone," you know, sort of model. I look at those who are closest or have the most touchpoints to my kiddo. So I may start with his classroom teacher. And of course, elementary, you'll know, it's probably just, you know, one teacher and maybe the school counselor. That's your core.But if your kiddo has an IEP, then of course the core is the IEP teacher of record. Then maybe your next ring could be the assistant principal or the dean or whomever. He may have a next touchpoint with your kiddo. Maybe your kiddo has some behavior challenges, so you may want to reach out to the dean of students or the vice principal who handles your behavior, you know, concerns. And then the next one might be the principal.But are sort of these layers, right, that you're building out from? But at the end of the day, I need everyone to know, hey, here's my kid. He has an IEP. I want to make sure you're aware and that you have a copy, and that he has those things in place on day one. And that I am his parent and that I am here to support you and to support him. And reinforce what is happening in the learning environment. And I want to do this outreach campaign at the beginning of the school year.To your point, I don't wait to parent-teacher conference. Because those usually aren't scheduled until like September, October, and by then it's too late. I don't want to talk about how he's underperforming at that time. I want to get it out and get it ahead of time.Gretchen: Right. Because your kids are starting in August. So October would feel like a long ways in.DeJunne': Forever away. So we want to get it ahead of time. Some send letters. I'm sure we've seen all the the letters that float around on social media that introduces their kid. I think those are so cute. I like the in-person, you know, feel so that we can put a face to name. I don't want to give too much information. I want them to get to know my kid for themselves, and just give them sort of that surface level of information. But just really as an introductory.Gretchen: Well, I know we're close to our end DeJunne'. But I do have a question that I think a lot of families might be wondering about, which is, you know, school starts fresh, start, you know, reset. Maybe a month in, oh my goodness. Things have not gone as we thought.Like maybe there's some, you know, bad interactions with other kids or teachers, you know, like my teacher, I don't like them. Or, you know, there's been a couple of failed tests or whatnot. Who knows what it is. But this you know, it's not the the glory you had hoped for. So how do you not despair? How do you not despair as a parent? And how do you help your kid not despair when that happens?DeJunne': It's difficult. You just you want — your immediate instinct as a parent is probably to fix it, right? You just want to fix it. You want to make it all better. I'd probably say that if things are looking doom-and-gloom in the beginning, that there's probably, you know, some transitioning pains, some growing pains.Because remember, this is new, especially your younger kiddos, new teachers. You're not doing it like Miss So-and-so did it. This is not how I'm used to it being done. It's new for them. That doesn't mean that it's necessarily bad. It's just different, you know? And so helping them understand the difference will really help as you talk to them through those things.I could probably say that there's probably a lack of communication or miscommunication or misunderstandings somewhere. I don't recommend just, you know, jumping in to trying to fix it. You know, have conversations for the goal of understanding and be proactive versus reactive. Really get into there and, you know, work with your child's teacher. Or work with whatever information that you need to know to be able to gain an understanding and awareness of what's going on. Instead of, you know, having them just adapt. Like, oh, get over it, you know, you'll get used to it.Encourage them to self-advocate. You know, it's so important and it's so underrated to have kids have a voice. And I think it comes from that, you know, that old-school parenting, that mindset that kids are, you know, to be seen and not heard. And I think we've done such a great job of trying to change that and have our kids be heard as we talk to our kids more and give them a voice. And have them know that it's OK to speak up.You know, teaching them, like, how do I politely interrupt. You know, even like sort of the process by which we speak up and that we use our voice. And so encouraging them to self-advocate. So if something doesn't sit right or feel right, or they believe that they are misheard or misunderstood, then how do I tell my teacher that? So even just giving them permission to have dialog with their teachers that they want just a better understanding? I think that that's a great place to start.Rachel: Yeah, and the teachers appreciate that. The teachers appreciate that.DeJunne': Yeah. Yeah. And they should. And if they don't, then that's a different conversation we can have.Rachel: Yeah, well, that is all so helpful. I have one more question. Any other advice you have for parents and caregivers or maybe even for teachers and support staff as we get settled into the new school year?DeJunne': Give grace. Our kids are trying. And if they're not trying, find out why. And I think when we get to that, we'll discover those strengths and pull out the things that they need help discovering. And I think we'll get our kids, you know, those goals that we set for them, they'll accomplish. I'm excited for our kiddos.Gretchen: I'm excited, too. Especially after talking to you today. I feel like it was a pep talk for us. Thank you so much for being with us, DeJunne'.Rachel: Thank you.DeJunne': Thank you for having me again.Gretchen: You've been listening to "In It" from the Understood Podcast Network.Rachel: This show is for you, so we want to make sure you're getting what you need. Email us at to share your thoughts. We love hearing from you.Gretchen: If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.Rachel: is a resource dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at "In It" is produced by Julie Subrin. Briana Berry is our production director. Justin D. Wright mixes the show. Mike Errico wrote our theme music.Rachel: For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. And Seth Melnick is our executive producer. Thanks for listening.Gretchen: And thanks for always being in it with us. 

  • 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.

  • In It

    Messy backpacks. Forgotten lunches. Missing assignments. How can we help our kids get organized this school year? Messy backpacks. Forgotten lunches. Missing assignments. How can we help our kids get organized this school year? What strategies can we use to support kids with ADHD and other learning differences? In this episode, hosts Amanda Morin and Gretchen Vierstra get back-to-school tips from Brendan Mahan, an executive function coach and host of the ADHD Essentials podcast. Brendan explains what executive function skills are — and how we can help kids build them. Learn why we might be asking too much of our kids sometimes, and how to reframe our thinking around these skills. Plus, get Brendan’s tips for helping kids get back into school routines. Related resourcesWhat is executive function? Trouble with executive function at different ages Understanding why kids struggle with organizationEpisode transcriptAmanda: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "In It." On this podcast, we offer perspective, stories, and advice for and from people who have challenges with reading, math, focus, and other types of learning differences. We talk to parents, caregivers, teachers, experts, and sometimes even kids. I'm Amanda Morin.Gretchen: And I'm Gretchen Vierstra.Amanda: And this episode is for all those folks out there like me saying oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. How is it the start of a new school year already? How is summer over? And I don't know what I'm going to do because my kid doesn't know how to do school anymore.Gretchen: Yes, this transition can be especially stressful for parents of kids with ADHD and other learning differences. Maybe you had your systems down last year, like how to get your backpack organized or where your child does their homework after school. But will your child remember those things? And are those even the systems you need this year?Amanda: That's why we wanted to talk to Brendan Mahan. He's an ADHD and executive function coach. He's also got his own podcast, "ADHD Essentials."Gretchen: All right. Let's dive right in.Amanda: So Brendan, as an executive function coach, I would imagine that this start of the school year is a really busy time for you. What are you hearing from parents as they're facing down the beginning of a new school year?Brendan: It varies. Sometimes it's really specific. Like my kid struggled last year and I'm worried about how they're going to do it this year. Sometimes it's my kid's going into middle school, what do I do? Or my kid's going into high school, what do I do? Or I want my kid to get in a college and it's right around the corner — help. Like that. It's that sort of thing, right? But a lot of what I talk to parents about is like pump the brakes. Like, your kid is going to be OK. The school year hasn't even started that much yet.Amanda: OK. So I want to dig into all of that. But first, could you just explain what we're even referring to when we talk about executive function skills?Brendan: So executive function is the ability to do something, right? It's like the ability to execute. So planning and decision making, being able to correct errors and troubleshoot, being able to navigate it when things change and shift, when expectations are different and being able to handle that adjustment. It's understanding time and our relationship to it. It's sustained attention and task initiation. There's emotional control and self-awareness and self-understanding. It's kind of a broad category. There's a lot hiding underneath it.But it boils down to being able to do the thing. It's those adulting skills that, for one, we don't really expect kids to have yet anyway because it's developmental. But also we want them to have it before they're supposed to have it. And that causes its own sort of challenges.Gretchen: So I wonder, do kids tend to slide in executive function skills over the summer?Brendan: I don't know that they slide. I think the academic context of executive function slide. Sometimes we're still using some of those executive functions during the summer. Sometimes we're using more of some of them. You might have a kid who struggles to keep himself organized at school, right? But he's been playing with Legos all summer long and his Lego organizational skills are on point. And maybe that transfers to the classroom and maybe it doesn't.Summer is often when kids are much more self-directed. They're much more curious and exploratory. There's more space for that. So that stuff is going to grow when it may have slid during the school year, because they didn't get the opportunities that they might get during the summer.Amanda: I'm going to go back to something you said, though, because it piqued my curiosity. We expect kids to have executive function skills before they're developmentally ready for it. Why do we do that? Or how do we stop doing that? Or what should we be doing instead?Brendan: I'll go for all of it. Like, how big of a jerk do you want me to be?Amanda: Realistic. Let's go with realistic.Brendan: The answer to that, and this is me being a jerk, is kids not having executive functioning skills is inconvenient.Gretchen: Right.Brendan: Right? Like it makes our lives harder that they can't follow 10-step directions.Gretchen: Brendan, can you give a kind of a general overview of what skills I should expect of typical kids in like grade school and up? So I'm not asking for things I shouldn't get.Brendan: So breaking it down into, like, elementary school, middle school, and high school. It's at least academically how we break things down. So we should expect elementary school kids to be able to pay attention. But there's high school kids who have trouble with that, right? So like, that's kind of an illustration on executive functioning challenges. But broadly speaking, we're expecting elementary school kids to pay attention, control their behavior and impulses, follow one- to two-step directions, and be able to change their behavior to follow rules as necessary.Amanda: The kindergarten teacher in me is going to pop in here and say, "pay attention" is a really like nebulous one, right? Because when I was teaching kindergarten, it was like, pay attention for 10 minutes was about as much as they could could do, right? So I just want to caveat and say, yes, pay attention. I also think about how old the kid in front of you is, for how long they can pay attention.Brendan: True. And absolutely like 10 minutes for a kindergarten kid, and sort of add a few minutes per grade level kind of thing. But also, what does "pay attention" mean? Right? I'm really glad you called that out. Because for some teachers, "pay attention" means sitting with their back against the back of the chair and their legs against the bottom of the chair and their hands folded on their desk and looking at the teacher and — and like, I did that in school. And I did not know what was going on. Because my imagination is way cooler than anything my teacher had to say.Amanda: It may be time to narrate for our listeners that Brendan is standing up as he records, and I'm sitting a swivel chair and swiveling back and forth. Yet we are still paying attention.Gretchen: We're paying attention. So then what about middle schoolers that I know Amanda and I have.Brendan: And I do, too. Yeah. For the middle school kids, we want them to start to show that they can think in order to plan an action. We want them to be able to plan ahead to solve problems, even. Right? Like this is a problem that I might encounter when I do my social studies project or whatever. We want them to be able to follow and manage a daily routine. So an elementary school kid not knowing where they're going on a given day? We might not worry about that too much. Middle school kids, we start to go, oh, wait a minute, you should know what's happening. I want to caveat this, though, because some middle school schedules are a nightmare.Gretchen: A day, B day, short day.Brendan: Yeah. We also for middle school kids, we want to see them beginning to develop this skill of being able to modify their behavior across changing environments. Do we expect to see this because it's developmentally appropriate? Or do we expect to see this because that's how middle school works and it's necessary that they can? I don't know.Gretchen: It makes me think I'm asking too much.Amanda: Makes me think I'm asking too much, too.Brendan: Yeah. One of the things that I often talk about with my clients, with my coaching groups, is when a kid is struggling, we want to wonder: Is it the fish or is it the water? Right? Like, is this kid struggling because there's something going on with them? Or is it the kid's struggling because there's something going on with the environment that they're in? Probably it's both. And oftentimes we focus on the fish instead of looking at the water. So I tend to champion like, let's address the environment that the kid's in.Amanda: As a parent staring down the school year, what do I do right now to start bolstering those skills?Brendan: So if school hasn't started yet, I might be talking about things we can do during the summer to kind of get ourselves squared away so that the beginning of school goes more smoothly, right? Start going to bed a little bit earlier now, so that when school starts and you have to go to bed a lot earlier, you can make that transition more effectively. Or give your kids like a few more responsibilities for the time being, so that when school starts, you can take those extra responsibilities away and replace them with the school responsibilities that are coming. Which doesn't mean they should be writing essays at home. It just means that they should be doing a little bit more in terms of chores or something, so that they're used to not being as relaxed and on as much screen time as they were in the summer.And if school is already started, then it's like trust the teacher, right? Like let's communicate with the teacher. Let's find out what it is that they're doing in their classroom. Are they seeing challenges or red flags already for your kid, or maybe orange flags? Is there anything we need to be on top of right now? So don't wait until the problem happens, like solve the problem in advance instead of solving it after things have gone haywire. And pivoting really quick, because one thing I didn't do is I didn't talk about high school.Gretchen: Oh, yeah. High schools.Brendan: So emerging skills in high school: We expect them to start to be able to think and behave flexibly. We also want to see them begin to organize and plan projects and social activities. Now, social activities, yes. But like, why do they have to be able to organize and plan projects? Because that's how high school works, right? And that skill has been building since middle school, maybe even since late elementary school. But now we're starting to expect more independence and it should be an easier process.We also want to see them adapt to inconsistent rules. And it happens in lots of ways, right? Like I just left English class and now I'm in math class and I can't shut up because I was talking a lot in English and it was fine because we were doing group projects and now it's a solo thing in math, right? That's hard. But we start to expect that. Yeah, you have like three-minute hallway time and then you got to be ready to go behaving totally different for a new subject.Gretchen: That three-minute time is like, I've got to say, as a teacher, even I had trouble switching, right? You're going from one class to the next and there's no downtime to readjust. That's tough.Brendan: Yeah, but that's time on learning, right? That's like you've got to be learning, learning, learning. Which is silly, because we know we need time for our minds to wander in order to cement that learning and sort of lock it in. And if we don't give kids any time that's downtime to have their minds wander and be a little spacey, they're not going to be able to anchor in that learning as effectively as they might otherwise.Amanda: Well, I will say that as a parent of kids who have ADHD, I have often been the parent who was like, you don't have to go do your homework right away. And I know that that's sort of antithetical to like all what a lot of people say. You know, come home from school, do your homework, get it done, then do your other stuff. But my kids weren't ready to. They needed that time to sort of breathe or let their brains breathe or whatever they needed to do. We can have the homework station all put together, but it doesn't mean we have to put the kid at the homework station the minute they walk in the door.Gretchen: Right.Brendan: Right. And how much of that is coming from your own anxiety?Gretchen: Just get it done, man. Go to that seat and do it, right?Amanda: OK, so what's the conversation sound like if I am trying to get my kid in the game, get their head in the game, and not put my anxiety on them? What's that conversation sound like?Brendan: A lot of that conversation is happening inside of you and doesn't need to be shared with them, right? Like, because you got to work on your own stuff before you can have this conversation. You have to figure out what is it about, in this case, homework, and doing it as soon as I get home, or is having my kid do it as soon as they get home. What is it about that that makes it so important to me? It might be that transitions with your kid are wicked hard and you don't want to have another transition. You don't want to have to battle them to come and do homework at 5:00. So it's easier to avoid that battle because they're kind of still in school academic mode. So you can at least get them into it better.And that might be because you're doing it wrong in terms of what activities you're having them do before they do homework. Screen time is not a plan before homework, unless you know you can trust your kid to pull out of that screen and go into homework. If there's ever a battle around getting out of screen time, then they need to do something else before they do their homework.Gretchen: Yeah. That brings me to a related question, Brendan, which is sometimes kids have it together executive function wise, especially when they love something, right? But when they don't like something, all of a sudden I see the skills go away. And I wonder, OK, are they struggling or is it that they're just choosing to not have those skills in that moment because they don't want that for that thing?Brendan: When we're talking about kids, it is never useful to decide that they're choosing to not do or do anything. Because all that does is vilify the kid and make us, as parents, feel more justified in being meaner to them. Instead, we always want to assume that our kid is doing the best they can. And we always want to assume that they are trying to do well and want to please us. Those are my fundamental assumptions at all times. And have I screwed up? Yes. There was a period of time when my kid was struggling, like a lot of kids right now. Post-COVID, there's a lot of anxiety stuff going on with kids.My kid is one of them, man. And I was wrapped up in my own anxiety as a result of his anxiety, and I wasn't thinking as clearly. And we started battling. And we had one particular rough battle that my wife got caught in and I sat down on a bed. I can still see it. I can see myself sitting on the bed and going, I'm doing it wrong. Like we should not be battling. This is not the relationship I've had with my kid for the last 13 years. What am I doing wrong?And I literally went through in my head the slides of the parent groups that I run. And I hit this one slide that is like everyone is doing the best they can. Your kids want to please you. They want to succeed. And if those things don't feel true, it's because there's a skill set that's missing or there's a resource that they don't have that they need. And I was like, he's doing his best, and his best is not up to my standards. And that's because something else is going on. I knew what that something else was. It was the anxiety stuff that's going on. And I was just like, oh, the skill set that he's missing is the anxiety management skills that he needs.But it wasn't that he couldn't do the stuff that I want him to do. It was that he couldn't manage his anxiety. And the only reason I started banging heads with him was because I was so anxious that I couldn't bring the skills that I usually have to bear to navigate the challenges that he was facing and help him out. So it makes sense. It happened to both of us at the same time, and that's why we were banging heads. And our relationship changed from that day forward.Amanda: I'm going to push, though, a little bit, because I really I'm super curious about the kids who say to us, like, I'm just not feeling it. Like, is there something below that, you think?Brendan: What's below when you're not feeling it? Like there's times when we're not feeling it either, right? And there's something below that, too. Sometimes it's I haven't slept well for a week, and I'm just done. I don't have the mental capacity to do this. Sometimes it's I haven't moved my body in like a month and a half and that's affecting my get-up-and-go. Sometimes it's I'm chock-full of anxiety because someone in my house has a chronic illness or I'm afraid of COVID or or my parents are getting divorced or whatever, right?There's all kinds of reasons why kids might not feel it. And if they say, I'm just not feeling it, there's two really good responses. One is cool, then you don't have to do it. Like figure out when you can. Give me an idea when you might be able to do this, and we'll do it then. The other answer is, I totally hear you that you're not feeling it and I get it. I can tell that you're not feeling it, but unfortunately you still got to do it. How can I help you get this done?Gretchen: I like that language.You brought up not wanting to battle your child and none of us want to battle our child. But in thinking about going back to school, we might be getting feelings from last year of oh my gosh, the backpack was so disorganized. Oh my gosh, why didn't you bring home your homework assignments? So how can we start off the year better, but get some of those basic skills under control?Brendan: So I have some videos on "How to ADHD," Jessica McCabe's YouTube channel, on my Wall of Awful model. That is exactly what we're talking about right now. The idea behind the Wall of Awful is that — I'll do like a two-second thing. Watch the video. It's like 14 minutes of your life. The gist of the Wall of Awful is that, like, we have certain stuff that we do that we fail at or struggle with. And as a result, we get these negative emotions built up around that task. And we have to navigate those negative emotions before we can do the thing.So if we've battled with our kid about school a lot, as school comes back up, we have a Wall of Awful for navigating school as much as they do. So we get in a fight and argue about stuff. Just put your shoes on, or whatever. And sometimes it's that petty, right? Like we're yelling at our kid to put their shoes on, even though they have 10 minutes before they even have to get on the bus. And it's not about the shoes. It's about all of the battles we've had about school for the last seven years or whatever.So to get ahead of that, talk to your kids before school starts about how you have conflict when school starts. And ask them, like, what do you notice about this conflict? What do you need for me to help avoid this conflict? Or this is what I need from you to help avoid this conflict. What do you need from me to help give me what I need, right?Because that's what parenting boils down to. Parenting boils down to what does my kid need from me in order to be better? So whenever I have a conflict with my kid or my kid is struggling, I'm always asking them, like, what do you need from me? And sometimes what they need from me is for me to intentionally give them nothing so that they can figure it out on their own. Sometimes that's what I'm giving, is like independence.But if that doesn't work, I need to be ready, like a safety net with, like, other stuff, right? Like, oh, you also need me to, like, bust out a timer and remind you that those are useful. Or break this task into smaller, more manageable chunks. Or, as I had to do for one of my kids recently, text the dad of one of their friends that he wanted to hang out with, because he just didn't have it in him to text his friend. And we had that conversation. I was like, cool, then I'll text the dad. Not a big deal.Amanda: Sometimes my kid doesn't know. My kid's like I don't know what I need from you. So as parents, having those examples of what you can then say: Is it this? Is it this? Is it this? What else would you add to that list?Brendan: First I would add if the kid says "I don't know," say to them, "You don't need to know. I don't want the answer to this question right now. I can, like, take a few hours, take a day." Because when we put a kid on the spot, anxiety spikes, executive functions shut down. They don't know. But if we give them some thinking time and some grace, then they can come back later and tell us stuff. Or maybe not. Maybe they come back an hour later and they're like, I still have no idea.Then we start giving them examples — examples that are informed by what we already know about our kid. Do you need me to get some timers? Do you want to sit down with me and I can body-double you while you work on this? I got some knitting to do, or I have to pay the bills. Like we can sit at the kitchen table, you can work on your thing, I can work on my thing. Do you want help breaking this down into small, manageable chunks? I know sometimes you struggle with that a little bit. Would it be useful to maybe call up Sally and have Sally come over or do a Zoom with you and you guys can work on this together? Would that be helpful? Like, and something else that you thought of, because I am running out of ideas? Like, what do you think?Amanda: So we're all about executive functioning today, which always includes time management. And Brendan, I know you said you had somewhere to be. So I just want to thank you so much for sharing all of these insights and advice with us today.Gretchen: Yes, thank you so much, Brendan. So much for us to think about.Brendan: Thank you for having me.Gretchen: Brendan has lots more to share with families who are working on building their executive function skills. Go to That's where you can also find his "ADHD Essentials" podcast.Amanda: You've been listening to "In It" from the Understood Podcast Network.Gretchen: 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.Amanda: If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.Gretchen: is a resource dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at "In It" is produced by Julie Subrin. Briana Berry is our production director. Justin D. Wright mixes the show. Mike Errico wrote our theme music. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer.Gretchen: Thanks for listening and for always being in it with us.

  • Back-to-school is anything but ordinary this year. You and your child might feel anxious about the return to school — whether it’s in-person, remote, or a combination of the two. That’s especially true if your child is struggling with learning or behavior. In this series, we talk about the concerns many families are coping with, and how to work with your child’s teacher to get ready for back-to-school this year.

  • In It

    Summer break. Some families love it. Others dread it. No matter how you feel about summer, we’ve got hacks to help your family thrive. Summer break. Some families love it. Others dread it. No matter how you feel about summer, we’ve got hacks to help your family thrive. In this episode, hosts Gretchen Vierstra and Rachel Bozek talk all things summer with psychologist and Understood expert Dr. Andrew Kahn. Andy shares what can make summer easier than the school year for kids who learn and think differently — and what might make it harder. Tune in for tips on screen time, sleep, summer camp, travel, and more. Plus, learn ways to give kids the structure that many of them need over summer vacation without it feeling like a burden.Related resources How to make a sensory travel kit for your child10 tips to help kids avoid travel meltdowns and sensory overloadListen to this episode of In It to hear more about summer camp 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 here to provide a public service by pulling together as many tips and hacks as we can to help you and your kids have the best summer possible.Gretchen: Joining us for this ambitious mission is our very own Andy Kahn. Andy is a licensed psychologist and the associate director of behavior change and expertise here at Understood. Andy, welcome back to "In It."Rachel: Welcome back.Andy: Thanks, guys. Thanks for having me.Gretchen: We are so happy to have you here today. But before we start with you, Andy, I actually have a question for you, Rachel.Rachel: Oh, yeah?Gretchen: Yes. As a mom to two kids who learn and think differently, what comes to mind when you think about the long summer vacation that is fast approaching? Are you like, "Woohoo, summer!" Or is it more like, "Ugh, summer"?Rachel: Those are my choices?Gretchen: Yes, those are your choices.Rachel: So, it's a little bit of both because, of course, it's really nice to have a break from a lot of the things that just make the school year tough for everybody — homework and just kind of like the tight schedules. But also, the summer has its own kind of schedule, especially when there are camps involved. And so, there still is a wake-up time and there's still a get-out-the-door time.And also, for all of us working parents, there are still like, we need our kids to be doing some stuff while we're working. And also, because I can't have just like screen camp.Gretchen: Yes, I'm pretty sure a lot of times I had TV camp when I was little. I went to TV camp.Rachel: Yeah, I went to TV camp.Gretchen: Andy, did you go to TV camp?Andy: I did not. I went to get out on the street and play until it gets dark camp.Gretchen: Yeah, I did that, too. I would say it was a mix, right? It was a mix of roaming the neighborhood and then a little bit of TV camp.Rachel: All right, so, Andy, stepping back a bit, maybe you can talk to us a little bit about what might make summertime easier than the regular school year and what might make it harder for families with kids who learn and think differently.Andy: Summertime, you know, summertime is that double-edged sword, right? We all look forward to it. There are things that we don't have to do anymore that seem awfully cool and longer days, relaxing structure, fewer transitions relating to school. But those of us who are parents can all say, I know what August feels like and thinking "I'm ready to bring my children back to school." Right? So, I think so much of it is we think about the break from the academic demands, and the stressors is a really big deal for kids with learning and thinking differences. And it's a good relief to be away from that because it can be such an impact to kids' self-esteem.And the thing about having the summertime is, is giving them more time to play, to engage in activities that are more their home base. And I think that's one of the best things about summer for kids. At the same time, the things that make it great are also the things that make it hard. We rely on the structures that schools artificially provide us to structure our day, and that's a lot of months of the year where we sort of live our lives around those markings in the day. And I think that the loss of structure is probably one of the toughest parts about this.You know, it's tremendous amounts of transition stressors from the doing the things I like, to doing the things I don't want to do, in a structure where the parents don't necessarily feel all that powerful because the first thing we want to do as parents when summertime hits is to say," Go, enjoy, step away," and we let it all go. And I think that's where the first trap lies, is that if we don't have good expectations, you know, those who fail to plan, plan to fail, right? That's the sort of idea here.Gretchen: So, now if we want to provide a little bit of structure to our summer, what are some little tweaks that we could make to add some structure to a day?Andy: So, the thing to keep in mind is that — and I hear this in your tone a little bit, Gretchen — that when we get to freedom, the word structure feels like a dirty word. It feels like, "Oh, gosh." Like structure is not constraints, OK? It's not, you're not tethering your child to the porch. You're not locking them in a space, OK? Structure is about creating protective walls around your environment, your child, and don't forget, your sanity.So, having structures like keeping your, like, your mealtimes for breakfast and dinners as close to on some reasonable schedule to keep you feeling sane. Having structures around chores and hygiene. Because the first thing that goes with these kids is we lose our bath times and they're being more active, and you really want to keep sort of those keeping the kids clean and on certain points of schedule really in check.So, I think that we can create sort of anchors for your day to keep you sane and talking each morning or the night before with your child about "What's tomorrow looking like? Let's set some expectations here so that we can sort of have a sense about what we're going to do." Because if it's unrealistic or doesn't fit the timeframe, you can help them plan something that they can be successful with instead of frustrated in coming to you every 15 minutes.And for me, as a working parent, I can't do that with my child. They have to be able to sort of hold their own during the times that I need them to. And that requires a little bit of planning and a little bit of structure.Gretchen: Yeah. What's often happened at our house is I'll ask that question, and the answer I've been given is, "Oh, I'm going to have a chill day." Like, what is a chill day? What does that mean?Rachel: Right.Gretchen: And then that lasts for like maybe an hour or two after, you know, the breakfast and the getting dressed and all that stuff, and then it's like, "I'm bored. I'm bored. I'm bored."Andy: And I think that some of this, you know, some of the activities you can get your kids engaged in can be things that, let's think about it here, OK? Part of the structure of summer is giving your kids the opportunity to learn some life skills. A life skill can be something simple like I'm going to pick the, you know, most nutritious box self-made foods, whether it's a simple cookie mix or it's a simple food mix, that we can get them involved in some cooking, OK? I love the idea of things like food science projects. There are some great books out there on food science, complete cookbook for young scientists and learning about what makes food yummy, what makes food fun, and kids learning sort of that technique for being more independent.And the other kind of project-based stuff we can do, you know, in some schools that I've worked with over the years, when we had kids who had learning and thinking differences who didn't engage easily in the standard curriculum, we did a lot of project-based learning. So, we would do things like "Let's build a box for, you know, putting our materials in things that we like." Like I have a box now for my Pokémon cards with this kid that I work with and giving them the opportunity through these projects to follow instructions, which includes wait, wait for it: reading. OK?Gretchen: Right.Andy: Following directions. What is this? This is about executive function. So, those project-based activities are really, really awesome.Rachel: So, we talked a little earlier about TV camp, and that raises the question now about screen time and how much we should be leaving the door open for in the summer. What do you think about that?Andy: Gosh, that's a tough one. So, I could be the good psychologist to say "You know, The American Academy of Pediatrics says we should limit it to..." you know, and they say something in the neighborhood of about 2 hours.Rachel: No one does that.Andy: And I think the initial recommendations...Right. Because I think for a lot of this, you have to leave adequate space for screens if you've got a teenager who's highly reliant on social media. And you have to sort of be aware of what the culture is doing for the kids. I've actually gotten to the point with my own child where we've had consequences for behavior. OK, we'll just say there was naughty moments and I actually had to make the decision to do something different than I was raised with, which is your screens are gone when you got in trouble when I was a kid.But today I have to be super conscious of that because if I cut off all screens for my teenager, I'm actually isolating them from their social world. And if they're having trouble with their behavior because the social world is hard and they're not connecting as well as they'd like, cutting that off in full form isn't always my best option. That being said, I really like to limit the time by creating other activities for them to do that are non-screen based.So, you might say, OK, there's a window of time this morning, you know, screen use is fine, but then you set an island of time somewhere in the middle of that morning where you're going to disengage them from that. Ultimately, the goal is to give them a variety of things to do that can be fun for them. Make sure that you're aware if you're limiting some of those screens, that there's time available for them to socialize.Rachel: Mm-hmm.Andy: And that you try to provide reasonable access to in-person social activities whenever possible because that's going to be really important for them.Rachel: Yeah.Andy: Really important.Gretchen: Yeah. I want to mention one thing related to this before we go on with the non-screen time activity. Good old-fashioned games and by house, and we see summer definitely whether you're traveling or like we go camping, we always bring games along. But there's sometimes tears over games, right? When someone doesn't win or just gets too competitive. Do you have any advice around this for families who might struggle with picking out the type of game that'll work for their kids?Andy: One of the things that I notice and being a psychologist who works with kids, playing lots of games during the course of my life and realizing at times that the competitiveness of it can lead to a lot of feelings, especially for kids with learning and thinking differences who may struggle with waiting their turn or struggle with following the rules or not knowing the order of certain activities when they have a turn to play.So, one of my favorite workarounds is spending some time and energy on cooperative gaming. So, cooperative gaming is this a lot of Kumbaya, you know, certificate of, you know, of attendance appreciation thing? No. These are real games with outcomes that you can win, but you win it together. So, there are games like Pandemic. Now, this was, I had this game before the actual pandemic.Gretchen: Yeah, I had that pre-COVID.Andy: But you're working in teams to try to solve a larger goal. And, you know, some of these games are really great because you have to communicate, you've got to strategize and you've got to work together. Other games like Hanabi, which is a really cool game — Hanabi I think is Japanese for fireworks — and you as a team create the best fireworks displays, but you have to strategize to make them go correctly or they don't fire off correctly. No, you're not, there's no fire here — sorry, kids, you're not blowing anything off. But it's a really cool game with a lot of visual elements.Rachel: Yeah, there was a cooperative game that we haven't played in a few years now that my kids are a little older, but it was really great when my daughter was like around six called Outfoxed.Andy: Yeah.Rachel: It's kind of like a whodunit, like a mystery solving, but everybody's working together kind of game. And that was a decent cooperative experience in my not-always-very-cooperative house.Rachel: You know, I want to talk a little bit about summer camp, which does provide some structure, but it sometimes also introduces other challenges.Gretchen: Right. If your kid has a hard time adapting to new places, new foods, new activities, new people. But we do have some suggestions for you. One suggestion I have that's worked for me and my kids is, especially when my older daughter was younger, she really had trouble adjusting to new situations and so we would preview the activities. Like I remember one time I signed her up for a YMCA camp and they were going to take the kids to an amusement park and she was scared to go to this amusement park.So, I found, you know, people take videos of the rides, even the littlest rides. And so, we found videos of the rides and said, "OK, this is one ride. Would you do this? Let's watch the video." And it really helped her prepare so that she could actually enjoy her time on this trip.Rachel: That's a really great idea. And actually, I did a similar thing. There was a summer camp that my son was going to when he was going into first grade, and he was going to like session two or whatever. So, it was already going on, but he wasn't there yet. And I'm like, "You know what? Let's just go check it out." I called and asked if we could do this, but he didn't know that. And we just went. And, you know, as far as he could tell, we were just like, "Hey, can we see the camp?".Gretchen: Right.Rachel: And they just gave us I mean, I already knew what it was before I signed up and paid for it, but for him, it was like he saw other kids doing the stuff that he would be doing. And it really it helped so much to give them that context and like, just set their expectations a little bit.Gretchen: Hmm.Andy: What an anxiety reducer that's got to be.Rachel: Yeah.Andy: You know, when things are new, they're exciting and also scary at the same time. And to take away just a little bit of that, the scary novelty, makes a huge difference. Yeah, I think that's super smart.Rachel: So, last year "In It" did a whole episode about summer camp. And Gretchen, you and Amanda Morin got some great advice from Audrey Monke who's been running a summer camp for almost 40 years and wrote a book called Happy Campers. So, let's listen to a clip about that.Audrey: I have a, you know, a special affinity for the overnight experience because of the immersion piece of it and the independent piece of it. I think it's a pretty magical thing for young kids to have this like time away from parents to really discover themselves. And I think part of that is we're so well-meaning as parents and we love our kids and we want to be there with them for everything they do because it's so fun to watch them learn new things and all this.But a lot of the growth that our kids will experience in life happens away from us. You know, that look that even little kids will, you know, they're about to do something new and they turn around to look just what the expression is. "Is this safe? Should I try this?" And even when we're not trying, our expression sometimes it's like, "Oh, my gosh, that looks scary." Or "I don't know if I want to do this." So, there's just this part — and it's not just camp, it's also allowing our kids with other mentors and adults and clubs, letting them grow their wings, sometimes without us.Gretchen: So, speaking of something that can be exciting but also uncomfortable sometimes, a lot of families take advantage of summer break to go someplace, whether that's by car. They can even do a staycation and kind of just go to new places around town. But that also brings new challenges, right? New environments, new sensory experiences, all of that. So, Andy, do you have some tips for how to make travel a little easier for families with kids who might find it difficult?Andy: For sure. So, one of the most important things about planning travel with your kids is really spending the time in advance to get a sense of the logistics. How long are you going to be in a car if you're going somewhere or if you're flying? What kind of environments are you going to be in for your child and making sure that you have a sense about what you can give your child that's portable, that can help them control some of that sensation that's new or loud or uncomfortable. So, things like having noise-blocking headphones, if possible, lots of sort of self-soothing items, whether it's a squishy animal or sort of like a fidget-like activity.Then giving them the opportunity really to be able to manage their body and in some cases to practice that in advance and to talk to them about, you know, let's say we're going to be driving through New York City, OK? They're going to be speed around you of people and things moving colors, lights, maybe in a language they've never heard before. I don't know. That may happen. And things that people say and do that can be stressful to them. So, giving them the opportunity to think about what kind of things would help them feel soothed.Gretchen: Yeah.Andy: The other piece of this is — within reason again, where we're going to right-size all of our interventions here — let your kids be involved in helping you plan parts of the vacation that they can handle. So, if you know you're going to this very specific town where your hotel is going to be or where your family lives that you're visiting, letting them pick a restaurant that you can likely go to that has a menu that they like or giving them the opportunity to sort of select one of the activities from the choices that you preselect.Kids are usually accessories to family vacations as opposed to the ones you really put in on paper and make it happen. And I got to tell you, when I was a kid and my father would say, "Which of these things do you want to do?" When he handed me that, I'm going to date myself now, he handed me the triptych from Triple A,Gretchen: Oh yeah.Andy: where you have to flip through the pages and look over the maps to see where we were going. Yes. pre-GPS day kids.Gretchen: Yes.Andy: I felt that was really like, that was my vacation. It wasn't my parents taking me somewhere. So, I think, you know, we talk about that in school. Kids have agency when they feel like that they have ownership and engagement and choice. And vacations are no different.Gretchen: Yeah. And I like, you know, what you said about packing things that can help with soothing when you're in a new environment. One of my favorite things, actually on Understood's website is something we have called a sensory travel kit, and it talks about the types of things that you could put in this kit to, you know, like you said, headphones for noise.Perhaps your kid really likes to be chewing on something so like a crunchy food or soft food, sometimes texture, right? Like when you travel to Grandma's house, her towels are different than yours. Then why can't you bring one of your home towels so that your kid feels comforted by the same feeling of the towel? And I will say the ultimate favorite tip on this list, which I have used personally, is to bring Post-it notes for the sensors on automatic toilets. Because when my kids were little, they did not like the surprise it brought. And so having that Post-it and sticking it over the sensors,Rachel: This is genius.Gretchen: was a game changer. So, check out that sensory tool kit on our site. I will definitely put the link in our show notes.Rachel: So, Andy, the last thing we want to touch on today is sleep. And this is a big one. It's a little less fun. But, you know, we know that having a regular sleep schedule is really helpful for kids and for grown-ups who have a hard time getting enough sleep. And in the summertime, I am again torn.So, my kids are on a break, and, you know, that seems like a great argument to say, well, they should be allowed to just kind of stay up and hang out until whenever. So, let's say, you know, obviously, if there's a camp schedule or a get-out-the-door time, that's a little bit different. But if it's this sort of like open time in the summer, what do you think about bedtime and sleep schedules?Andy: So, I'm a little bit of a curmudgeon here with this stuff. You know, the bottom line is that if you have a learning and thinking difference or you have your kid as ADHD, one of the things that is most effective in helping your child navigate their own neurology is to be well rested. And you know, what have I said to you during summer break, I'm just going to let my kids skip as many meals as they want, eat at three in the morning, you know, we would not look at that in the same light.And yet with sleep, we are very much cavalier about how much we let sleep go. So, I would say that, listen, a lot is going to depend on your own household. In my household, we have working parents. So, if my child's up until 2:30 in the morning, then sleeps in, we're going to have conflict of stimulation, meaning I'm going to be up in the morning making noise. And I'll be honest, I'm not going to be really tiptoeing around because I have to work eight feet from your bedroom door.Gretchen: Yeah.Rachel: Yeah.Andy: So, within reason, giving them some flexibility for when they go to sleep. But I really want to keep sleep and wake times within a reasonable window. I never want to go too far, maybe more than an hour max, maybe 90 minutes more on either side, because the reality is they need it. If they have growing bodies and keep in mind that this affects all members of a household. So, if you've got to get up in the morning and your kids are forcing you to stay up later and you're not getting self-care as a parent, that's going to weigh you down.And by the time you get to late July, early August, you're going to be looking to, you know, "Can my kids start school early?" Because it's really maddening to folks. So, a little bit of flexibility is, OK, if you guys are away and let's say you do a Disney vacation and they have, you know, a 10:30 fireworks show or whatever. These are things you have to flex for, and you just say, "OK," your kids will recover. But again, you can't wear your kids out. They're going to get sick more often if they're not sleeping.Gretchen: Yeah.Andy: It makes it a lot harder.Gretchen: Yeah. And then if you really get them off schedule, the adjustment back to school is so tough.Rachel: Yeah, it's like jet lag. Yeah, it’s like if they're just shifted where even if they're getting the right, the quote right amount of sleep, but it's starting 2 hours later than it should.Gretchen: Yeah.Rachel: And then they're getting up like, you know what feels like lunchtime then what?Gretchen: Yeah. So, when school is getting closer, it's time to start adjusting, right? To not wait until a couple of days before, but really, like, weeks before. Start just crawling back to those regular times and maybe adding in a few other things that your kid has to do when school starts so that you get some practice in not just two days before.Andy: Oh, without a doubt. Without a doubt.Gretchen: OK. So, we've been focusing a lot on the challenges of summer. Andy, quick response. What should we be celebrating about summer for our kids?Andy: Celebrating the achievement that we successfully made it through another school year. Yeah. And every time your kid gets a year older and you're in a summer vacation, they can do more cool stuff with you as they're sort of getting more to that, you know, closer to the adult level. Your kids are going to be more able to engage with you. And I think celebrating their independence, celebrating their skill building, and celebrating the things that were hard that they got through is always really important.Rachel: It's like a big exhale.Andy: Oh, yes.Gretchen: Well, thank you, Andy, so much for chatting with us today about summer.Rachel: And thank you for the great tips.Andy: Thanks for having me, guys. This is always fun. Just talking with friends here.Gretchen: You've been listening to "In It" from the Understood Podcast Network.Rachel: This show is for you, so we want to make sure you're getting what you need. Email us at to share your thoughts. We love hearing from you.Gretchen: If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.Rachel: is a resource dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at "In It" is produced by Julie Subrin. Briana Berry is our production director. Justin D. Wright mixes the show. Mike Errico wrote our theme music.Rachel: For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. Thanks for listening.Gretchen: And thanks for always being "in it" with us.

  • Q. My child always feels anxious when it’s time to go back to school — and so do I. How do I help us both calm down? A. Back-to-school anxiety is common for both kids and parents, especially when school is a struggle. Some kids feel anxious about going back to school because of their experiences from the year before. (Parents can feel that way, too.) Some kids have social anxiety. They may worry about having a new teacher — or even about new kids in the class. And some kids feel anxious about having to sit still in class. It’s also common for kids to have “jitters” or feel nervous about beginning something new. They may be thinking about what could happen in the new school year. These feelings are often temporary. But in the meantime, they can affect the whole family. Parents can help by validating feelings and offering perspective. For example, “I know last year was hard. I can understand why you’re feeling nervous. But this is a new year and a new teacher. And we’re here to support you.” Parents may feel nervous about school starting again, too. If you’re feeling a bit anxious, take a moment to think about your own time in school. Think about your interactions with teachers and peers. Take note of your thoughts and feelings. Then think about the positive outcomes the new school year can bring. This will help you to lead by example when helping your child express their own thoughts and feelings. If you find your anxiety is hard to manage on your own, consider talking to a friend or a counselor. Planning ahead can also make it easier to feel less anxious. See if you can chat with your child’s teacher before the school year begins. Ask how you can work together to provide support in the classroom. If your child has an IEP or 504 plan, make sure it’s up to date. You and all your child’s teachers should have copies.Finally, make going back to school a pleasant, positive event. Plan a big first-day breakfast. Talk about all the things your child is excited about, like seeing old friends, or getting to join a club they’re interested in. And, above all, let your child know that you’ll be there for them, every step of the way. Anxiety that doesn’t go away or that makes it hard for someone to function could be a sign of something more serious. For example, a child might become so anxious that they have trouble going to school at all. Or a child may not be able to stop thinking about a negative experience from last year. If you notice that your child’s anxiety seems overwhelming, consider getting help from a professional.Get tips on how to manage your child’s back-to-school anxiety.Download this plan to help your child start the new school year right. Learn five things you shouldn’t say to kids about the new school year. 

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    Is your child struggling in school? Are you wondering what supports might help? Get an overview of how schools evaluate kids for special education. Is your child struggling in school? Are you wondering what supports might help? This episode of Understood Explains gives an overview of how schools evaluate kids for special education.Host Dr. Andy Kahn is a psychologist who has spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for public and private schools. Andy’s first guest in this episode is educator Julian Saavedra. They’ll cover a few key areas:Why schools evaluate kidsWhat evaluations look likeHow special education has changed over the yearsAndy’s second guest is parenting expert Amanda Morin. They’ll end each episode this season with tips on what to say to your child about getting evaluated.Related resourcesWhat is an evaluation for special education?6 benefits of having your child evaluatedDifferent terms you may hear for evaluationsParent training centers: A free resource in your stateEpisode transcriptLisa: Hi, my name is Lisa and I'm from Marin County, which is in California just north of San Francisco. By the time our son was in first grade, it was really apparent to us that something was off. He clearly was unable to do the basic homework that other first-grade students were trying to do. We were not able to get him to write, as an example, the word "cat." That would be a four-hour process. Unfortunately, at that time, we didn't realize we had the right to request an evaluation. We didn't understand. We didn't even know what we were supposed to be googling.Andy: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains." You're listening to Season 1, where we explain evaluations for special education. Over 10 episodes, we cover the ins and now of the process that school districts use to evaluate children for special education services. My name is Andy Kahn, and I'm a licensed psychologist, and an in-house expert at I've spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for both public and private schools. I'll be your host.Today's episode will give you an overview of what an evaluation is. We're going to cover a few key things: the purpose of school-based evaluations, who's on the evaluation team, how long the process takes, and the benefits of evaluating kids who are struggling in school. But first, let's go back to Lisa. Her story shows the many emotions and experiences that come along with the evaluation process.Lisa: We did feel completely alone. We didn't have anybody else to run this by or who had been through this experience other than, you know, little tidbits here and there. And so we were really piecing it all together ourselves. And it was, you know, a frustrating journey. And it really wasn't until we had that tutor that said, "This is crazy. This child should have been sent to us and evaluated years ago." And she was really the one who told us that those were our rights. And in a way, I feel guilt to this day that I didn't research it properly enough to understand that earlier. But again, you don't know what you're looking for if you don't know.Andy: My first guest today is going to help give everyone an overview of what an evaluation is and how it can help kids who are struggling in school. Julian Saavedra is an assistant principal at a Philadelphia high school. He's also father of two and co-hosts the Understood podcast "The Opportunity Gap," about kids of color with ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning differences.Julian: Hey, thank you so much for having me.Andy: Thanks for being here, Julian. Before we get into it, I want to start off by addressing a common myth that might make a lot of parents hesitate to evaluate their child for special education services. When I was a kid, special education meant like spending the whole day in a separate classroom. But special education changed like tremendously since then. Today, most kids who receive special education are in the general education classrooms for most of the day, and might only get pulled out for an hour or two of specialized instruction. I mean, Julian, when you think about it, it's really incredible how much special education has changed.Julian: Yeah, and I think, Andy, touching upon the generational shift that's happened with special education is something that we don't talk about a lot. If you're not in schools on a daily basis, you might not know how much education has transformed in the last 20 years, right? And, you know, I've been an educator for — this is my 19th year. And what special education is now, compared to when I first started as a classroom teacher, is dramatically different. So there's a lot of just historical memories that we have, as people of our age range, that are very different than what's happening in education across the country.Andy: So as an administrator and teacher, you've been a part of the evaluation process in a variety of roles. What are some of the basic things you tell parents about what happens in an evaluation?Julian: A lot of times our families have a misconception about what evaluation actually means. They might think that this is a test that's going to happen over the course of one or two days. Sometimes a family might ask me, "Well, Mr. Saavedra, do they have to study for this?" And I'll tell them like, "No, this is not something that you're traditionally used to testing."Andy: Yeah, very common question.Julian: So evaluations encompass a variety of factors that are looked at. They include academics. Maybe a student might be observed over the course of multiple classrooms. Or this might include behavioral, so there might be an assessment that one of the student's teachers might take. A family member or parent might fill out a questionnaire, and somebody else that's a trusted adult that's able to observe the child in different settings might fill out. There might be conversations that happen between an evaluator and the student to evaluate the social-emotional aspect of a student's personality. So there's a variety of things that are looked at. It's not just a specific aspect of the child, it's trying to get an idea of who the child is on a holistic level.Andy: Can you tell me a bit about how you explain this process to your families? And maybe some tips and tricks you have that might help describe the process to them.Julian: The way I like to break it down for families is, you know, I like food. I'm definitely a big like food guy. And I like to make a lot of references to food. So I use the analogy of a menu: that this is a menu of options that we're trying to figure out as a school for your child. You know, everybody doesn't want the same dish. And we all know that there's different ways to cook the same food. But ultimately, we can make it delicious. We just have to figure out what ingredients and what strategies are we going to use to make this incredibly beautiful dish. So when I talk to families, and I break it down that way, it helps them alleviate some of the stress of figuring out well, they're not really saying something's wrong with my kid, they're saying that maybe we need to figure out what are the things that are going to work well.Andy: Yeah, I love, love, love the analogy, because I think what we're talking about is, is well, let me stick to your theme here: making it more appetizing to families, right?Julian: I try to really focus on the positives, you know? Everybody likes to hear great things about their child. And a lot of times the evaluation process brings out some of those positive strengths that a child might not get shine for normally. So when families get a chance to see all these positive things coming out from the evaluation process, it makes them feel good about it. But if you go into the process with the mindset that there's something wrong, and we're doing this because they're not doing well, or they're messing up, that shuts them down immediately.Andy: This is about finding out the student's strengths and weaknesses. When we talk about weaknesses, it's really important to share with families that our focus is on figuring out how the school can do things differently to help them. It's not about something that's wrong with the child, but rather what the program needs to do to change to help the child. It's to help and not to blame the child. That's, that's a key. It's also about describing to them how this process can make sense and help focus on that this is to help them, not to identify or to stigmatize them.Julian: I mean, it can be incredibly intimidating. And so I think having the idea of trust, and an understanding that there's a two-way process happening, is really important, right? There's a lot of intelligence that our parents are bringing to the table. They just might not have the same vocabulary that we do. So making sure that we're making the jump and breaking things down so that everybody's on the same page, because our children are the most important thing that we have in our lives. Right? So making sure that that process is crystal clear, and it's streamlined for everybody to feel comfortable, is of prime importance.Andy: Julian, let's talk about why we do these evaluations. You know, when we do evaluations, we're looking for specific things. What are we supposed to be on the lookout for? What is this process about?Julian: One thing that families need to know is that by federal law, schools are mandated to look for students that may be struggling in school. So it's not a choice, it is by law, that all schools have the ability and the mandate to look for students who may be having struggles. And all families have a choice to have their students evaluated, if they believe that there may be struggles that are happening.Andy: So we're talking about the idea of Child Find here — the idea that schools are supposed to be on the lookout for kids who might have disabilities that needs support. Do you find that some of your families misunderstand the idea that these evaluations are free, or aren't aware of that process?Julian: I think that's been pretty well communicated. People know that it is for free. But we always want to just make sure that it's crystal clear that it is not to any cost of the families. And the bigger issue is more the timeline of how long this is going to happen. Just communicating what the rights are within those laws, so that families are clear as to what should be happening and what the timeline is for it to be happening.Andy: Right. And I think in the process, Julian, it's very important for folks to know that most commonly, schools are doing some interventions and doing some supports of children before they go into the evaluation process.Julian: Right, right. Yeah, many, many schools have a process called MTSS, or multi-tiered support systems, where tier one, or tier two, or tier three interventions occur. And those, again, are things that are preliminary that happen before the evaluation process actually starts. And just again, the schools are attempting to try as many different things as possible to really support the students and intervene if students are struggling. But then the parents need to understand that at any point during their school experience, they have the right to request an evaluation. And so that's something that we make really clear to all families: that they have the right, and they can request an evaluation to happen at any point when they choose.Andy: So one of the key things I'd like to chat with you about here today is talking about terminology, I always find that being able to speak the same language as the school staff and administrators can be a huge stress reliever for families.Julian: So having the same vocabulary is credibly important. In Pennsylvania, we use the term "evaluation." I know that in other states, they use different terminology. Some states may use "assessment," some states may use "testing," some states may use "evaluation and/or assessment." But in Pennsylvania, we use the word "evaluation." And then I would also recommend any families that are considering this process to make sure that they research what are the terms that are used in your state. Because the laws vary from state to state. And so making sure that you get yourself acclimated with the vocabulary is incredibly important.Andy: So here in Maine, we use the term "evaluation" and "assessment" almost interchangeably. In our show notes, we have a link to state-specific information that might be helpful for some of our listeners.So Julian, let's talk a little bit about who are the people at the table, so to speak? Who are the players in this evaluation process that our families may be introduced to?Julian: In many cases, the primary contact person is going to be the special education team. So that may include a special education teacher. That may include a special education coordinator. There's also going to be a school administrator that's designated to oversee the process. There will be potentially a speech pathologist. There might be a school psychologist. There might be an occupational therapist to evaluate the physical needs of the child. There could be a guidance counselor or a counselor that's involved to kind of evaluate the social-emotional aspect of the student. Of course, general education teachers, that will be a part of this process, too. And in some cases, a parent might even bring a parent advocate or child advocate to the table.Andy: Yeah, so you're describing this, this whole group of people who are likely to be on the evaluation team. And they all need to do certain things within a certain amount of time. So for example, the evaluation process can take as long as 60 days. And that's the time frame for federal special education law. But some states may have shorter time frames. So Julian, there's a deadline that the team needs to meet. And during this time, the child might get pulled out of class to talk to one of the specialists. Teachers might get asked to share what they're seeing in the class. And parents and caregivers might get asked to share what they're seeing at home. And, you know, I gotta say, as someone who's evaluated many, many kids over the years, the parent questionnaires are just a hugely important part of the puzzle. Because what you see in your child, when you're at home, might be completely different than what's going on in school.Julian: So parents, we really encourage you to be completely open and honest about what you're seeing at home. Because the more global picture that we can get of the student, the better it is for everybody. And really, the whole purpose of this is to understand where are the gaps? And where are the strengths? What can we do to replicate some of the things that are going well? For example, if you see that your child is doing an excellent job of organizational task at home, right, they have a whole list of chores they have to do at home, and they do it really well. That's executive functioning. Whereas maybe they're struggling in their second-grade class to put their books away or have their desk organized or to get started. That's something that needs to be known, because that can help the team understand, well, maybe there's something happening with a disconnect and how the instructions are given. Maybe there's something that you as a family are doing really well that's working with how you break down chores that our teachers need to know at school, and they can replicate that at school. But if there's not that conversation or that strength analysis filled out by the family, then it makes it really hard to figure that out. So, again, it's really about a combination of a whole swath of people that are trying to get this holistic picture of who the child is, and what they do, across all places in their life, not just what they do in school or not just what's happening at home. And, you know, I think when families hear that, they start to feel a little bit more comfortable. It's not just trying to find the things that are not going well. It's trying to find everything. Then I think that really helps the comfort level increase.Andy: Wow, that's, that's a lot. And it's really important for families to know that an assessment isn't just about weaknesses and problems. But we want to know about what's going well. Because if a parent has something that's really working for their child, gosh, I know so many teachers who would love to borrow and steal those skills, and use them in their settings. And I think that's where it becomes a collaboration. So for so much of this, getting information is about parents giving their best honest view of their kids, and also helping us identify their strengths and weaknesses, not about labeling, not about diagnosing, but about really getting a big picture view as best as we can get. So what are some of the biggest benefits of evaluating kids? And how have you seen this process help kids that you've worked with thrive over time?Julian: You know, there's so many benefits to the process, because in many cases, it gives the child, it gives the family, and it gives the school a holistic picture of who that child is. And ultimately, education should be as personalized as possible. And when we have a better idea of what works and what might not be working, and what areas might need to be helped, then it gives the school a much better shot of actually providing the services that are required. I've had families that come in, and they just don't feel comfortable with the whole process. They don't know what's going to happen. But they realize that this IEP is something that's going to be beneficial for them. And, you know, when they walk out and you tell the child, you know, these are the things that you're going to get. And these are the different services that you're going to have at your disposal. And here's another teacher that's going to help you really get what you need to get — the smiles that you see when a kid finally feels like somebody is hearing them? That makes all the difference. You know, I forgot to say earlier, when I talked about the whole team that is involved, I forgot the most important person: the student themselves. Like, and it doesn't matter what age this kid is. Whether it's a kindergartner, or whether it's a 12th grader, they are at the center of all this. And if we can make sure families and children know that, then everybody wins.Lisa: My son had his first public school evaluation in the sixth grade. We set up a meeting. It was the tutor, a few of his teachers, and the school psychologist. And we went in with a much more aggressive approach than we had the first time. My husband, the first thing out of his mouth was, you know, "Thank you everybody for coming. And we don't mean to be aggressive. But we were told by the school in first grade that we needed to sit back and see what happens. And we took your advice. And our son is now in a really bad situation. And we're not going to wait any longer. So we need to get him tested."Andy: What Lisa was just describing is an all-too-common problem of waiting to evaluate, taking a wait-and-see approach that can leave kids in a tough situation. Sometimes it's the parents who want to wait to evaluate their child, because they're really nervous about how getting an evaluation for special education might affect their child's self-esteem. My next guest is going to offer advice on how to talk to kids about these things in a positive way. Amanda Morin is the co-host of the Understood's "In It" podcast, and the mom of three kids, two of whom learn differently. She's also a former classroom teacher and an early intervention specialist. Hey, Amanda.Amanda: Hey, Andy. It's really good to join you.Andy: So what's your first piece of advice that you give to parents?Amanda: I think the first piece of advice that I would give is to be really cautious about the word "evaluation" when you're talking to kids, because it can be a very tricky word. So I think one of the things I start with with parents is to say to them, "Don't use the word 'evaluation' right off the bat." You know, talk to your child about the fact that you're going to be doing a closer look at their strengths and weaknesses, looking a little more at what can be supportive for them, because you know that they're struggling a little bit.Andy: And how do you help explain to parents what "a closer look" actually means?Amanda: It's important for both parents and kids to understand that this is not just one day, right? It's not a one-day process. Your child is probably going to talk to a number of different people, see new people in their classroom, have conversations, do activities with a bunch of different people over time. So I think it's important for them to understand that that "closer look" is really going to be more of a process. Because it's important to see what you're really good at, and also what you're having some difficulty with. And I think it's important for kids to know that this is an overtime kind of thing. So that "closer look" is really not just about "Today we're going to look at what you can do." We want to see the whole story, we don't want to just see one picture of one moment in time. And I think it's important for parents to know that too. We don't want you to think this is one day that you have to be really prepared for. It's many days that you don't have to be really prepared for it. You just have to be there for it.Andy: Oh, absolutely. Any other information you might share, or advice about just talking about what evaluations are with your kids?Amanda: I think with kids, it's important to sort of clue into how much information they want. And we can see that and how they're reacting to us. And if you're a parent, you absolutely have been in a situation where you've talked longer than your child is willing to listen. Pay attention to those things, right? It doesn't have to be a one-and-done conversation. You can sit down, you can start the conversation, and then just keep the lines of communication open, which for parents basically means bring up again if you need to. Listen when they're asking questions. And give as much information as you can without overwhelming your child right now.Andy: Yeah, that's so crucial. I always think about when I was working with families on parenting, we often talked about the two- to three-minute rule, which is if you're talking for longer than two to three minutes, you can be pretty darn well sure your kid's gone. So on the other side of this equation, what's some of the things that you shouldn't say — the not to say advice we give parents?Amanda: The "not to says" are the things that might make a child feels like it's their fault. You don't want your kids to think that they've done something wrong. I would not want you to say to your child, "You know, you're having a lot of trouble in school. And it's really clear. Your teachers are talking about it. I'm noticing it, and we need to do something about this." Right? That's a lot of responsibility on a kid. The other piece of it is probably just paying attention to the looks on their face. So if you say something and your child looks crestfallen, they look like they have just had a weight drop right on them, you're gonna want to say to them, "What did you just hear me say?" Right? And so having them reflect it back to you can really show whether or not you've said something that hit a nerve that you need to go back and correct. One of the things I say to parents over and over and over again, is you can always go back and try again. You can always go back and say, "You know what? I don't know that you heard that the way I meant it in my head. So we're going to try again, and I want to tell it to you differently." There's nothing wrong with knowing that you have to try again. And that's something that I wished I'd known as a parent much earlier in my parenting journey. Because I think there were a lot of things I could have said differently.Andy: And I'll say this over and over again: It's a heck of a lot harder to break your kid than you think it is. They are far more durable and forgiving. And owning when you have a misstep as a parent, because we're going to make thousands and thousands of those missteps, is really the key here.Lisa: So when we finally got the report back from the school evaluation, it was — it was a relief to both my husband and I. It was a relief because it backed up what we thought all along. And it confirmed that we were not mishandling our son or just not doing a good job helping him through school. It was a relief that everything we thought was true — as strange as that sounds, because you wouldn't wish these problems on anybody. But you can't begin to fix a problem unless you know what the problem is. And we had confirmation of what the problem was.Andy: In today's episode, we've talked about the whys and hows of the school evaluation process, breaking down common myths and highlighting how kids can benefit from evaluations. Over the next nine episodes, we'll have a chance to dig deeper into various parts of the evaluation process. But if you there's one thing you can take away from this introductory episode, it's that evaluations are designed to help kids thrive by learning about both their strengths and their needs. The other big takeaway is that the more schools can help kids and families understand the evaluation process, the more likely they are to fully engage in the process and benefit from it. As always, remember that as a parent, you're the first and best expert on your child.In our next episode, we'll talk about how schools and families decide if a child needs to be evaluated. We hope you'll join us. You've been listening to Season 1 of "Understood Explains" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources, as well as links to anything we've mentioned in the episode. And now, just as a reminder of who we're doing this all for, I'm going to turn it over to Benjamin to read our credits. Take it away, Benjamin.Benjamin: "Understood Explains" is produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, who also did the sound design for the show. Briana Berry is our production director. Andrew Lee is our editorial lead. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also makes the show, For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. A very special thanks to Amanda Morin and all the other parents and experts who helped us make this show. Thanks for listening and see you next time.Andy: Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at

  • Is your child heading back to school soon? There’s a lot going on — and a lot to keep track of. Download this one-month planner, which has daily tips to help your child start the new school year right.

  • The Opportunity Gap

    English language learners bring unique perspectives to the classroom. It’s important for teachers to learn about their strengths and challenges. English language learners bring unique perspectives to the classroom. Their diverse backgrounds and experiences often impact how they learn, too. So, it’s important for teachers to take the time to learn about their strengths and challenges. Learning a new language is hard work. Multilingual students are often learning how to read, write, and do math in that new language all at the same time. In this episode, listen as Understood expert Dr. Claudia Rinaldi explains:How teachers can create inclusive learning environments Why ELL are both overrepresented and underrepresented in special educationWays schools can build stronger partnerships with ELL and their familiesRelated resourcesUnderstood’s article 4 challenges of English Language Learners who learn and think differently Understood’s article: Learning and thinking differences in the Hispanic community In It episode: Joy and justice with Juliana Urtubey, National Teacher of the Year Episode transcript Julian: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "The Opportunity Gap." Kids of color who have ADHD and other common learning differences often face a double stigma. And there's a lot that families can do to address the opportunity gap in our communities. This podcast explains key issues and offers tips to help you advocate for your child. My name is Julian Saavedra. I'm a father of two and an assistant principal in Philadelphia, where I've spent nearly 20 years working in public schools. I'll be your host. Welcome to Season 3. Welcome back, listeners. I am very excited because we're kicking off our third season with an incredible episode. September 15th will mark the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month. During this month, we celebrate the histories, the cultures, and the contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Shout out to my father, Andres Saavedra. He was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. I'm very excited to represent my culture as well. In today's episode, we're talking about supporting English language learners in special education. During the course of this episode. We may refer to students as English learners, multilingual learners, or students in English language acquisition programs. The terms may differ depending on which region of the country you're located. We're also going to be talking about how to identify learning and thinking differences in English language learners. And how do parents in schools find a better way to work together to support our students? To dive deeper into this important topic, we've invited a very special guest, Dr. Claudia Rinaldi. Dr. Claudia is a full professor of education at La Salle University. She's also an expert, and I mean like OG expert. She's been with Understood since the beginning. Please welcome Dr. Claudia. What's up, Dr. Claudia?Dr. Claudia: Good afternoon, everybody. It's good to see you today. Thank you for the invitation to join you on this very special month that we'll be celebrating. And I'm happy to be here as your expert and also a parent of a child with a disability. Julian: Oh, thank you so much. So, we always like to start off our show with just a little icebreaker to get us talking, get us familiar a little bit. And it is the fall season, and I'm wondering what's your favorite thing about fall? Dr. Claudia: Definitely the changing leaves. I used to live up in Boston, Massachusetts, and that was my favorite season was just going around taking pictures of the trees every day, the colors they change and I just miss that a lot now that I live in Florida. What about you? Julian: Oh, I used to live in Boston as well. We can share some stories. Boston Common looks beautiful in the fall. Dr. Claudia: Yes. Oh, my God yes. I miss that. Julian: But you don't miss that snow. So, enjoy your 75 degree December. Enjoy it. Let's jump in. So, you know, the diversity among English language learners is extremely rich, right? There's no two students that are the same. They come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. And so many of our students bring these unique perspectives and experiences to the classroom. This experience influenced their approach not only to learning English but to their experience in the classroom overall. As many of our listeners know, I serve honorably as an assistant principal in an urban high school in Philadelphia, and I have students from all over the city, but in some cases all over the world coming to our school. A couple of years ago, I had a student who was a refugee from Afghanistan, right? And he had gone to very prestigious schools, his father was a diplomat, and although he didn't know English well, his knowledge of science and biology and algebra was extremely high quality, because he had gone to these amazing schools back in Kabul. In the same class, I had a student who had come from Guatemala and they were the same age, both on the same level of English language learning. But the student from Guatemala had never gone to school past the third grade. They both were English language learners, but their school based knowledge was very different. And so, when we talk about the idea of English language learners, there's such a diversity of culture, diversity of experience, diversity of knowledge about just school in general. And I want to make sure we call that out. So, as our expert, Dr. Claudia, how can teachers effectively leverage these types of experiences to create a more inclusive learning environment?Dr. Claudia: Julian is such a rich experience that you shared and this question about how we can leverage those experiences to create a more inclusive environment it's so key, because I do think in many cases the teachers see the students as a blank slate over the beginning of every year, and they also see students who are learning English as all the same. And you just shared two really rich experiences about students with very different opportunity to learn the content and also the different life experiences from different parts of the world. So, I think one of the ways to leverage those experiences is actually to really connect personally with each student, right? We need teachers who show an interest in learning about the different cultures of their children by asking them having opportunity to sit with them, or even inviting the parents in to share about their culture and doing their own research about different cultures and what their political, educational, familial, traditional, medical kind of experiences are that may be different from ours. I think when you live in the US, we feel like the center of the world, but in reality there's lots of centers of the world. So, we need to open up our opportunity to learn from different cultures and what those students can bring to our classroom. I came here from Bogotá, Colombia, back when I was ten years old, and I didn't know a word of English, but I had been, like your student of Afghanistan, I had gone to private school and I had really rich literacy skills, and my experience was very different to the little boy that I came in with that had gone off a boat from Cuba, coincidentally. And he ran to shore to get political asylum. And we were both sitting at the same English language levels. The teacher treated us like the same student, right? In fact, even in that school, we didn't even have an English as a second language teacher to help us out. We were just like, fully immersed. And it took me a year to realize that all my teachers spoke Spanish and I could have asked for a lot of support, and I just didn't know it because the teachers never took the time to really get to know me and what I knew and what I brought from my culture and my experiences that my counterpart, for example, a friend of mine, didn't have. Leveraging that communication and that relationship, so that they feel like they're part of the classroom. They feel that their experiences are valued. They feel that the education they know is valuable, and that they feel that however they got to the United States was a miracle and a triumphant way that their families wanted to come here to create a different experience. Julian: I love that you referenced the idea of opportunity and relationships so much, right? There's this giant opportunity to really be a welcoming environment and a supportive environment. And on top of integrating into a new society, just being into a new environment educationally could be an extremely big challenge. The students have to adapt. Knowing this, Dr. Claudia, how do these differences in education and their educational experience, how do these differences influence a student's transition and impact or affect their academic performance? Dr. Claudia: So, one of the main differences that we find is for children like the child you discussed you had as an assistant principal, that did not have but a third grade education and was now in high school, knowing whether the child is literate in their first language. It's really important to find out. Because if they are literate in their first language, we should leverage that language in order for us to teach them English. And what I mean with that is, there's plenty of research that tells us that if the students have a strong native language literacy skill, they can more easily and faster transfer to English. It's particularly faster when the languages are transparent, like English and Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, right? But either way, having the native language literacy skills actually impact the learning speed of English. But if we don't know whether the children are literate in their first language, then we can't help them to make that transition. Again, going back to the idea that if we assume that all students are the same when they're get to our classrooms and they're all learning English at a level one and don't know any English and don't bring anything, then we can't really teach them what they really need to do to learn English faster and more appropriately, right? So, for example, if we think about the kind of skills that we asked students to do, one is learn new vocabulary and then use that vocabulary. And a lot of those vocabulary words that we use in content areas like "identify," "list," are things that are very similar in other languages. So, they may have those already. Now if we have a child that does not have literacy in their native language, what we want to know is, what do they know in general, like knowledge that they know and then make a decision whether it is more effective to teach them using their native language, particularly as they get older than just put them into English. Because their native language, they have a rich vocabulary, right? They're speaking, even if they don't know how to read. They have rich vocabulary in their speaking language and listening and speaking. You know, it's still up to the teacher and the parents to kind of say, "okay, he does have a rich vocabulary. We should probably begin with our native language," and in languages like Portuguese and Spanish, we could teach a student to read in three months, basic reading skills. So, if we could leverage those, then we can make that transition into learning the English content in much more effective ways. But again, it goes back to knowing the student and also getting to know their literacy skills and also taking into account their effect. Like, did they have a traumatic experience coming into this country? Again, did they cross the border and they're running for their life? or, did they get off a plane and they came with their parents because they were able to? That brings a lot of differences. I think all students who immigrate to United States come with some trauma. That's why trauma-based practices are important. Julian: Everything you just raised, it's hard work from an instructional standpoint to not only know your student, know what their levels academically are. Know that there's so many emotional things that are happening all at once. I'd love for you to talk more about just some things that teachers can do to help students navigate some of that emotional toll that it takes, you know, coming into a new place. Dr. Claudia: Good question, Julian. And I think some of those very tangible kinds of things that teachers can do is ensure that your students are eating, because if we're eating, we can learn. Ensuring that the students come to school and feel safe. So, that's a big one. Feeling of safety allows students to relax and be able to learn and take in the environment. Find them a peer that could be a good support system for them throughout the day as they make the transition. And sit and talk with them. Look to get insight into, again, anything that you know about them and start building a relationship. For example, even if you don't know the language using Google Translate at first or bringing in a peer that can translate, you know, smiling. Remember, they're scared. They're more scared because they're in the new place. Julian: Yeah. A smile goes such a long way. It's simple, but it's so, so effective, right?Dr. Claudia: Yes, it really does. Julian: There was a study that the U.S. Department of Education conducted where they found that English language learners with learning disabilities represent 13.8% of the total ELL population enrolled in U.S. public elementary and secondary schools. So, thinking about that, when it comes to special education, English language learners are often either overrepresented or conversely, underrepresented in special education. Dr. Claudia, can you tell us more about first, why would multilingual language learners or English learners, why would they be overrepresented in special education? Dr. Claudia: And I get this question asked a lot, which is, the overrepresentation, why does it happen? The main reason is I think a lot of teachers are not prepared to work with students who are learning English in their classroom and they're looking for help. And the easiest way to get help is through special education. The challenge is that just because you're learning a language doesn't mean that you have a disability. And so, it's really important that we follow a process of data collection, parent interview observation and really collect a lot of information that tells a story about the student. But sometimes, and in many cases, this the group that is put together to do that evaluation, they didn't know that the child was learning English. They just thought the child was very quiet because their child they didn't answer correctly. And so one of the important aspects of addressing overrepresentation of English learners in special education is ensuring that our assessment or evaluation process really takes into account the child's native language and that when appropriate, that we evaluate them in their native language. Because the best way to understand whether a disability happens is if their disability is shown in both their native language and in English. Yeah, that underrepresentation is also evident in some districts and again, it is driven by uninformed professionals who tell teachers, "No, you can't jump to get extra help in special education. You have to wait until the student is a level four or five in English, meaning close to English speaking students before you can refer them to special education." Let's say you come in and you have an English learner who's a level one or two, but you definitely feel that the child is significantly behind in their native language, in English, or there's very little growth over time. And then the teacher got the message that we cannot refer them to special education until they're a level four. It may take the child four or five years to get to that level. And in the meantime, they're not being able to access the general curriculum and learn as much as it could have with the support of special education if they indeed had a learning disability or any other kind of disability that they brought. Julian: Dr. Claudia, you've referenced different levels in English language acquisition a few times. Can you clarify for the listeners when you refer to a level one versus a level four?Dr. Claudia: Sure. So, link English language acquisition as a process of learning English and the way that schools measure that English language acquisition or development is through evaluation tools that tells them where in the English language development process they're at. Typically, all agree that levels one or twos are what we call, you know, almost non-speaking English. They're probably coming in with little to no English. And then it takes about a year to go from one level to another. That means that it takes between 5 to 7 years to become as close as you can to a native language speaker. So, if you could think about that, if you have a child that's coming in in kindergarten, they are not going to be fully fluent in English for academic purposes until they're somewhere between grade five and grade seven. They should be getting English as a second language support, and the general teacher and the ESL teacher should be working together to make sure that the child is accessing the curriculum in the most appropriate way, depending on their level.Julian: That makes a lot of sense. So, given your experience, not only as a former English language learner, as a student, but now in your professional experience. Given that it's so difficult and there's a lot of different things happening in different school systems, what are some ways that schools and school districts can form stronger partnerships between English language learners and their families? Dr. Claudia: Yeah, Julian, that's something that we struggle a lot across the United States. Some school districts do it a little better than other, but I think it takes the commitment of a school district or and a school to think about parent engagement not from a one-way directional from the school to the parents delivering information, but to really make it a mutual or interactive commitment to working with them. I've seen schools that, again, are purchasing apps that allow parents to receive information in multiple languages. Obviously, we have back-to-school parent night, but really preparing so that we can culturally and responsively communicate with these parents that we do want them in our schools and that it is common in the United States for parents to be involved and ask questions and then provide answers through their language. So, really hire those family liaisons, which could be a parent in the school and bring them in for unique opportunities for the parents who speak one language or the other language or students who have disabilities so that they feel that their participation is helping their child beyond just sending them ready to learn. But it does take time and effort. I've had a couple of principals that have coffee hour in Spanish in some of our schools in Boston, and I always thought that was great and it was informal. So, it's not like you were just sitting in a big auditorium, but it felt more familiar. You provided childcare, you provided food and try to see how you can also bring them in to share about their culture. So again, so that it is interactive relationship rather than a just one way directionality from the school to the parents. I think for students with disabilities, as we think about them, they should even have a unique group themselves because what parents of children with disabilities go through is different than what their parent for a child who's typical goes through. So, I think thinking about different groups and maybe engaging teachers to take leadership in offering those times or offering other venues that are like Zoom or even just phone chats where you could have a group chat that is interactive and parents can ask questions, or if they are afraid of immigration status or if they're afraid of asking a question again, it creates different entry points for parents to ask for supports and additional resources that they may need. Julian: I appreciate that. There's so many great tips that you offered, especially just overarching making sure that our families feel like they're supported and that they have a welcoming environment and meeting them on their level is really important. That two-way street of communication is instrumental in building a relationship. Listeners, I do want to call out that there are federal rights that parents and students are entitled to within the school, no matter what. In recent times, we've seen an emergence of sanctuary schools within sanctuary cities and like sanctuary cities, these schools are committed to protecting undocumented students and their families from federal immigration enforcement, especially in school spaces. So, Dr. Claudia, could you share with our listeners some very specific examples of ways that sanctuary schools protect students and their families?Dr. Claudia: Sure. Sanctuary schools protect students because they have a commitment to ensuring that nobody is asking about those immigration issues that families come with. In many cases, these schools also have a lot of connections to other resources in the communities that helps families and students with a variety of challenges with immigration or medical needs or whatever it may be, living situations. It's really important, I think, as the schools make a concerted effort to be sanctuary schools, that we share the information of what they're doing because they serve almost as models for other schools. As you said, Julian, we have many laws in the United States that protect our civil rights for anyone who lives here, despite of your immigration status. And so, it is important if your child has a potential disability or you feel they're not developing that they should or that it is different than your other children. You know, you don't worry about, you know, your immigration status. The schools are not able to ask you about that information. And they should be providing special education services to any child who needs that. It's called a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. It is really important to realize that those civil rights laws that protect all of us that live in the United States are there in schools as well to provide the best opportunity for students as they move forward. Julian: Yes. What a great way to end. I could sit and speak with you for a lot longer, but I think we really got to a place where we start off Season 3 really strong. So, I'm just really excited that you decided to join us Dr. Claudia. Your insight, your experience, it all just made for a fantastic show, so I can't thank you enough from myself as the host, but also to all the listeners. We really appreciate you joining us. Dr. Claudia: Thank you for having me and being able to share with our community who desperately needs support and services that their children deserve and that we can provide. So, I love talking with you as well, and I hope this season continues to go really well. Julian: Appreciate it. So, thank you, Dr. Claudia. And thank you to the O.G. listeners, "The Opportunity Gap" listeners for tuning in. Season 3 is beginning. Before we go, I have a few resources to share that all of you might find helpful. And I also have a quick little exciting announcement. So, first's article Four Challenges of English Language Learners Who Learn and Think Differently. Check that out. Another article for you, Experts Weigh in Learning and Thinking Differences in the Hispanic Community, and then listen to how this teacher is making learning joyful for all English language learners in an episode of "In It," another fantastic podcast on the podcast lineup. But for the exciting announcement, our next episode airing later this month — make sure you tune in — is going to be recorded all in Spanish. Todo en español. No longer Julian; it is el presentador Julian. And I'm excited because my simple Spanish gets to get broken in and we get to have an entire episode in Spanish. We are super excited to do this and it's been a long time coming, so we really are excited for you all to check it out, listen, share with your friends that we're really trying to broaden our audience and as Dr. Claudia said, to raise issues that desperately need to be raised and desperately need support. Till' next time. Julian: "The Opportunity Gap" is produced by Tara Drinks edited by Cin Pim. Ilana Millner is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. Thanks for listening and see you next time.

  • Building relationships with your students and their families is important at the start of any school year. Depending on what school looks like for you and your students this year, it may be more challenging to make those connections. But more than ever, partnering with families can help you support students, both academically and emotionally.Explore these articles to learn about the research of relationship building, download a printable, and get tips for connecting with students and families.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD coach Cathy Rashidian climbed the corporate ladder for 20 years. Then two major life events brought her ADHD symptoms into focus. ADHD coach Cathy Rashidian spent the first 20 years of her career climbing the corporate ladder. She was a workaholic with undiagnosed ADHD. Then two major life events shifted her path and perspective. At 35, she was diagnosed with cancer. She kept craving going back to work after treatment, even though she wasn’t ready. Then she had a baby at age 40. She felt overwhelmed and like she had control over nothing. Finally, after her doctor’s fourth suggestion, she got tested for ADHD. From there everything started to make sense. Cathy, who’s also the host of the Proudly ADHD podcast, talks about being a working mom with ADHD, her PMDD diagnosis, and “compassionate scheduling” to feel and function as best as possible. Join host Laura Key and Cathy’s discussion on ADHD in women, parenting, shame, and more. Related resourcesCathy’s podcast Proudly ADHDADHD and hormones (Catie’s story)8 common myths about ADHDEpisode transcriptCathy: As a working mom, there were so many pressures, and I also had a certain view of how I wanted to be a working mom. And then when that vision didn't come to fruition, it was like, "What is happening? I have control of nothing." And after four times, my doctor in four different appointments say, "Cathy, can we look at ADHD assessment?" Finally, I gave in and I was like, "Oh my gosh, I had no idea these were all ADHD things."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 Cathy Rashidian. Cathy is a certified ADHD coach who is based out of Calgary, Canada, and she's also the host of the "Proudly ADHD" podcast. Cathy, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here.Cathy: Hi, thanks for having me.Laura: I was struck when I went to your website, and I saw what you had written there: former corporate rock star turned ADHD and executive coach. I'd love to start there. Tell me about being a corporate rock star. We'll start your journey from that spot.Cathy:Yeah, let's go there. I started my corporate career early in my early 20s and went into marketing, and I worked for one of the biggest telecoms in Canada. And I was at the cutting edge of technology. I was one of those people that we were selling CD-ROMs for internet dial-up and a DSL. And the terminology like how I feel like I'm a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to internet.So, I was at the beginning of it and it was 20 years of just enjoying moving up the chain, moving up the ladder, and also learning new things all the time, moving from departments to departments, moving company to company. I was living the life, if you will, from my perspective of "I have my career under my belt. This is awesome. I'm doing it."And then there was a bit of a pause in my career. At the age of 35, I was diagnosed with lymphoma Hodgkin's and found out I have a type of blood cancer, and that was a jolt in my "Whoa, what's happening now?" And that came as a result of working all the time. I loved my job, and I was a workaholic.Laura: Did you stop working at that time?Cathy: Yes, I did stop. But then as you know, and this is all undiagnosed ADHD, as soon as chemo was over, it was a month after recovery, I was like, "I'm ready to go back to work." And my boss is like, "Slow it down. You just went through this like, major thing. You don't need to come back to work right away." I'm like, "No, no, no, I'm bored. I need to come back."I went back and man, they call it the chemo brain. I had major brain fog. I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't hold meetings together. I couldn't retain the information. And I called my boss. I'm like, "You were right. I need to take another leave, and really let this sink in and let my body recover before I can come back."And then this time, when I went back, I was very cautious of how many things I'm taking on, how fast I'm going, and really slowing down my pace. As much as I loved my job, my health was in jeopardy, so I needed to be very careful with all the yeses that I would give, and all the times that I would volunteer for projects that I had no business volunteering for.Laura: And at this time, you had not been diagnosed with ADHD?Cathy: Still not diagnosed. I was just recovering from going through an extreme thing with chemo. Meanwhile, though, underneath all of that, Laura, there was, at the age of 24, 25, I knew something was off and I was always in the search of "Who am I? What am I doing in this world? Is this the career that I want for the rest of my life?So, I was doing a lot of personal development work, going to all sorts of seminars, going to all sorts of professional development courses, trying to figure out my place in the world.Laura: So, when did you start to think that you might have ADHD?Cathy: Yeah, so I went back into the workforce being very cautious about what I wanted to do. So, I actually resigned from the major telco abruptly and I said, "You know what? That's not what I want to do. I don't I don't want to be in this hustle anymore. I want to go do something else." So, and I'm giving you these clues because these were all the undiagnosed things, that people that are undiagnosed do these things.So, I resigned abruptly after 14 years of being in a major telecom, and everybody, all my VPs were calling me "What are you doing? Slow down. It's OK. Do you need to take another sick leave? Take another sick leave." I am like, "No, I don't need to go. I want to leave." And I went into another tech consulting company and there I was jamming it. I had a team, we were doing our thing, we were going at the speed we wanted to. It was really, I was really aligned.And at the age of 39, I was pregnant, and I had my baby at 40.And then life took a different toll. I was like, "Wait a second." I got the career thing down, but this baby thing, it just knocked me out. So, about a year and a half into going back and forth to family doctor appointments, "Am I depressed? What's happening? Is it anxiety? This mothering thing it's not what it's, what they said it's made out to be. Why am I not able to do this? I'm a highly functioning person. Why can't I figure this out?" All of those cliché things.Four times in four different appointments, my doctor said, "Cathy, can we look at your brain and talk about ADHD?" And I'm like, "What are you talking about?" And I so fit that cliché of what I knew about my ADHD. And to this day, I apologize for saying these things, I said, "Doesn't everybody have ADHD? Isn't ADHD for boys? Isn't ADHD for kids?" That was my little circle of understanding of ADHD.And so, when she gave me the questionnaire one day, I read the questionnaire and I was like, "Oh my God, interrupting a lot. Not getting projects completed. Those are not ADHD. I just thought that's just me and my personality that likes to blurt shit out all the time." And she's like, "No, that's ADHD impulsivity." So, at 41 I got diagnosed with ADHD and then my whole life just made sense and that was my "aha." I was like," Oh my God, here we go."Laura: So, diagnosed with cancer at 35, you have a child at 40. If I have the timeline, right? Cathy: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.Laura: And then diagnosed with ADHD. Seems like the ADHD moment, that was such a click moment. Like, so many things fell into place as a result of that.Cathy: Well, yeah, because the "aha" was, "Oh, my gosh. Now it makes sense why I was so burnt out and I worked my way to like I'll always say this is, I think I caused my cancer," because I was always operating in chronic adrenaline and cortisol, and I loved it. And I was like, "Yes." And if things were quiet at work, I'd be looking for, "Oh, what's happening? What's wrong with this?" So, my body was just used to this hustle and grind that eventually it slowed me down. So, that was undiagnosed ADHD.I was also told that I have mild depression. So, I thought, "Oh, maybe it's the depression piece," but also that was unmanaged, undiagnosed ADHD. So, when they, when I saw the writing on the wall, I was like, "OK, this whole thing makes so much sense." The overwhelm that, I remember one time I was feeding my baby. As I was feeding her, I was thinking, "I need to do the dishes, I need to cook, I need to clean." Like I had a whole to-do list in front of me, and then I saw my husband in the corner, I was like, I snapped at him. I'm like, "Go do the dishes." And he's like, "What?" I'm like, "Something needs to be done." He's like, "Cathy, can't you just be with a baby and feed her for now? That's the thing to do right now."Cathy: But it wasn't for me. It was like I needed to do all those tasks all at the same time. So, that cognitive hyperactivity they came through was so loud and so exhausting.Laura: I remember that experience of "My only job right now is to sit here with my baby and feed them or read with them." And I would, it's almost, I feel bad saying this because there's so much pressure to be a perfect mom and to be like this ultimate maternal figure, but I just like, I felt bored.Cathy: Yes.Laura: Didn't you feel bored?Cathy: That's why I went back to work, back to corporate when she was only 5 months old. Here in Canada, we can take a year leave. Oh, no. Five months, I was like, "I need to go back. I need to go back."Cathy: But also, even as a working mom, there were so many pressures then. I also had a certain view of how I wanted to be a working mom. And then when that vision didn't come to fruition because I also had a really traumatic childbirth experience, so all of the things that I had thought they were, they never lined up and I was like, "What is happening? I have control of nothing." And for those of us with ADHD, when we have no control, it really like crushes us. It's very crippling for us.Laura: You mentioned that you struggled with some depression as well, or was it that it was ADHD that appeared like depression?Cathy: Yeah. So, throughout I think ever since I, you know, hormones kicked in and PMS happened and menstrual cycle happened, there was always depression hovering. I remember in the beginning of my career I would call in sick a lot. I would miss a week out of work. I would sometimes miss, you know, weeks out of work. And then I would just shut down, sleep a lot, not go anywhere, feel really guilty and shame.Now that I look back, it was extreme PMS. I was dealing with it all my life. I didn't know. A year ago, I was diagnosed with PMDD and now I take a tiny little bit of medication for it and it gets me through my hell weeks that I have.One of the things I do now with my PMS instead of going into that shame spiral, especially now as I coach ADHD, I teach ADHD, I speak on ADHD, I'm like, "OK, I have all the tools, what the hell is wrong?" And I know that it's not me, I know it's my hormones. And for me, I compassionately schedule my life around that. Truly, if we had said, would we do this interview last week, I would have told you no, because that would have been my hell week last week.Laura: Compassionate scheduling. I love that. I've never heard that before. I just wrote that down. Thank you for that.Cathy: I think I just made that up.Laura:Good job.Cathy: It just came up.Laura: This notion of shame, not a notion, this fact of shame in women with ADHD is so prevalent. I keep hearing about it, and I'm not hearing that from my male interviewees as often. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but it's definitely, it seems very prevalent among women who are struggling with executive function and can't seem to do the things that they're supposed to do. And I'm saying that in quotes. Have you experienced that in your coaching?Cathy: Yeah, you know, I experienced it myself because when I look at it, and if my mother ever heard this should be like, "Why did you say this?" but I'm going to say it, my mom, I think she has ADHD. Has she been diagnosed? No. Have we talked about it? Does it resonate? Yes, it makes sense. And my mom, to me, that's my role model in life that that's who I looked up to the most. And I just love her to bits. She was on the hyper side, physical and cognitive.And when I became a mom, I'm like, "I need to keep up to that. That was my role model." And any time you walk into her house, it's immaculately clean. It's so organized. Even her pantry, it's like, you know, Marie Kondo’d all the time and it stays that way. It never changes. I'm like, "How do you keep up with this?"Cathy: So, for me, what I saw was, "That's what I have to keep up with." And that was a bit of a shame in that first year and a half when I had my baby that I needed to do things a certain way. Now, if the dishes are dirty on the counter, they're there for two days, it is what it is. I've come to terms with, "This is my way of doing mothering. This is my way of doing house management. And if mom walks in and 'Cathy,' I'm like, 'Yep, welcome to my house, it's my house.'" And so, I really own that now.And it's hard because she'll give me the look and I'm like, "Mom, it is what it is." Because she also knows the dark side of that was I was really in a dark place where I couldn't and everything was piling up because I had this standard to meet. And now I no longer have that. This is my standard. Laundry in my household rotates, it goes from the laundry room, then it goes into the living room for a while, and it sits there for a day and then it moves up the stairs. It just is. And I'm so like not ashamed of it anymore.But then there are times where I'm like, "OK, I need to call Mom to come over. OK, I need to clean up." So, then I'll do that. So, sometimes we use these techniques to do a, you know, a hustle clean. But my house is, you know, it's messy, but it's not filthy. And man, within seconds we can clean that house, like it's immaculate.Laura: Yeah, you just need that urgency.Cathy: Yes.Laura: You invite Mom over and fears of judgment and it gets done. I do the same thing with my laundry basket. I feel so productive. I'll do all these loads of laundry and I'll separate them between my kids' clothes and me and my husband's clothes. And then this basket, same thing. It sits down there for an entire week. I do laundry on Sunday and then I fold that batch the next Sunday because I need the space in the laundry basket. Frankly.Cathy: I'm right there with you. Nothing wrong with that.Laura: I mean, there are worse problems in the world, but nonetheless it is.Cathy: That's it. And that for me, the shame and the comparison of how is everybody else is doing it, you know, keeping up with the Joneses is no longer my thing. I need to keep up with me.Laura: As I listen to you speak, it's just so clear to me how talented of a coach you are.Cathy: Thanks.Laura: Because I'm gathering tips just from the way that you're relating your own personal story. And it's just, everything feels really practical and actionable. What's the most common advice you find yourself giving to people with ADHD as a coach?Cathy: The word advice, I cringe, because we don't give advice.Laura: Sorry. Tips. Coaching.Cathy: We also don't give tips. So...Laura: So, what would you give? Tell me.Cathy: I like where you're going with that because people will think, "Oh, I'm going to hire a coach so that they can tell me the tips and tricks to manage my ADHD." True coaching. It's not about that. True coaching, we go in with, "We become your thinking partner. We become that copilot. You're in charge of your ship. You're in charge of your plane. We're just there to be like 'Oh pothole!' Do you want to go over it? Do you want to go around it? You want to jump into it?" So you still are making those decisions.But the second brain is emotionally detached from what's going on. So, we're able to help you facilitate your thoughts. So, when I'm working with my clients, I'm not fixing them. There's nothing to be fixed. There's nothing is broken. They're fine the way they are. They're coming in as a whole person.But there's a space where we need to co-think. We need to talk shit out loud. And my biggest thing I always say, this is the advice I do give, "Don't do ADHD alone." So, that's the only thing as far as an advice would go is, "Don't do it alone. Have a thinking partner. Have another brain that you can facilitate out your stuff." I started calling it my Board of Brains. And so, who are your Board of Brains that you're delegating these different things out to?So, the coach is one where we're doing the executive functioning stuff, we're doing the task things, but it's always deeper than that, Laura. It ends up being a lot of beliefs that we held on from our past, the way we were raised. It's the way we perceive the world. All of that, we put it to the forefront, and we say, "Do you want to keep all of this? Does it still work for you? OK, If it doesn't, let's reevaluate."I recently met with someone in their 50s, highly successful in financial meeting all their numbers, working out, like all, he was checking off all the marks. I'm like, "OK, then why do you need the coach?" "I just want to make sure there's another better way of doing this. Is there another better way?" I'm like, "Well, it sounds like you had a system going on. You're doing all the things." "I am, aren't I?" "Right."Cathy: So, you know what I mean? So, it's...Laura: Yeah.Cathy: ...sometimes we even question that, is we have the system, but we always think there's another better way.Laura: That's so powerful and your reframing really resonates. And I'm curious as you kind of copilot challenges and conversations and thinking with your clients, do you see yourself? How often do you see yourself and do you have your own "aha" moments? Yeah.Cathy: That's the thing is, when you get into coaching, in coach training they tell us that your clients are essentially you, and the universe just has this funny way of doing that. It springs out yous in front of you. It's like, "Great." So, yes.Cathy: I do see my clients. I'm like, "Oh, that was me ten years ago. Oh, that was me last year. That was me right now." But then again, you put ten ADHDers in a room, each of us will have our own flavor of ADHD, will approach things differently.So, as a coach, my job is to just hold that space for them to process whatever it is that they're going through, and they may come up with an awesome solution that I may have not even thought of. So, in true coaching, that's what we're doing. And yeah, I do see myself and my clients, but then their journey is different. Their process to getting through that is different. Everyone is different.Laura: Can you give me an example of one of those moments when you thought, "Oh, that was me ten years ago or two months ago" with your clients?Cathy: Yeah. So, it's actually, I also teach at the ADD Coach Academy, training coaches to become coaches of ADHD. And I'm very particular with who I work with.For example, if I get a client that's a mother, has three kids, wants to figure out the whole how to be a mother, and then juggle and, you know, raise three kids, I would say I'm not their coach, because I am right now going through that myself, like I'm living it, I'm breathing it. It's too close to me. It's too close to my heart right now, to want to coach moms that are trying to figure out mothering because I'm still trying to figure it out.Laura: You can't work with me, basically.Cathy: No, no. If that's you, no. Because I'm going through it. But I would go in a support group with you, and we can jam and, you know, share stories.Cathy: But if there's a young person who's coming in and saying, "Look, I am in my corporate career, I want to move up the corporate ladder, I'm just making all sorts of like, whoopsies here and there." So, I would be their thinking partner in that, in checking in on their impulsivity, checking in on their communication skills, working through the things that I wish I had a coach at that time with the ADHD knowledge that would have mentored me through that.Laura: How long after your ADHD diagnosis did you decide you wanted to be an ADHD coach?Cathy: Maybe about a year.Laura: Oh, that's...Cathy: I just knew, you know.Laura: ...with no context that sounds fast. Yeah.Cathy: Yeah, because I was clear about my career. I knew that "OK, if this is what I have going on and I have to raise this little munchkin, that was my miracle, baby, what can I do, and do I want to be in this corporate thing for another 20 years?" The grind and the hustle, that I was up the chain, and it's not going to get any easier. And I didn't have the tools, the right tools, if you will. And then I started looking at videos of Jessica McCabe.Laura: Oh, yeah.Cathy: She interviewed a coach and I'm like, "That's a thing?" And when she was talking to him, he had a marketing background also. I was like, "Oh my God, it’s like I'm listening to the male version of me." And he became a coach. I'm like, "OK." I am at heart a strategic planner. That is one of my strengths. So, that for me was like, this is good.Laura: Doesn't surprise me, Cathy. Yeah.Cathy: But then I was like, execution, execution side is not my...That's another story.Laura: I was just going to ask you actually, which ADHD symptoms do you feel like you still struggle with? I mean, it's a lifelong thing. So, what are the trickiest ones for you to manage still?Cathy: Yeah. For me, the bombardment of thoughts is constant, because there's always ideas. I'm an idea person. The other one is, the task management, you know, from juggling from "OK, I've got 20 tasks." The prioritization, which one is important. So, I'm constantly reevaluating the hyperfocus vortex that can get me in trouble.So, I'll start a task and then I'm now into the deep end of ChatGPT and what is that can do for my business? So, that hyperfocus, I have to tame it, because it can actually, as good as it can be for me, it gets me into trouble.Laura: What have you found that works for you to get out of flow state? Most people are always trying to get into it, but how do we get out of it when it's not serving us?Cathy: I schedule my deep work. I know when I want to do deep work. I always piggyback it with "I got to go pick up Sophia from school," so it will actually pull me out of it. So, I'm always giving it as something else that I'm accountable to somebody else that pulls me out. I also allow for a bit of transition out of it. So, it's not an immediate, I can't just cut it off and go to the next thing, is I ease out of it so that transitioning in and out of tasks. So, that's where I'm not a fan of back-to-back meetings. It just isn't healthy for our brain. We need to allow for that transition, that booting down so I can go to the next task.Laura: Yeah, that shifting is a killer. Yeah.Cathy: Yes. With family, like, I'll even go sit in the garage for a little bit, because I've been in flow state all day with business, you know, little one comes home, I'm working from home, like, I need to go sit in the garage, so I can transition out of one task into another.Laura: I do something similar on the days that I do go into the office, and I arrive home and it's just, "OK, what are we going to get on the table?" And I always go, and I sit down for 15 minutes and I don't know, I'll play like Boggle on my phone or something until I'm ready to get back into this new grind, the home grind, right? Cathy, tell me about the podcast, "Proudly ADHD."Cathy: "Proudly ADHD" was born as a result of me learning so much about ADHD, and I'm like, "Oh my God, how do I retain all of this information? So I thought, "OK, I'll teach it."Laura: Beautiful.Cathy: So that's how it was born. I was doing it for myself. I was like, "I want a knowledge shared. This is gold content." And also, I knew that as a coach, one of the things as trained coaches, we don't teach in session. Like, but I want my clients to have this information, right? So, I was like, "I'm going to teach it in podcast. That was my way of kind of working around the whole coaching agreement. That we're not teachers. We're there to support them.From there, as I was talking to myself, I'm like, "This is boring. I need to do interviews. Who do I call?" So, I went out and looked for amazing people that are doing amazing things with ADHD. I brought on guests and then I'm like, "OK, I want to also interview experts." And I'm like, "I wonder if Ned Hallowell is going to say yes?" And then I reached out to Dr. Ned Hallowell, and 10 minutes after I sent the email, he was like, "Yes, I'll help you." And I was like, "Oh my God." I was like running laps around my house. My husband was like, "What do you, calm down." So I'm like, "It's like Oprah saying yes to my podcast."Laura: Right.Cathy: So, he came on and from there then I was like, "OK, I can access experts. So, I brought on more experts. I brought on Dr. Russell Barkley.Laura: Cathy does not like to be bored. That's the thing. Cathy does not like to be bored.Cathy: And I like a good challenge of like, "Who's going to say no to me? Let me see how many people can say no.".Laura: Yeah, I dare you.Cathy: All of them have said yes. Yes.Laura: Cathy, I mean, it's been so great to talk with you. You know, sadly, you can't be my coach because we're in a similar space. So.Cathy: One day, one day.Laura: One day, I'm just, I'm really grateful that you came on this show and you're just doing such great work.Cathy: Thank you for having me. This was awesome. Thank you for your great questions.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.

  • Summer is a good time to hit the pause button and think about the past school year. What went well? What was challenging? And what did you learn that can help in the new year? Parents and caregivers: Help your child get ready to go back to school by filling out this worksheet together.Educators: Share this worksheet with your students’ families at the start of school or at the end of the school year.

  • In It

    School refusal is real, and it’s trying to tell you something. But how do you figure out what that is? Lots kids say “I don’t feel like going school” point. some, it’s that — flat-out refuse go. can’t make them. School refusal real, it’s trying tell something. figure is? In episode, hosts Amanda Morin Gretchen Vierstra talk family who’s “in it” comes school refusal. Listen Erin Meg share story son’s school refusal. Find get it. Plus, learn common signs school refusal. Related resourcesSchool refusal: means kids won’t schoolworkSchool refusal: help kids copeBack-to-school anxiety kids: watch forEpisode transcriptAmanda: Hi, I'm Amanda Morin. I'm director thought leadership, parent kids learn differently. Gretchen: I'm Gretchen Vierstra, former classroom teacher editor Understood. "In It." Amanda: "In It" podcast Understood Podcast Network. show, talk parents, caregivers, teachers, experts, sometimes even kids offer perspectives, stories, advice for, from, people challenges types learning differences. Gretchen: today we're talking school refusal.Amanda: short sweet label not-so-sweet phenomenon throw families turmoil.Gretchen: refusal might involve tears tantrums, flat-out refusal budge.Amanda: whatever looks like, school refusal almost always indication there's issue needs understood addressed.Gretchen: Today, we're talking two parents definitely comes school refusal.Amanda: Erin Meg massage therapists Massachusetts, they're parents two young kids.Gretchen: Erin Meg, welcome podcast. We're happy speaking today.Erin Meg: Thank you.Gretchen: Let's start little background. tell us bit son, who's third grade?Erin: parents two kiddos. son almost 9, daughter 4 1/2. we, last year, went really tough experience older son, who, various reasons, found able make school.Gretchen: son liked going school happened?Erin: would say never kid loved school like, "School place." loves social aspect school. lots great friends. goes really amazing school. It's nature-based elementary. K–1 program, lots play, lots outside time. It transition second grade that, well, obviously overlap things, um, COVID one them. start really strong, great kids back together, outside, amazing. part weather changed. got colder. great outside play, it's awesome probably outside learn write working math. So, kinds challenges there, certainly shift structure. new classroom new teachers. became academic, things really making hard go.And really COVID-specific thing — didn't realize thought new year meant COVID would over. really heartbreaking. mean, it's still, like, really emotional think that. holding lot anxiety around COVID realized. pretty much new year, hit wall was, done.Amanda: look like said "I'm anymore"?Meg: lot things, actually. mean, know, could look like anything "I'm physically going get bed." The, know, verbal "You can't make go." know, lot panic, like would run. would run hide. Um, sometimes he'd run bathroom get bathtub. he'd like, "You're scaring me." Um, we're like, "Buddy, gotta go school." would look like parent would every step. Help brush teeth, help get socks on, help get car. took lot get switch brain thinking like, "OK, happening. We're going school."Erin: never felt good feel like making something didn't want do. think about, lot, find line tough love "We know you're going safe place, know you're actually fine there, see state total fight-or-flight right now"? really able hold whole time. Like, he's giving us hard time; hard time —Meg: He's going hard time.Erin: super triggering kid almost 8 years old just, like, violent rage.Gretchen: So, Amanda, question you. know, Meg Erin describing meltdowns, seem one signs son's school refusal. there's gotta signs families look for, right?Amanda: Yeah, totally. signs school refusal things like older kids, may play hooky. may skip class. often hear kids complain feeling well, it's kind of, like, vague. It's vague "maybe stomachache." hadn't slept well. Um, get school, may call frequently come home. They're angry everybody seemingly reason; they're crying. There's lot emotion. lot kids actually deliberately get trouble school get sent home. I've parent. son school refusal issues. Getting call school tough thing.Gretchen: must tough thing. know, also asked Erin Meg felt supported son's school navigating this.Erin: hard part anxiety wasn't showing school all. Truly, there, fine. couple experiences wanting get car got there. one days probably emotional, couldn't get car, actually phoned head school came took onto soccer field kicked soccer ball around him. meant much know people holding way. one hardest parts last year, trying find extra support, find therapist availability, find really resources help us parent way needed, help going through.Gretchen: So, realize wasn't temporary thing would go away own? realized that, next?Meg: So, around February, think started see forest trees, baseline anxiety going seeing, "Oh, wait minute. isn't wanting go school. Like, you're completely shutting down; like, you're amygdala right need get frontal cortex." just, started naming saying like, "You worries, anxiety," sort helping cope.Erin: Well, February actually make conscious choice of, "We need give break." made conscious choice keep home month connect remote piece. instant, really lucky way keep connected classroom. But, many parents probably attest, remote learning experience — optimal. remote program phased out, kind thought, "OK, we'll wait things warm we'll give break." Like, that's need real break this. never really bounced back. think last three months school actually hardest like, "OK, what, do?" this? He friend used leave little videos morning, like, "Will come school today? want play soccer you." I'd bedroom bawling. He'd watching videos, sometimes really thing got there. Like, "I really want play soccer you." days like, "I really don't care. don't care I'm missing." probably end, making school two three days week, lucky. really felt like dragging us finish line school year.Amanda: ever think sort like balance sort hearing versus caving in? grapple that?Meg: time. think February let go rope. know, said, "OK, we're going let go this." think realized wasn't us caving parents much us actually validating something really challenging hard him. Dunkin' Donuts doughnut him, it. And, sure, sparked lot of, "Oh God. going happen every time? going expect every time?" think really felt like, "Yeah, hard me." know mean? it, it. guess didn't feel like us caving much us —Amanda: no, there's judgment part there. want make really clear. Meg: said, said "cave in" like, yeah, that, that's first

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

  • ADHD Aha!

    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.

  • Going back to school and adjusting to new routines can be tricky for kids who learn and think differently — and for you. But having the right tools can make it easier. Use these back-to-school downloads to start the school year off right.

  • ADHD Aha!

    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.

  • September 2020Whether students return to school in person or continue with distance learning, this year it’s vital for families and educators to work together to support children who learn and think differently. As students who learn and think differently enter a school year unlike any before, Understood’s back-to-school resources center around the power of parent-teacher relationships. Our goal is to help strengthen communication and collaboration between families and educators by providing information about: Safety considerations for students who learn and think differentlySpecial education during the pandemic Social-emotional learning for students with and without disabilities How to address the impact of the COVID slideAccessibility approaches for in-person and distance learningCreating a safe space for open conversations about racial injusticeMany children will be entering the virtual and physical classrooms of teachers they’ve never met before. By sharing information about how students fared this past spring, families and educators can start the school year strong. A lot of kids have experienced trauma or food insecurity, or they’ve had loved ones pass away. Open communication can help educators understand each student’s unique needs and situations. Juliana Urtubey, an Understood Teacher Fellow and fourth- and fifth-grade special education teacher in Las Vegas, is also prioritizing parent-teacher collaboration to ensure that the school can make thoughtful considerations on the child’s behalf. “The only way educators and schools can do that is through close and genuine partnership with families,” says Juliana. “No matter what the need is, let us know. No matter what the challenge is, let us know.”Understood, teachers, and families are working toward the same goal: exceptional care and education for all students. 

  • ADHD Aha!

    Allison O’Keefe worried she annoyed her friends — only for one friend to confirm that feeling. But has her recent ADHD diagnosis changed how she sees herself? Allison O’Keefe, a UX designer in Detroit, always felt she rubbed people the wrong way. Then, in her early teen years, one of her friends confirmed it when she called Allison “the annoying friend” behind her back. This made Allison more cautious in social situations, which often overwhelmed her. Worse, she also found herself accidentally “ghosting” people, forgetting to respond to their messages.Eventually, a therapist asked her if she’d ever been diagnosed with ADHD, and the diagnosis started to make a lot of sense. She now feels less isolated — even as she still grapples with how open she wants to be about her ADHD.How do folks with ADHD navigate these choppy social waters? Listen in as Laura and Allison sort through these questions and more.Related resources5 ways ADHD can affect social skillsADHD and oversharingADHD and feeling guilty or remorseful Episode transcriptAllison: I asked my boyfriend if he had ever suspected, and he was like, "Yeah, it makes sense." He would call me very bubbly when we first started dating, so he saw quite a few symptoms where after I brought it up from that diagnosis, he was like, "Yeah, this all makes sense to me."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 Allison O'Keefe. Allison is a UX designer based in Detroit, and she's also a listener who wrote in. So, thank you so much, Allison, for being here. Thank you for being a listener. How are you doing today?Allison: I'm good. I'm really excited to be here.Laura: Let's start with you sharing your diagnosis story. When did you get diagnosed?Allison: In August of 2021. I was struggling a little bit at work, and my workplace is actually very supportive with mental health and wellbeing. So, I attended a webinar because I had no idea how to start therapy. And the key takeaway that I got from it like to start was like, write down what has been hard to manage, and my hard-to-manage bullet points were anxiety and worry, forgetfulness, trouble focusing, trouble falling asleep, and intrusive thoughts. So, that is what I went into therapy with, and my goals for therapy were better-coping mechanisms and not worrying, and being able to focus. Those are my goals.Laura: OK, we'll take care of that in a week or so.Allison: Right, yeah. And so, when I started the initial appointment, I went through the questionnaire, and the therapist, my therapist asked if I had ever been diagnosed with ADHD and I had not. It was a surprise to me that it is something that came up that she asked if I had been diagnosed for.Laura: Had you ever considered ADHD prior to that?Allison: No, it's not anything that ever crossed my mind. Funnily enough, after that first initial appointment, I asked my boyfriend if he had ever suspected and he was like, "Yeah, a little bit. It makes sense." So...Laura: Yeah, tell me more about that. What, did he give you any more detail?Allison: It was really just like the symptoms that you see and people who do have ADHD. He had a front-row view of, since we've been living together for the last couple of years, being very impulsive with buying things and being very hyperactive. He would call me very bubbly when we first started dating, so he saw quite a few symptoms where after I brought it up from that diagnosis, he was like, "Yeah, this all makes sense to me."Laura: Bubbly. I'm really interested to hear this term. I love unpacking euphemisms that we use for ADHD symptoms, and that's just one that I had never heard before. What do you think he meant by bubbly?Allison: I think he meant like very excitable, and I have definitely felt that way even in our relationship and just with friendships in general where I'm like very excitable. I've always said that, like, really small things will make me excited, and I get very, like, interested in things. When somebody brings up a topic, I get very invested and like excited about whatever the thing is. So, I think that is what he meant by bubbly.Laura: We'll come back to that. Let's stick with your diagnosis story for a moment. So, your therapist raises the question, "Have you ever been diagnosed with ADHD?" It's interesting that your therapist went straight to "Have you ever been diagnosed with ADHD" as opposed to "Have you ever considered ADHD?"Allison: Yeah. Yeah. And she definitely did let it sit with me for a little while till I looked into different resources of ADHD, like across the Internet. I actually took a look at like the DSM-5. I started watching YouTube videos and I downloaded podcasts, which is how I found this one. And she really let me sit with it for a little while just to, like, make sure that it fit for what I was feeling and what I was experiencing. She didn't want to just jump to the conclusion and label me with ADHD without like having that consent from me. Like saying that, "Yes, this is something that that does resonate with me and my experiences that I was having."Laura: The last time that we chatted, I wrote down this phrase that you used. You said that ADHD for you was never in the, quote, realm of possibility.Allison: Yeah. Nobody in my life had ever been diagnosed with ADHD before, so it wasn't something that I was familiar with, even like the old term ADD like that, that never came up anywhere. Like teachers that I had in grade school or high school. It was just never something that ever came up. And I feel like it fits a lot of ADHD people, like out of sight, out of mind, Like it wasn't something that I was aware of growing up.Laura: You know, to the best of your — that your memory allows. What kinds of ADHD symptoms do you think you were experiencing, even though you weren't aware of it at the time?Allison: Definitely chattiness. I was definitely a chatty kid. I got in trouble for that a couple of times in school. I would be passing notes or I would just be like talking in class. Funnily enough, I was also learning sign language with a friend, so we would be like talking and sign language across the classroom. And I did get in trouble for that, but chattiness and a lot of forgetfulness. Like forgetting to do homework and bring homework home. I believe I actually forgot to, like, get something signed by my parents for band. And because I forgot that and I wanted to participate, I forged my mom's signature, and of course, my band teacher was like, "That is not a mom's signature, that is a child." So, I did get in trouble for that. I also had a lot of brain hyperactivity all the time where I was just constantly thinking, and I could never shut my brain off. And because I was in like sports and stuff, I think that the being in sports and sort of like wearing myself out every day, I was able to sort of like get out some of that hyperactivity where I could focus a little bit more.Laura: What sports did you play?Allison: I played soccer, and I did cross country.Laura: Very tiring sports, and a way to get out a lot of energy, yeah.Allison: Yes. But it was also very funny, actually. I was very slow. I was not fast, but the girls that I ran with were also slow. And we just used that time to talk.Laura: Of course.Allison: Yes. It was a great time to talk.Laura: That's nice. Forgetting to get things signed or forgetting to hand things in, I like when people bring that up because it's just this really great example of ADHD in action, especially things that parents can notice early. Like as an early indicator, it's like, "Oh, my kid did the work," or "My kid, you know, understands the work, but it just didn't make it to the teacher." Yeah.Allison: And I think I mean, schools hand out those planners to the kids like the first day of school or whatever. And I remember being very excited to fill out the planner, but I don't know that I necessarily remember to, like, keep up with it.Laura: Yeah.Allison: It's just so much structure that they want you to utilize. But I mean, I think a lot of people who do have ADHD know that like structure is great, but it is also sometimes a prison where you have to like, stick with that. And that I think was always very difficult for me.Laura: Don't remember if this adjective that you used for yourself growing up was something you shared with me when we chatted before, or if it was from your email that you sent in. But I remember that you used the word annoying. Kids considered you annoying. I say this with love, Allison. I hope you know I don't think you're annoying. I want you to know this.Allison: Yeah, it is definitely something that I still struggle with today. I was definitely very excitable, as we've talked about, and I was always very constantly chatting, and I definitely have a tendency to overshare and go a little bit farther than I think most people would. And that really sort of rubbed people the wrong way. And so, because of that, I became the annoying friend. It's actually quite sad. I accidentally came across a text message from people in my friend group where somebody had texted one of my friends saying that I was the annoying friend and my friend group compared to the annoying friend and one of the other friend groups. That was my first sort of initial experience of feeling like, "Oh, the people that I hang around with, they think that I'm annoying and that it was like rubbing them the wrong way where it doesn't necessarily like make them want to be around me," which is really sad. I think I was in middle school or like maybe high school, so it's like those formative years where that's not something you want to hear from your friends. And just having that experience definitely stuck with me. And even to this day, I'm very hesitant to like overshare with coworkers and even my friends today, like they have mentioned, like, "Oh, Allison doesn't really share things with us." And it is something that I'm working on with this new friend group specifically because they're my friends and I want to share things with them. But I'm always very like cautious about what I say because it could be something that is just a little overboard and it ends up pushing people who I care about away.Laura: I'm sorry that happened. That kind of thing would stick with me. I can see that it sticks with you and that it impacts how you're approaching your friendships today.Allison: Mm hmm. Yeah.Laura: Part of your racing thoughts, do they involve thinking about yourself and if you, quote-unquote, messed up at any point during the day and maybe were overly annoying or something like that, is that maybe what keeps you up at night sometimes?Allison: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And it is definitely like a lot of things just pop into my head. It ends up with me Googling things very late into the night and sending myself notes so that I can look more into it later the next day. But yeah, overthinking tendencies, where I think back to how that day went and my interactions with people throughout the day. The overreactions I definitely think about a lot. And it does sit with me to the point where I usually try to end up like coming back the next day and trying to fix what I might have done the previous day just because it was just sitting with me and sitting in my mind and on my brain. And I won't let it go unless I fix it.Laura: I totally feel you. Sometimes I feel like I'm overbearing because I will come back to that thing that got blown out of proportion in my head. And then in the morning, I'm just waiting for the moment when I can reach out to that person and be like, Hey, I didn't mean to be whatever, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes, like people who get me, they're like, "No, it's all good." Like, I would, I didn't even think about it. Most of the time they say, "I didn't even notice that."Allison: Yeah, yeah. And that happens with my boyfriend often where I'll say something and then I have, I can't stop thinking about it. And I come back to him later and I'm like, "I'm so sorry that, like, I overreacted that way or I was in your way." And he'll just be like, "Well, that's fine. That's not something that I've been thinking about."Laura: Yeah, it's such a difficult cocktail, the restless brain, the restless ADHD brain, plus the, when you know you have ADHD and you have awareness of your challenges, or if you encountered a text about being annoying or something like that and you have this awareness of how people perceive you, kids and adults with ADHD, we actually, we have content about this on about feeling remorse for things big and small, like completely blown out of proportion. Like "I did this wrong, I screwed this up. It's really hard to cope with." Do you talk to your therapist about this? Or...Allison: Oh, yeah. Just being able to talk with her. And it's after a week of ruminating on things, I really like being able to bring things to her to just talk things out. And it's usually when I do talk things out that it all just starts to feel better. And even if it's something that I've been deliberating or like unable to make up my mind about something, it usually ends with me coming to this realization after I've spoken it out loud of like, "Oh yeah, well, this is why this happened, because X, Y, and Z," or "This is why I've been feeling this way." Like after I get it out into the open and speaking with her and sort of just having her as a sounding board is very, very helpful for me.Laura: So, one of the things I like to do on this show, and the purposes of the show is to help people see through the context of human stories what ADHD symptoms and choices and behaviors can really look like, so that maybe they can spot them in themselves. And there's one thing that you talked about in your email and that we chatted about previously, that isn't something that we've talked a lot about on the show, which is what I call ADHD wishful thinking or over-optimism. I guess I'll pause there and just get your reaction even to that term. ADHD wishful thinking.Allison: That definitely resonates with me just because over my adult years I've definitely been very ambitious in my hobbies and I started with photography back in high school and it was very much like, "Oh, I, I want to become such a good photographer and I want to put my work online and I just want to be fully into the world of photography." It usually happens when, like I tell people like, "This is what I am doing," and then the novelty of it is gone. That actually happened back in 2008, and when I was going to start a photography blog. And I think that was also the last time I did photography, because I let people know like, "Hey, I have something that's really been coming." And then after I posted that on Instagram, I don't think that I touched my camera since, which is a bummer because I really love photography. It's something that's really close to my heart. But I definitely like, go down these sorts of rabbit holes all the time where I'll get very interested or invested in a thing, and I dedicate all of my time to this thing, and it just eats up so much of my mental space and that's all that I can think about. And sometimes it all just go away or sometimes it'll go away prompted by telling people, and then the novelty has gone. It's very, very strange to even just like talk about. But I had read a blog about two girls from Michigan who had sailed around the Great Lakes, and my family has a sailboat. So I was like, "Oh, I connect with us. This is something I can absolutely do. Like, I could sail around Michigan as well. I'm going to look online for a sailboat that I could live on as I sail across the Great Lakes." I put together the route and like all of the places that I had stopped at and to a Google My Maps, I create a Pinterest boards of like how I was going to decorate this boat. And I created a blog that, like the girls, being very aspirational. I was like, "This is, I'm going to write about all of my experiences and like how I'm going to do this." And I honestly truly cannot say what happened. But I at some point I just dropped it all and I no longer wanted to live on a boat and sail across the Great Lakes. It was just gone. So, it's really just like things like that. That is like a very impulsive thing to even consider doing. I mean, I've grown up on a sailboat, but I don't know how to sail one. Laura: It's tangential to your life, but yeah.Allison: Right. Yeah. So, it's just very impulsive things like that where I tend to get very excited and very invested and then all of a sudden the excitement is gone and I'll have moved on to something else. That's, that's wild.Laura: I mean, Alison, do you want to hear the short list of the things that I've tried to invest myself and skills that I wanted to develop that just were gone with? A yes. OK, let's see. Joan of Arc expert and feminist biographer, feminist critiquer of advertising across New York City on billboards and taxicabs and whatnot. I started a Tumblr that lasted three days, rock critic, movie critic, all these things that I've just tried to do. And I'm like, "I'm doing this. This is what I'm going to do." And then I'm like, "Nah, nah." It's fun, but It can be painful, though.Allison: Yeah. Yeah, it is very painful. And it's really, I think, difficult because I want to be doing multiple things at once that I have a lot of like investment and I have a lot of like excitement about. But for whatever reason I can only focus my energy on one of those things. And so, it feels very difficult. And I've spoken to my therapist about this like, I don't understand how people have multiple interests and like dedicate their time to multiple things at one time. It is an enigma to me, and I don't understand that.Laura: There is another thing that you mentioned when we chatted again or in your email. I can't remember, but you talked about ghosting.Allison: Yes.Laura: Tell me about ghosting.Allison: It's happened my entire life. I would start talking with guys from dating apps when like I was still dating and I would just sort of forget they existed and then never text them again. That happened a number of times. I think in the email I mentioned that I had been texting my sister and she was telling me about her own personal interests, and I meant to text her back and I never did, which I felt really bad about.  The worst case of my ghosting was an old coworker who had messaged me and she was saying that her boyfriend, they were hiring at his company and that I should get in touch with him if I was interested in like switching jobs and the feeling that I got from just her text message, I hadn't even looked up her boyfriend's message yet, it was just like so overwhelming of like, "I don't even know what to say. I'm so anxious. I need to think about, like, how am I feeling with work right now."  And I don't even know that I messaged her back that day. I was just so overwhelmed with this idea of responding to her that I think I took a week and a half to respond. And once I did, I don't think she ever responded because that was kind of like crappy of me. I might have damaged that relationship, to be honest, just because the feelings were too much for me in that moment.Laura: It seems like the ghosting isn't related to forgetfulness, but maybe responding to a text message and maybe finishing a big work project like everything is at the same level. In terms of priority, it's hard to prioritize. Is that accurate?Allison: I think so, yeah. And I think it's sometimes the ghosting ends up because I am overwhelmed and but then it also, as my mom has texted me and I've seen the text message and I completely forget and then she'll text me back the next day asking if I saw her text. And it's just like, "Oh yeah, I just..."Laura: Moms are so good like that.Allison: "I saw it and I forgot to respond." That happens a lot.Laura: My mom will do the same thing. She's like, "Did you see that?" I'm like, "Yeah, I saw." But I don't I can't attribute that to ADHD that much.Allison: Right.Laura: Yeah, I get really overwhelmed because I want to give a thoughtful response.Allison: Yes. Yeah.Laura: It's not malicious. For anybody listening who doesn't have ADHD and you got ghosted by someone who has ADHD, it's most likely not intentional. Let's just put that out there. Maybe the guys from the dating app that might have been, maybe that is they weren't memorable enough, right? That's not on you. But you know, how open are you with other people about the fact that you have ADHD?Allison: Oh, I'm not open about it at all. The only people who know are my therapist, my sister — my sister also guessed that I had ADHD — and my boyfriend. Those are the only people who know.Laura: And I mean, you're early, too, and it takes a long time to share. And you can choose to never share too. It's yours, it's part of your identity, however you want to share that to be interesting. If your friend knew that you had ADHD, I'm not saying that you should have shared that with her, just it would have been interesting if there's more in general, if there's more awareness of ADHD, and if she knows that you have ADHD, she might be like, "Hey, reminder about this."Allison: Yeah. Yeah. And it is definitely something that like I'm grappling with right now, like, I'm not sure yet how — despite the fact that I've come on this podcast and I'm like announcing it to the world that I have ADHD — I'm still sort of grappling with how open I want to be about my diagnosis. I'm actually planning on talking about it with my friends this weekend. I am working on trying to share a little bit more with the people who are close to me. And that's like, I really do want them to know, like I want them to sort of understand more about who I am as a person.Laura: Yeah, and maybe you'll decide that you don't feel comfortable sharing that at all. Or maybe you want to scream it from the rafters. Either way, I think it's awesome, Allison, that you're going to connect with your friends, and you know, you should write us back and let us know how it goes. But if you don't, I won't be offended because I won't consider it to be ghosting. We're just busy people.Allison: OK, I'll do — will write back.Laura: Thank you, Allison, for hanging out with me today. It's been so great to interview you.Allison: Thank you for having me on. I actually had this aspiration at one point I was doing a running blog because I was really into running at one time. And I was also it was when I first started learning about podcasts and listening about all these podcasts, I was like, "I'm going to combine the two." And I started blogging about running and I started blogging about podcasts. And I was always like, "I would love to have my own podcast one day, but I don't even know what I would talk about." So, this has been so much fun, and I loved being here.Laura: Yay! And see, that's an example. It wasn't wishful thinking you're here. It's a step in that direction. So, thank you so much, Allison. I think you're great.Allison: Oh, thank you. This has been awesome.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.

  • Settling into any new school year can be tough for kids who struggle with impulsivity. Here are six common problems impulsive kids run into when school starts — and what you can do to help.1. Your child is rushing through summer reading and math work.What it might look like: Summer work has fallen off everyone’s radar. Now that school is looming, your child is racing through the work way too fast, skipping over things and making careless errors.How you can help: Impulsive kids may be extra impulsive when a task seems overwhelming. Help make the homework more manageable by breaking it down into small sections. Encourage your child to work on just one section at a time.2. Your child has pre-judged this year’s teacher.What it might look like: Your child heard a few negative comments about the teacher from older friends. Now anytime someone mentions the start of school, your child repeats the negative gossip.How you can help: Kids who are impulsive often repeat the first thing that comes to mind. So talk about the traits your child likes in teachers — especially if you know that the new teacher has some of these characteristics. And compare the new teacher to good teachers your child had in the past.3. Your child is excited about school and forgets lesson materials.What it might look like: No matter where learning is taking place, your child might be super excited about starting again. But with all the excitement, your child shows up for lessons without the necessary materials.How you can help: Work with your child at night to get everything ready, whether it’s going into a backpack or waiting in a workspace at home. Check in with your child before bedtime to make sure it’s all in one place.4. Your child overshares about what happened over the summer.What it might look like: Most students talk about their summer experiences during the first few days of school. They’re often asked to share their stories with the class, too. But your child goes on and on and talks over others while they’re trying to share.How you can help: Before school starts, role-play giving others a chance to talk. Talk about what is and isn’t appropriate to share, especially if your family has had difficult experiences over the summer. 5. Your child reacts in a negative way to what classmates say.What it might look like: Other kids are talking about what they’re looking forward to in the new school year. Your child is anxious about school and responds by blurting out negative comments.How you can help: Your child may unintentionally insult other kids by saying the first thing that comes to mind. Help your child practice more positive responses. Try phrases like “Sounds like fun,” “That would be awesome,” or even “I hope that happens.”6. Your child tries to one-up classmates by exaggerating.What it might look like: Impulsive kids tend to exaggerate. Your child might say things that aren’t true to impress other kids and gain their attention. How you can help: Explain how you can be respectful of others while still sharing cool things about yourself. For example, when kids are talking about something they did over the summer, encourage your child to say things like “Sounds like you had a lot of fun. I had fun, too. I loved….” That way, your child won’t need to exaggerate.Concerned about how your child will handle new routines and safety measures this year? Use this back-to-school update to share your concerns with the teacher.

  • In It

    The teen mental health crisis. How is it showing up in kids with learning and thinking differences? And what can we do about it? We’ve been hearing a lot about a mental health crisis that’s affecting kids — especially teens — really hard. What’s behind this crisis? How is it playing out for kids with learning and thinking differences? And what can we do about it?To help answer these questions, hosts Rachel Bozek and Gretchen Vierstra turn to Dr. Matthew Cruger. He’s the clinical director and a senior neuropsychologist at the Child Mind Institute. Learn how the crisis is showing up in his practice, especially with kids who learn and think differently. Hear Matt’s thoughts on when the crisis started — and why. Plus, get Matt’s advice on how families can help support their kids’ mental health. Related resources Treatment for mental health issues How to talk with your child about social and emotional issuesListen to this episode of The Opportunity Gap for more tips on supporting kids’ mental health 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 our children's mental health.Gretchen: We've been hearing a lot in recent months about a mental health crisis that's hitting kids, especially teens, really hard. It was there before the pandemic, but we know the isolation and anxiety brought on by COVID-19 didn't help.Rachel: And honestly, even if we weren't hearing about this crisis in the news, I think it would still be on our radar. Because speaking for myself, at least, I see evidence of it all around me.Gretchen: I do, too. I mean, I see it in my own home. And I've been hearing from lots of parents in the community that kids just seem to be saying a lot of "What's the point? Why should I do it?" And they're just lacking some of that motivation that I think kids used to have.Rachel: Yeah. Yeah. So I guess the question I have is: What's behind this crisis? How is it playing out in particular for kids with learning and thinking differences? And what can we do about it?Gretchen: So to answer those questions, we're speaking today with Dr. Matthew Cruger.Rachel: Dr. Cruger is the clinical director and a senior neuropsychologist in the Learning and Development Center at the Child Mind Institute.Gretchen: In that role, he does clinical work, neuropsych exams, cognitive assessments, and other evaluations for gifted children, as well as kids with learning difficulties, autism spectrum disorders, and ADHD.Rachel: We are delighted to have him here with us on the podcast. Matt, welcome to "In It."Dr. Cruger: Thank you.Rachel: We've been hearing for some time now about a mental health crisis for teens and even pre-teens. And we want to get into how this is showing up for our kids who have learning and thinking differences in particular. But first, we thought it might be useful to look at the problem more broadly. Even before the pandemic, we were seeing a marked increase in depression, anxiety, and suicide among teens. Is that right?Dr. Cruger: Yeah, I think that prior to the pandemic, we certainly recognized there's a couple of things that I think are factors. One is that we don't have enough clinicians to provide treatment for all the patients that need treatment. So families adjust to many of the struggles that their kids have, hoping that they'll get better, when some clinical intervention could be helpful in turning things around.Gretchen: What about what we've heard about the impact of technology and social media? Has that had a negative impact on kids?Dr. Cruger: I think so. Certainly, I think kids are spending a lot more time on technological devices. The impact of that is that they're not necessarily out interacting with other kids. Certainly, we want parents to monitor the kind of content that they're accessing as well, because there can be communications in that context that are problematic for kids and present a way of living in the world that's not as helpful. So the amount of engagement and the access to certain types of content on the on the internet I think is problematic and exacerbates things.Rachel: Yeah, I definitely saw this with both of my kids that when the pandemic hit, the device usage just like went through the roof for so many reasons that we all know and understand. But can you talk a little bit about how that contributed to this crisis?Dr. Cruger: Yes, I think that it was obvious because most of us were home and everything switched to remote platforms. Kids had to be on the computers every day for much of their schooling. And obviously many families couldn't also stop the work that they were doing. And so I think by necessity, some of the technology became — it served as a babysitter, right? For some of the time when kids had downtime. And it is less of an interactive experience, I think, even under the best circumstances.So I think with those increased time screen usage going up, we have pretty good evidence that that can have negative effects on their mental health experience. And I think it's persisted. So even with the return to school, the situation has sort of led kids to have a decrease in their experience, right?Gretchen: I think about engagement with the kids during this time period, right? Whether that was school or family. But like, really school, like I saw at home, at least for me, like engagement go down.Dr. Cruger: Yes, I do feel like — and I'm reflecting on my own kids in particular, who were in third grade and kindergarten at the time. So there are special, unique challenges at those developmental time frames. Right? Kindergartners need to learn to read. That is such a great process to do in person with a teacher who is helping you sound out words, who has books and content right there for you.And third grade when you're really starting to like apply yourself for deeper thinking. That's something where a mentor, a sort of coach, someone who's there as your champion to support you like a teacher could and give you direct feedback. That kind of engagement is really essential to the learning process that we are all used to. So there's no doubt that that was much harder to do. So I think that that clearly had an effect.Gretchen: Yeah, I mean, in my house I had a fifth grader going into sixth grade. So in middle school. That's such a social time for kids. And to be isolated from your peers during all of that, it was really hard.Dr. Cruger: Yeah. I think that during that time frame, the group of kids I was most worried about were kids that were in middle school heading to high school or in the early phases of high school. It's a time of really serious reflection on the material that you're working with in school. And really it's where a lot of those social advancements happen. Really learning where you stand in relationship to others and more complex social encounters and interactions were so important to develop in that time frame. And a lot of those kids I do think suffered. They were sad.Gretchen: So what does all of this look like and sound like in your practice? What have you been hearing from the kids who come into your office these days?Dr. Cruger: Yeah, I think maybe the first piece of things is like a low-level sort of sadness or anxiety about some experience that's sort of persisted. I do feel like kids benefit from the sense that they are going through some of these experiences for a purpose. And I think it's been very hard for us to know how to explain to them why things are organized the way they are. What's the higher purpose, what are they striving to achieve?So that reflects a little bit of the engagement piece, like to be fully engaged in the content of material. But also to feel like school happens in a certain way and we're headed for a certain destination. That seems to me to have been lost.Gretchen: Yeah, like I would say, like in my house, I've heard a lot of "What's the point?"Dr. Cruger: I think that's true. I think there's an apathetic sort of response. It's sort of like it doesn't really matter so much what I do. And I've heard it for a long time, you know, where in focusing on academic work with kids, you know, kids might have for a long time have said to me, like learning math doesn't really matter because I won't use it in my future.But it's maybe like a broader response to the time, like, I guess a feeling of like, I don't really know what the point is or what the goal is of what I'm being asked to do. That's a little bit of a helplessness towards the task and activity.Gretchen: Rachel, I want to step back for a second here and just pick up on something that Matt just said. He's talking about how kids responded to the time. What's that time? All the time Is the pandemic, right? When things really shifted. And I think it's worth unpacking a little bit about what that time was and what it did.Rachel: Yeah, right. Definitely. It's easy to forget from a little distance how just upside down our world was when the pandemic first hit. All of a sudden, a lot of kids discovered that their parents, their teachers, and maybe other people that they always would look to for answers really didn't have much to offer or know what to do.Gretchen: Yeah, I mean, it must have been — I know it was hard for kids to see rules changing all the time, adults complying, not complying. To see, you know, your parents who used to like get up and go out the door to work are now sitting at home in their pajamas on the screen all day. And what's happening there?Rachel: And and the rules about screen time kind of went out the window and, you know, some other rules, too, just because we were all just trying to get through the day. That's a lot.Gretchen: Yup. So it seems like all of a sudden kids are like: All these structures that you have in place are arbitrary and made up. And I'm not going to go along with this anymore.Rachel: Yeah, we got called out. So let's get back to our conversation with Matt.Rachel: We know that you work with a lot of children who have learning and thinking differences. Can you talk about how all of the stressors that we're talking about here may be affecting them in different ways?Dr. Cruger: Yeah. I mean, I think that if you — I guess I reflect on the learning differences that I see. The kids who are struggling with academics, in particular, the inputting of new ideas, new processes for solving problem. They need real guidance on how to manage that material. And that can sometimes come from family involvement, but often comes from direct instruction. They really need teachers who are able to guide them in that process of learning.Kids are struggling to find a source of motivation that they can direct their efforts to. And sometimes they feel like it's hard to know: Will their efforts pay off? And that can sometimes lead to sort of decreased motivation.Rachel: You know, we've been talking a lot about the impact of the pandemic on mental health. But I know there are a lot of other sources of anxiety and depression for kids these days. Things like school shootings and climate change. Do you hear about those kinds of things from the kids that you see?Dr. Cruger: Well, I think you bring up, Rachel, like a set of things that are on my mind. There's a bunch of global issues that kids confront. So it's very common for me to hear kids talk about sort of what we think of as like climate anxiety. You know, that worry that the world is on a crash course towards not being able to exist in the way that we know it. And that is a like a low-level worry and source of preoccupation for kids, even though they're highly motivated many times to do something about that.I think violence and safety is another thing that kids spend their time thinking about. And I certainly also think a lot of teenagers are focused on their own identity development. That's a developmental goal for that age range. And there's so much information about choosing your identity. What are acceptable identities? What are identities that others will not accept? That makes that process, I think, even more complicated for them. So those preoccupations, I think, sort of derail them from knowing how to invest time in the things that they need to do.Gretchen: Right they're figuring out all those questions around sexuality and gender identity. Not to mention, for older kids, they're thinking about what they want to do with their life. Is that something kids come to you for guidance on?Dr. Cruger: Yeah, I mean, I think that a lot of teenagers think there might be only like four or five jobs that a person can have in life, or that college is the only choice.Rachel: Yeah, totally. Although they all seem to have gotten the memo that professional video game player is a thing.Dr. Cruger: There is no doubt.Gretchen: Or YouTuber.Dr. Cruger: Yes. YouTuber Influencer Professional Video Player. Yeah. Yes. I think I did say to my son at one point, not that many people get paid to play video games.Gretchen: Right.Dr. Cruger: He did not believe me. So.Gretchen: You know, not to bring us back to doom and gloom, but for one more moment, I do want to ask about something else has been in the news. Is this whole idea of loneliness — that we have a loneliness problem in the U.S. Are you seeing that come up in your work with kids?Dr. Cruger: I do think that it's worth sort of questioning what are the ways that kids have contact with others outside of school? When do they get to play with each other? I sound like, you know, I have a lot of gray hairs in my beard, which I do. But like, I remember being outside on the street playing football. And we just don't see kids out and engage with each other in unstructured play activities quite as much.And, you know, I do also think like going to your friend's house to play video games when I was younger was sort of boring. You could only play Atari 2600 for so long. But now they're much more engaging and activating processes that the kids immerse themselves in. And so I think it leads to some challenges in how to have contact.Rachel: So how can we best help our young people, you know, as parents, as caregivers, as teachers, whoever's listening. What makes a difference for them? You know, in all of these things, loneliness and the other things we've been talking about.Dr. Cruger: Yeah. I mean, I think most parents decided that they were going to have kids sort of set their kids up for the best future and the best life. So I think just reminding ourselves again of the importance of the parental involvement with kids, I think is the first piece of things. Right?It's been hard to, I think, over this past period of time, to keep our values front and center in our mind because we've had to adjust to what's required in the moment. And so to return again to the idea of, like, what are the most important things for me and my family? I do think there's value in families sort of trying to think of is there a motto that they could have for their family that sort of captures that moment, like "We Crugers stick together" or something like that? It sort of captures the family spirit, but also like a positive element of we're all in this together and we have values that we're trying to achieve.I do think spending more time together is a clearly like an antidote. As annoying as it was for my kids to learn to play pinochle, that was the thing that we focused on learning. Because it gave us time to get away from the screens, to sit down together, to challenge each other. And I think those kind of activities where you're really engaged with each other and having a good time are very important.There's no doubt family meals are also something that we should invest in. It's not always possible and it's not always easy when you're catching things on the fly. But that time where you're sitting down together as a family I think is really worthwhile.I won't say family meetings because everybody calls family meetings and the only people that show up are the parents. But I mean, but that idea that there's time to work together to align your interests. And then I think helping support your kids to find, you know, the one or two or three good friends, and making traditions and routines that they can sort of establish with their peers that are reliable. Like if they, you know, the friends all come over on Friday for pizza or something like that, that might be something that's like low investment but really worthwhile.Rachel: Yeah. I feel like our family meetings always, there's an expectation that there's some, like, amazing surprise. It's like, hey, we're going to have a meeting and it's like, oh, we're going to Disneyworld. Like, No, we actually need to talk about something that's going on in school.Dr. Cruger: That's right.Rachel: They backfired.Dr. Cruger: Taking out the garbage. Yeah.Gretchen: Right. The chore list.Dr. Cruger: Yeah, exactly.Gretchen: So if you think your own child may be anxious or depressed, but they aren't talking with you about it, what can you do as a parent? How do you figure out if they're at risk in some way or if they're just going through a fairly typical high and low of life as a teenager, for example?Dr. Cruger: Yeah, I mean, I think parents need to trust their instincts. I do think that when we have concerns about our children, it's not often just because we're worrying needlessly. It means that we're noticing something that our intuition is sort of telling us we better check in with them about.I think that a safe space for talking for kids is one that sort of models what we know good friendships are about. Right? It's sort of a model of a place where you can share information without someone making designs on how you should improve. Right?Some of the things that might make it easier if you're, you know, the teenagers turning away from you, if there's two parents involved, maybe it's time for the other parent to try to take over. And getting away from the house, going out to eat for breakfast, carefully bringing up a topic that you have concerns about. I think all of those things. You know, a nice soft start works well for all of us. Don't start with a heavy hand when we're raising a concern with someone that we love. And I do think that kids who are going through some struggles do desire solace for those struggles. So if they know that you're available for that, that's helpful.Anxiety is maybe a tricky one because anxious people try to get out of the situations that provoke anxiety. So even talking about the thing that makes you anxious, you really sort of are mobilized to seek to avoid it. The problem is, is that if you avoid it, it just sort of gets worse. And so I think that's one thing that parents should sort of keep in mind, that when your child is feeling anxious, it might make them sort of naturally more reticent to share with you the details of that.And, you know, some mind reading is very problematic. Like, if you say, I know you're thinking something negatively about it, the person you say that to is bound to get irritated with you. But if you say, I've been noticing that you look sort of sad and I want to help with that, you know, can you tell me more about what's going on for you? That kind of mind reading might convey interest and sincere desire to understand. That kind of mind reading is affectionate and maybe positive and might yield a good result.Gretchen: You know, getting back to making a safe space to talk to kids about what's going on. I've really been trying to do that. And I know I've mentioned before that I do a lot of this in the car, which doesn't work for everybody. But the other thing I've been trying hard to do, which is very difficult for me, is not be the advice giver, is to kind of just sit and listen and let them vent. And then when I don't give advice, every once in a while, my daughter will give me this look like, Well, where's your advice? I'm looking for it now. And then I give it.Rachel: Right. But you have to wait for that cue for sure.Gretchen: Yeah.Rachel: Yeah, I think that's great. And I try to do that, too. I definitely have some work to do there because I often jump in with like, well, it sounds like.... And I just offer my read on what happened, which isn't necessarily why the conversations happening.Gretchen: Yeah.Rachel: I do like that approach. and I think they do get to that point where they still want to know what we think.Dr. Cruger: Yeah.Rachel: So what do you wish people better understood about this crisis and how we get out of it?Dr. Cruger: I think my biggest wish would be really thinking about how they can, you know, parents can develop or teachers can develop like a deeper, more personalized understanding of the people that they're interacting with. So time is always tight, but a way to really show sincere interest and engagement, I think is important. Otherwise, it's sort of like almost like commuting culture. We're just sort of passing each other by, sort of missing those moments and opportunities to make deeper contact. So that's why I think what I would wish for it, you know, time and opportunity to take a moment to find out what's going on, I think that would be a real boon for people.Gretchen: That sounds like a good plan.Rachel: Thank you so much for this. It was such a great conversation.Gretchen: Yeah. Thank you so much.Dr. Cruger: Well, thank you. I appreciate being able to talk to you both. I enjoyed the conversation and I appreciate what you're doing.Gretchen: You've been listening to "In It" from the Understood Podcast Network.Rachel: This show is for you. So we want to make sure you're getting what you need. Email us at to share your thoughts. We love hearing from you.Gretchen: If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.Rachel: is a resource dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at "In It" is produced by Julie Subrin. Briana Berry is our production director. Justin D. Wright mixes the show. Mike Errico wrote our theme music.Rachel: For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. Thanks for listening.Gretchen: And thanks for always being in it with us.

  • How can you help your child get the school year off to a good start? Giving an introduction letter to the teacher is a great option. A back-to-school letter helps the teacher get to know your child’s strengths and what your child needs help with. These letters are set up in a way so kids can fill them out on their own (or with a little help from you). There’s one for older kids and one for younger kids. You can use the one for older kids as a guide to write a more traditional letter, if you and your child prefer.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    Dr. Loucresie Rupert is a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist with ADHD. She didn’t have an easy time getting her diagnosis as a Black woman. Dr. Loucresie Rupert is a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist with ADHD. She wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until she was a medical intern. Now, being open with her patients about her own neurodivergence allows her to connect with them — and be the best doctor she can be.Loucresie didn’t have an easy time getting her diagnosis as a Black woman. When she first sought an evaluation, she was labeled as narcissistic and told she wasn’t smart enough to be in medical school, even though she was already attending one. After failing a two-day licensing test she had trouble focusing on, she knew it was time to get a second opinion. Now, she’s a co-founder of the organization Physician Women SOAR (Support, Organize, Advocate, Reclaim).Tune in to this week’s episode of How’d You Get THAT Job?! to hear more about the intersectionality of being a Black woman with ADHD, racism in the medical community, and Loucresie’s upcoming podcast.Related resourcesADHD and race: What Black families need to know Why Black girls with learning disabilities need more visibilityDifferent professionals who help kids with ADHDPhysician Women SOAR (Support, Organize, Advocate, Reclaim) Facebook groupEpisode transcriptLoucresie: You take your third general license test in your intern year, and I flunked it. I have never flunked anything in my life. It's over two days — I think it was like eight hours one day, five hours the next day. And I was just like, no way for me to focus for that amount of time. That's when I was like, yeah, we got to do this again, because I can't be unmedicated and take like a what is that 12-, 13-hour test?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.Dr. Loucresie Rupert is a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist with ADHD. She co-founded the organization Physician Women SOAR (Support, Organize, Advocate, Reclaim). And she participates in Black Leaders Acquiring Knowledge, also known as B.L.A.C.K. She's a Black neurodiverse LGBTQ woman, and she discusses how these intersectional identities have played a role in her diagnosis, her career, and her life. Her neurodiversity allows her to connect with patients who learn and think differently, and it's what makes her a great physician. Welcome to the show, Loucresie.Loucresie: Thank you for inviting me.Eleni: So, you are our very first doctor on the show. I thought a good place to start would be just telling us about what you do.Loucresie: So, I'm a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist. In my practice, I see children with any and every diagnosis. And then I also see vulnerable adults with developmental disabilities. So, adults that are in group homes. Or even if they're at home, just the more vulnerable adults with developmental disabilities. So, that's what I do day to day.Eleni: What is something that you think would surprise people about your day-to-day as a psychiatrist?Loucresie: Well, I think that one is that I'm really open with my families about my own struggles. You know, kind of in psychiatry, especially in the past, you know, psychiatrists were supposed to be, quote-unquote, this blank slate of perfection. And our patients were not supposed to know anything about us because they were coming to ask for help. So, you know, we couldn't, quote-unquote, need help.But my kids — and I call my patients my kids — my kids very much enjoy the fact that sometimes I don't know what I'm doing either, as all kids do. But I have kids that have special needs in addition to I'm neurodiverse myself, my kids are neurodiverse, most of my patients are neurodiverse — not all of them.So, and I also live in a smaller community, so my patients might actually have some of the same resources and supports as my actual children. I think that surprises people is that I don't mind telling them that I know what they're going through. And I didn't like this condescending way that sometimes people do like, "Oh, I'm going through that too. You can handle it." But truly, we're all trying to figure things out and do the best we can with what we have. So, I think that's one thing that's surprising for people that don't know me.Eleni: I'm sure that really helps you connect with your patients and also makes it feel less scary for them that they can see you as a role model who has been through this before and is doing really well.Loucresie: Right. Right. I am neurodiverse. I'm still a psychiatrist. I still made it through medical school and in fact, I made it through medical school undiagnosed, which I do not recommend at all, to be undiagnosed and untreated.Eleni: Can you talk a little bit about your diagnosis journey?Loucresie: So, I was in medical school when I realized I was ADHD. I mean, there's kind of a joke in medical school that you think you have everything you learn about. So, I kind of did the whole like, "Do I really have ADHD? Or I’m I just doing the medical student thing?" I was pretty sure that I did have ADHD.But I did go see a psychologist in medical school to try to get diagnosed, and he told me I did not have ADHD but did not really share anything else. So, I asked for my medical records, and looking through my medical records, he basically put that I was not smart enough to be in medical school, and that's why I was struggling and that I was narcissistic because I thought that I could do great things. And the example he put of the great things that I could do was like be in medical school, which I was literally in medical school at the time.So, after that experience, I didn't go back until actually as an intern. So, you take your third general license test in your intern year, and I flunked it. I have never flunked anything in my life. It's over two days — I think it was like eight hours one day, and five hours the next day. And it was just like, no way for me to focus for that amount of time. I flunked the test. And that's when I was like, yeah, we got to do this again, because I can't be unmedicated and take like a what is that 12-, 13- hour test? "So, I actually then went through the process again of getting diagnosed. I had my residency director fill out some of the questions. I was appropriately diagnosed, sent for treatment, and passed my boards the second time with no problems when I took it again. So, it definitely was just a focus and concentration thing.Eleni: Well, I'm sorry you had to go through that experience at that initial doctor. That sounds super invalidating and really angering.Loucresie: I mean, you guys can't see me, but I'm Black. So, I definitely think that was a racist experience, because why would you say somebody who has made it into medical school can't be in medical school? Like, I was already there. So, it's definitely something that women of any ethnicity and then people of color really go through, and it makes it hard to kind of reach out for help. And especially if you reach out for help and get that experience, to then reach out again. So, it definitely can be invalidating. But if that does happen, I just want to say try again with someone that is a little bit more culturally competent. And don't let that deter you from getting the help you need.Eleni: We talk a lot on the show about intersectionality and like, thank you for being vulnerable in sharing a racist experience. I did see on the internet that you co-founded an organization that works on a number of intersectional causes, called Physician Women SOAR, so Support, Organize, Advocate, Reclaim. Can you talk a little bit more about what intersectionality means to you and a little bit about that organization and what you do there?Loucresie: So, it started off as a Facebook group, and it is mainly a Facebook group, of physician women of all intersections. So, disability, ethnicity, race, religious, areligious, all of those things, where we come together, and we can learn from each other. And the rule of SOAR is whatever topic we're discussing, we center the least heard voice or the voice that we're talking about. So, if we're discussing Black issues, then Black voices are centered. If we're discussing Jewish issues, Jewish voices are centered, trans, you know, on and on.We do do some education, like with physicians. So, we've done book clubs, reading a book called "Medical Apartheid," which talks about the history of racism in medicine, which every single medical student should have to read but does not have to read. And then we raise money for organizations that we find important.My kind of rule of life and what I tell people all the time is really listen. So, even as a psychiatrist, and I think especially for physicians of any kind, that we are experts —and we are experts — but we are still generally not the people going through whatever we are treating. And so, it's still important to listen to lived experiences.Eleni: Such important work. Yeah, I love that idea of learning through listening. I can, I really resonate with that a lot given what I do. So, I know there was a recent study that revealed that Asian, Black, and Hispanic children are significantly less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD compared with white children. And white children are also more likely to receive treatment for ADHD. It's pretty clear that there's more work that needs to be done within intersectionalities and medicine and learning and thinking differences.Loucresie: The reasons for that is twofold. Both reasons actually relate back to racism. But racism in the medical community itself, so, when you see an Asian kid, for example, that is maybe making A's or B's because they study 24/7, but they're really struggling to keep those grades up, or not making good grades at all. So, the stereotype is that Asian people are going to be smart, especially in math and sciences, right? So, you're not going to look for additional reasons. You just would be like, oh, they're doing what they're supposed to do, even though they're saying that it's taking them twice as long or they're making tiny mistakes or whatever the case is, you expect them to do well and you just kind of don't look for reasons.Or say you have a Black or a Hispanic kid that are stereotypically not expected to be smart. Although I want to be clear that the bell curve is the same in all races and ethnicities. But if you have, say, a Hispanic or a Black kid that's not paying attention, not doing well, maybe speaking out of turn or whatever, then you kind of jump to, oh, they're probably at a single-parent home and they probably just don't know better. They're not being taught better. Versus looking for neurodiversity or reasons that that might be going on.So, the second thing is, is parents, is the community. Rightly so, Asian, Black, and Latino communities are suspicious of medicine. Especially Latino, indigenous, and Black communities have had a horrible history of been used and abused by the medical community in multiple horrendous ways. And so, there's a valid mistrust of the medical community.When I was growing up, so, when I was a child, if your kid was a quote-unquote special education kid, they were kind of just put in a room, got a certificate for a graduation instead of a real diploma, not really taught anything. Now, my generation, our parents, our grandparents that are older than us are the ones raising kids. And so, when you kind of hear from a teacher or a physician, "Hey, I think your kid needs to be evaluated for a learning disability," and you're in my job so "You're not going to just put my kid in a room and not educate them," you know. Rightly so, because that's what used to happen. And sometimes, honestly, it can still happen if you're not on top of it.That's an appropriate response that takes education with the families and also takes them being able to trust their clinician. So, having those conversations about racism and the history of medicine and not pretending that you're the expert, you come into the room, "Hey, you do what I say," and leaving out the fact that there is — generations of trauma here that comes into the room with these patients.Eleni: Yeah, definitely. And inform people that that's the context that people are coming from. You know, you mentioned some of the challenges that you had in med school. What advice do you have for anyone who's entering med school with ADHD and wants to succeed in this field?Loucresie: ADHD is one of the two diagnoses in psychiatry where the overwhelming evidence is that medications just really are helpful for ADHD. But please go through that process, because there's lots of things you could do for ADHD. One of my kind of takes on it is if you're able to get done what you need to get done, and your self-esteem is still intact, and your relationships are still intact, and you don't need medication for that to happen, cool.But for me, my self-esteem dropped tremendously in medical school to the point that I kind of was like, hey, did I trick these people to get into medical school? Like to think I'm smart enough to get into some medical school? Like, maybe I actually don't deserve to be here because I was just struggling so bad. So, I would recommend that for medical school, college, high school, especially with people that are able to kind of pull it together? And in lower grades, sometimes that ability to overcompensate for — or to compensate for ADHD — falls apart at higher levels. So, when you get into high school and you have like more independent studies.Sometimes it doesn't happen till college, sometimes it doesn't happen till people that are parents and have to take care of themselves and others. Or until you're a boss at work and have multiple people. But if you get to that point where you're starting to fall apart, like please consider medications in addition to the many other things you can do. But don't shy away from medications just because they are medications.Eleni: Yeah, it's all about figuring out what works for you, and it's definitely not the same for everyone.Loucresie: Right. Right.Eleni: What tools did you use in med school to help you get by?Loucresie: My tool that I used before med school was flashcards, so that's pretty much how I survived my grade school education and college education, I was using flashcards for everything. Because flashcards like for me, helped me focus because there's a question on the front and then the answer on the back, and I'm not just reading a page, getting down a page of reading, and realize I don't even remember what I read.So, once I got to medical school, our lectures were recorded. So, listening to the recording while going through the written transcripts and kind of highlighted things — that helped. I had study group.Study groups have always, always, always been my thing, and I didn't realize that that's a very good tool for ADHD people in general until actually a couple of years ago. Like as an adult, I realized I had trouble getting things accomplished without one. And so, I started just having friends that I would like jump on Zoom with. And we would, you know, do our own task, where it's called body doubling, and it is pretty common for people with ADHD.The other thing that I will say, I did go to the campus psychologist to help with test anxiety. At that time — again, I did not know I had ADHD. But if you are struggling, campus is a resource. So, there are psychologists who may be able to provide testing, not all of them. But even if they can't, they can help with like helping you figure out how to study. So, remembering that there's resources on campus too, it's helpful.Eleni: On my God, you covered, so many great, useful things. Yeah, body doubling is something that we talk about a lot here at Understood — having like an accountability buddy. So, I hear that you're working on a podcast. Can you tell us about it?Loucresie: Yeah, so I have a podcast named "Friday Night Sound Bytes." And it's named that initially just because I was doing Twitter live on Friday nights. It's basically a podcast that talks about anything that's intersectional related. So, it's very ADHD-friendly because the topics are all over the place. But they have to relate back to either being an ethnic minority, disabled, LGBTQ, adoption.So, we've done things that definitely we've talked about ADHD, we've talked about being LGBTQ and Christian, and we've talked about trauma in indigenous and Black communities. We've talked about how to navigate disability, like if you're going through the disability process, like trying to get disability, how to navigate that. So, again, the topics are really pretty vast. So, you can follow my website to follow when it will be released, and we'll have an episode on Friday nights.Eleni: Perfect. So, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show. This is a really fun conversation. Really insightful. Appreciate you being here.Loucresie: Thank you guys for having me. I really enjoyed the podcast. I love the work you guys do at Understood, so hopefully we can keep in touch.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 with your thoughts about the show. Or maybe you'd like to tell us how you got THAT job. We'd love to hear from you.If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. Also, one of our goals at Understood is to help change the workplace so everyone can thrive. Check out what we're up to at That's the letter U dot org slash is a resource dedicated to help people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at"How'd You Get THAT Job?!" is produced by Margie DeSantis and edited by Mary Mathis. Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. And I'm your host, Eleni Matheou. Thank you for listening.

  • When kids are going back to school, it’s an important time for families and teachers to connect. By working together, you and your child’s teacher can get a better understanding of your child.Your child’s teacher will want to know important information about the last school year. Was school stressful for your child? Did your child make friends? What helped your child learn? Use this one-page download to update the teacher on how your child is doing. You can fill it out on your computer or phone. Or you can print it out and fill it in by hand. Ready to dig deeper? Learn how and why to partner with your child’s teacher.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    Michaela Hearst shares how her nonverbal learning disabilities (NVLD) led her to a career where she supports kids with learning differences.many people aware nonverbal learning disabilities (NVLD). Fewer still know challenges finding job NVLD. Michaela Hearst, NVLD, shares career journey — decided school counselor could support students learning differences. describes tools strategies she’s learned years, teaches kids. talks social work degree lead different career paths.Listen in. Then:Learn NVLD challenges brings. Watch video it’s like growing NVLD. Hear young person ADHD chose teacher.Episode transcriptEleni: 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.So next guest someone really unique story. Michaela Hearst school counselor Vermont works middle high school students. nonverbal learning disabilities going share us learning differences led current job. Welcome, Michaela.Michaela: Hi, everyone. I'm Michaela Hearst. Thank introduction. took lot words right mouth. It's interesting journey led here.Eleni: Michaela, give little quick summary of, know, you're right now?Michaela: full title student assistance professional counselor, SAP, SAP counselor, even counselor, that's fine. serve resource school promoting mental health — super important — substance misuse prevention, also super important. like tying prevention education, goes — course need work high school, middle school. like tying it's like neurodivergent correlation academic social struggles wanting turn substances. that's one things that, going forward, I'm going focusing on.Eleni: We've actually never anyone show nonverbal learning disability.Michaela: So, first everything. Eleni: Yeah. Could like describe little bit challenges means audience? Michaela: know, it's funny. used asked question used know right bat. lot self-searching lot therapeutic processes, answer isn't clear cut anymore. think ultimately struggles visual, spatial relations, depth perception, processing speed. lot trouble self-starting, organization.Eleni: shared impact spatially things like that. Like look like day day?Michaela: Driving something needed work long time. relationship driving complicated part hit car. obviously survived very, very, lucky day. accident happened, left apprehensive drive long time. crossing street. wasn't driving time. But, know, driving requires lot visual, spatial awareness depth perception. car drive work every day. even terrifies me, I'm still like yet. still scares me. way think I'm going really push exposure therapy. keep going feel little bit better time, good, good. that's one example I've made something work me.Eleni: said you're constantly learning yourself, there's things surprised you've recently made connection it's related difference. think recent examples something you've learnt yourself?Michaela: Yeah, I've learned challenges don't go away much would be, know, ideal world. fact matter brain wired differently way speak, go tangents. Sometimes think faster talk talk faster think. it's part I'm still working accepting that. Eleni: know you've done little bit writing Understood. We've done number blogs, read one blogs really strong memory. want talk little bit strengths think relate to, know, learning disability?Michaela: Yeah, very, very, strong memory. remember things people neurotypical brain wouldn't. comes blessing curse remember everything. joke like, people watch say I'm going hold forever. brain hold it. again, it's blessing curse. People come need help remembering random thing happened fourth grade Tuesday. brain pick up. things classmates keep touch don't remember, that's OK.Eleni: memories come you? like visual memory? know people talk memories attached like smells like photographic memory things like that. Like, appear like you? Michaela: times everything vivid feels like I'm back again. know, remember feel elementary school desks. remember way chairs felt sit hours. remember snack time 9:30 staring clock. remember songs stuck head allowed listen CD player bus. know, immediately think, oh, fifth grade, things come brain. remember sat entire year. remember sat every single year, starting first grade that's desks. believe say remember everything, remember everything.Eleni: Yeah, think it's interesting say lot reflection therapy, kind redefined means you. particular moment shift happened really learnt something yourself?Michaela: Yeah, it, actually, COVID trying find job thinking really wanted social work still relevant that. knew wanted broader scope ways work students. lot introspection came from, going start working, needed consider lot things.I needed get know little bit better come terms challenges. past, didn't always come terms really struggled with. took long time really open things I've dealing years.Eleni: we've talked little bit nonverbal learning disabilities, NVLDs. Let's transition bit talk job career. decide become school counselor? decide focus learning differences? start?Michaela: knew youngish age wanted psychologist. used to, even middle school, used go around saying going make people pay money see face listen talk hour give advice, sounded really easy, right? No, it's not. know, little running joke stuck years.And ended majoring psychology college, took time get certificate, knew wanted work students learning disabilities. knew wanted field. wasn't sure capacity yet. thought social work. felt like would give whole wide range opportunities might necessarily get majored — gone master's psychology. knew wanted provide students support — support didn't necessarily receive.Eleni: Yeah. going say, feel like want person didn't really have. Michaela: person school. students show office time different needs. sometimes want hang out. Sometimes want tell something good happened life. love that. Eleni: I'm glad them.Michaela: Yeah, too. definitely love it. It's challenging, I'm love, it's really ask for, think.Eleni: making distinction social work psychology. want talk little bit came discover distinction also figure like niche would working school might best fit you?Michaela: always knew wanted work students, even beginning college. knew wanted work learning disabilities field. time went on, like, see working school knew wanted working students. kind saw school social worker, knew social work would helped find way terms wanted social work really combined aspect social justice, love, psychological aspect. social workers, there's lot stigma stereotypes social wor

  • It’s not just kindergartners who worry about the start of school. Older grade-schoolers may also have concerns about how things will go this year. These five back-to-school books picked by founding partner Reading Rockets can help kids feel ready.Ruby Lu, Empress of EverythingBy: Lenore LookIllustrated by: Anne WilsdorfAge Level: 6–9Reading Level: Independent ReaderRuby Lu is an exuberant second grader who takes seriously her responsibility to help her cousin transition from China to his new school in America. Both kids end up in summer school, where Ruby has trouble with a long book.Danitra Brown, Class ClownBy: Nikki GrimesIllustrated by: E. B. Lewis Age Level: 6–9Reading Level: Independent ReaderZuri and Danitra are best friends, but they have very different responses to school — from first-day jitters all the way to the halfway mark of the school year. Danitra Brown, Class Clown features poems and pretty watercolors, which help to chronicle the girls’ experiences and concerns.Susan LaughsBy: Jeanne WillisIllustrated by: Tony RossAge Level: 6–9Reading Level: Beginning ReaderIn Susan Laughs, rhyming text and colored-pencil illustrations tell the story of Susan’s everyday life. She behaves and participates in activities just like the other kids. But she does it using a wheelchair — a fact that isn’t revealed until the final spread.Panda Math: Learning About Subtraction From Hua Mei & Mei ShengBy: Ann Whitehead NagdaAge Level: 6–9Reading Level: Independent ReaderIn 2003, panda Hua Mei was born at the San Diego Zoo. In Panda Math, Hua Mei’s growth is shown through basic addition and subtraction while life with her parents at the zoo is presented on opposite pages. Clear photographs and straightforward text give a fascinating portrait of these engaging animals while introducing math functions.The Best Seat in Second GradeBy: Katharine KenahIllustrated by: Abby Carter Age Level: 6–9Reading Level: Independent ReaderWhen not picked as pet helper, second grader Sam decides to take the class hamster on their field trip. Unfortunately, the hamster (named George Washington) gets mixed up with other hamsters at the science museum. Sam ends up saving the day — or at least the hamster. In The Best Seat in Second Grade, children can identify with Sam’s behavior and emotions while enjoying this easy-to-read school story.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    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 chef dyslexia. He’s cooked high-pressure environments, Top Chef critically acclaimed Noma Copenhagen. Luke didn’t best relationship school first diagnosed dyslexia. high school, started taking community college courses. still wondered really wanted do. That’s best friend suggested culinary school. all, Luke’s nickname Lunchbox kid. Culinary school changed Luke’s world. excelled hands-on work — also get past academics. teacher recognized skill set made difference. In week’s episode How’d Get Job?!, Luke shares handles challenges bring old anxieties — asking help OK. Related resourcesAfter high school: Different ways thriveClassroom accommodations dyslexiaDyslexia anxiety childrenEpisode transcriptLuke: need something couldn't turn around run backwards needed to. needed go forward. accepted it. went last season's "Top Chef."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.My next guest spent career kitchens world. Usually chefs working behind scenes. Luke Kolpin never expected find competing front global audience recent season "Top Chef." showcasing culinary skills TV, Luke worked one famous restaurants world, Noma Copenhagen, Denmark. Noma three Michelin stars, know lot foodie friends fought really hard reservation there. he's satiated yet. He's currently back hometown Seattle, cooking next steps.Luke diagnosed dyslexia young, talked learning difference shaped career — culinary school thinking starting restaurant. Welcome show, Luke.Luke: Hi. How's going?Eleni: know went culinary school 19. made decide go culinary school opposed to, like pursuing, like, guess, traditional sorts education?Luke: Well, obviously, normal education route kind freaks little bit. mean, couldn't could it. think everybody something really, know, dedicate almost everything need to. difficult time school, just, know, going community colleges taking basic AA classes business degree whatever.And kind happened one conversations best friend sitting couch 18, like, "Are going go anywhere? going go anywhere? going do?" common thing happened throughout whole childhood — course, lot kids eat they're bored — lot. friends call Lunchbox high school every chance got would open refrigerator eat something whatever could. kind made suggestion of, "Why don't try culinary school? ever eat." — weekend, actually enrolled culinary school completely fell love it.Eleni: Wow. That's influential friend had.Luke: Yes. Still best friend today.Eleni: Cool. Well, I'd love hear little bit learning differences. know diagnosed dyslexia. want talk little bit about, know, old happened story behind that.Luke: Yeah. So, think around first grade — that's believe — parents told diagnosed. don't remember meeting, course, around time. I, course, moved around schools early '90s. wasn't necessarily easiest transition, think, anybody learning disabilities time. know, class one knows treat knows you. honest, I'd read cassette tape they'd play back say "Fix it." was, know, second third grade. instead helpful, complete opposite. wanted kind of, know, go underneath rock, could say.But course, caring parents really helped sense always pushed for, know, better school whatever. actually end going school called Hamlin Robinson everybody form learning disability. remember first day there, know, holding textbook mirror desk. able read textbook first time perfectly. then, course, figure spectrum learning disabilities kind teach going forward there.Eleni: Yeah. sounds like made big difference around kids similar like normalizing challenges.Luke: Absolutely.Eleni: go environment where, know, quite similar culinary school, know, imagine wasn't necessarily case. Like people came like sorts different backgrounds. Like, different?Luke: was, well, getting culinary school part. decade challenging. know, course, hid certain things. didn't always push apply. know, ran corners sort things got culinary school. then, course, going culinary school, didn't think about, know, things point, thought found something really enjoyed. actually happened really, well, he's close friend, — mutual friend bunch childhood friends happened culinary school time. ended up, know, becoming really good friends. honest, didn't learning disabilities, did. still kind struggled culinary school together. Whether gave mental stability, that, hey, people have, know, dyslexia learning disabilities problem I'm keeping them, maybe I'm something right. don't know that's thought — don't think I've told friend that, maybe shouldn't.But time, was, know, little difficult, honest. fail. almost failed first quarter class culinary school academic part. — told 98, 99 percentile hands-on. came putting answers tests, like high school. filled red marks. teacher actually graded front you. 7 10 questions. he'd hand back you. fifth time that, started questioning me, saying, "Why keep putting answers like this?" started asking questions again. little bit trauma started probably coming line behind started filled six seven people. gave new answers thought answers. said "These best answers I've gotten last three years. didn't put paper?" that's kind learned learning disability, started grading tests differently started lot better school.Eleni: Wow. Yeah, think really testament like power assessing people based like, know, best way learn communicate back they've learned that. definitely imagine culinary school practical hands on. ways it's kind unexpected academic component. Like, also unexpected you? Like, kind know that's getting into?Luke: mean, knew going things it, course. mean, you're go get textbook you're going give you, know, tests times year. then, course, there's still math class didn't well in. But, know, there's still math class it's basic stuff. knew would deal little bit. course, know, there's ways deal want cook. want kind continue really make life journey, you're going dive stuff. mean, anything makes uncomfortable kid, I'm facing now. Just, know, little bit older hopefully different, know, weaponry, guess, knowledge it. But, know, it's still challenging.Eleni: things come now?Luke: Well, especially pandemic, know, deal computer stuff deal with, know, writing whole bunch stuff send people. Getting ready potentially open restaurant future, know, deal different numbers you're one little bit, it's catastrophic thing.So, mean, know I'm good at. know become good at. also know need help with. And, know, want learn everything

  • For some students, going back to school this year could mean continuing with distance learning. Use these distance learning resources for a strong start to the new school year.Parents and caregivers8 ways distance learning makes it harder to focus7 examples of focus “wins” when kids are learning at homeDownload: Picture schedules and learning contracts for kidsLive video lessons: 5 ways kids struggle and how to helpDownload: Family guide to at-home learningEducatorsDistance learning toolkit: Key practices to support students who learn differentlyHow to plan online lessons with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Distance learning: 6 UDL best practices for online learningOnline assignments: Best practices to use with studentsIEP accommodations during distance learningCo-teaching tips for distance learningTeachers reflect on distance learning (video)5 reasons students aren’t engaging in distance learningReaching students who disappeared during distance learningTips from a teacher on how to lead remote IEP meetingsTeacher videos: 5 reasons why making your own videos can help with distance learning19 brain breaks for distance learning and socially distanced classrooms Wondering how to improve parent-teacher communication during this back-to-school season? Get tips in this video.

  • ADHD Aha!

    Didn’t organize; only moved: Shaun’s doom bags tipped him off to his trouble with organization and other ADHD symptoms. Shaun saw clip someone describing ADHD “squirrels running conveyor belt brain,” ears perked up. wife discovered doom bags. (“Doom” stands “didn’t organize; moved.”) started thinking trouble organization signs ADHD, decided get evaluated.Now three months ADHD diagnosis, Shaun, listener wrote in, reflecting ADHD impacted kid. remembers feeling bored time labeled slacker. Also conversation: Shaun’s love graphic design he’s coping ADHD work. Related resources ADHD messinessADHD myth lazinessADHD boredomEpisode transcriptShaun: learned watching TikToks thought maybe ADHD wife little bit skeptical, didn't believe me, went garage clean garage found tote bags, items making way one bag another bag every time project. So, bags random stuff. came back upstairs like, "Yeah, much worse thought was. think probably go talk somebody."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. I'm today Shaun Noon. Shaun creative manager grocery chain Pittsburgh. He's also "ADHD Aha!" listener wrote in. Thanks here, Shaun.Shaun: Yeah, thanks me.Laura: So, diagnosed two months ago, right?Shaun: three now, Yeah. Three months.Laura: Three months ago now. So, that's fresh?Shaun: Yeah. ripe age 49 years old.Laura: Let's get right "aha" moment, then. Tell going on. Three months ago, four months ago, prior decision get evaluated. took there?Shaun: So, wife likes watch TikToks and, know, always thought bunch kids showing food dancing something silly. decided get check out, it's kind part job know social media. reason, got kicked ADHD clip guy talking symptoms described squirrels running conveyor belt brain.Laura: Squirrels running conveyor belt brain.Shaun: Like passing information conveyor belt. like don't realize something's important passes several times conveyor belt. like, "That sounds kind familiar me." went watched things, like, "This really weird. Everything he's talking something I've experienced life."Laura: squirrel thing resonate? give example felt way?Shaun: because, know, there's many things conveyer belt shut down. can't, know, function. So, it's like people give information it'll conveyor belt, won't necessarily notice passes several times you're like, "Oh, that's important. probably remember write something it," information.Laura: experience work home both?Shaun: Yeah, mean, school terrible student. always thing, teachers saying, "Hey, he's great kid, know, he's bright. needs apply himself." like, every single teacher would say that.At work, it's like, know, meetings, like, can't concentrate fully unless person that's presenting giving information. Unless something, project really interested in. could say like thankfully education, it's lot better. don't want get fired job don't pay attention meetings. it's wouldn't pay attention, know, mind would wander I'd come back doing. Details, kind stuff really difficult.Laura: So, TikTok story mentioned, that's end "aha" moment. wife noticed something.Shaun: Yeah. So, said her, know, "I got TikToks thrown way, talk ADHD." like, "I think might it." She's like, "Oh, everybody kind gets distracted." And, know, like, "I don't, think is, know, think get checked out."And I'm usually one like, handles garage because, know, handle tools lot construction stuff whatever. income property, duplex, every time would go there, I'd put stuff bag get home like, "I'll deal later," set down. would go take stuff one bag take stuff another bag put another bag.So, went garage organize like, "Oh, I'm going time." went came back like maybe hour half later said, "Wow, idea bad. doom bags everywhere," "don't organize, move" something like that.Laura: Didn't organize, moved. Yeah.Shaun: Yeah. like, "Yeah, think probably talk somebody." So, "aha" moment, guess.Laura: Yeah. also, "aha" moment you. I'm kind ashamed admit never heard term "doom bags" "doom piles" wrote me. So, I'm grateful that. work lot experts Understood. haven't spoken whether official sign ADHD. know lot people TikTok platforms talking doom piles doom bags ADHD symptom, definitely tipped wife off, maybe little bit maybe trouble organization?Shaun: Yeah, it's definitely organizational thing. know, it's like time you're class and, know, they're teaching something, brain would shut like, like can't even focus like, want to. want well school, want to, know, get good grades, like, brain wouldn't allow it. thing, it's like get done project everything's bag. don't want spend time putting stuff back place.Laura: term Doom pile Doom bag, that's acronym stands Didn't organize, moved, word doom...Shaun: Seemed gloomy.Laura: Yeah. feel gloomy you? bags?Shaun: Yeah. I've doom whatever life forever. know, room doom room. know, office kind doom room now. And, know, drawers doom drawers I'm getting better. actually, first time medication, probably two months ago, month half ago, first day looked art table paints markers stuff, like, "I'm going something this." literally hour half later, chest organized. markers together, paints together, brushes, pencils, everything organized. like, "Oh God, this? happen?" video sent wife, said, "Who person? people normally feel? like typical person is? can't believe accomplished this."Laura: Holy shit, chills. don't think, don't. don't usually, don't usually say, Jessamine, holy shit, show, keep time that...Shaun: bleep out.Laura:...I mean, know, we're family-friendly, still, kind holy ass moment.Shaun: Yeah, gave chills it. like, finished, like, "I can't believe went whole life without help like this." So, emotional. gave sense vindication wasn't issue whole time. know, like grades people telling me, "You got try harder," know, "Pay attention more," whatever, was, vindication.And, know, obviously, part "What would happened since 16," whatever. fleeting I'm still pretty successful. family home job. so, didn't dwell much could been.Laura: it's really new well.Shaun: Yeah, I'm still digging, still digging lot.Laura: I'm trying imply it's going get worse anything. actually don't think so. think it's going get better better. think people haven't gone may scoff idea like grieving process get ADHD diagnosis, it's real. Every single person talk show talks it.Shaun: It's kind frustrating. mean, school, ADHD verge talked really, guess, like late eighties, early nineties. would think somebody would like, "Yeah, he's good kid. He's like, he's troublemaker, anything. maybe look this." can't go around blame people something couldn't even recognize, like, couldn't see signs? know.Laura: spotting doom piles bags. next? wife conversation? g

  • As children around the country return to school, the new “Back to School Study” by Understood and UnidosUS, the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., finds that teachers and parents predict increased academic, mental health, and social and emotional challenges for learning.The study found that 68% of teachers and more than 60% of parents prefer and expect their children to return to school in person full-time. Despite feeling ready for a return to the classroom, 90% of U.S. teachers and 61% of parents believe there will be increased challenges as children head back to school. But with committed engagement and support, parents can help their child ease back into this school year as confidently and effectively as possible.  Academic developmentMore than half of parents (55%) are concerned about their children’s academic development in the new school year, which is even higher among parents of children with learning and thinking differences (68%) than without (41%). Additionally, approximately three-quarters (73%) of educators surveyed are concerned about children's academic development in the new school year. “As we return to in-person learning this fall, it’s critical that we meet all kids where they are -- not where they ‘ought to’ be,” Amanda Morin, Understood Director of Thought Leadership and Expertise, said. “It will be up to educators to work in tandem with parents to identify the scope and scale of the gap to ensure we support all children, with a critical eye to those who have additional challenges with learning.”To better help parents prepare for some of the upcoming academic challenges, Understood experts recommend:Using technological tools such as Google Classroom, PowerSchool, and Infinite Campus to stay tuned into your child’s learning and gauge academic progress to identify if and when they might need more support. Trying to check your child’s homework nightly and ask questions about the assignments to ensure your child is clear on the teachers’ expectations. If your child isn’t clear, bring that to the teachers’ attention right away so they don’t feel or fall behind. Checking out Take N.O.T.E., developed by Understood in partnership with the American Association of Pediatrics. Take N.O.T.E. is a web-based guide to help families and teachers identify the signs of learning and thinking differences in their children, and use that understanding to take the necessary next steps to better support their child. Take N.O.T.E. has been recently enhanced with interactive elements and learning modules -- such as audio and video content, observation trackers, prompts, and tips for conversation-starting -- intended to drive engagement and inspire action.Mental healthMost parents (68%) surveyed are concerned about the mental wellbeing of their child and the school’s ability to help during the upcoming year, including 76% of parents of children with learning and thinking differences and 60% without. More than half (65%) of educators surveyed are concerned about children’s anxiety going back to school; 43% expressed concerns about depression, while 62% are concerned about the overall emotional wellbeing of children. According to senior advisor and one of the founding experts of Understood, Bob Cunningham, “The best thing parents can do is stay engaged in what’s going on in their child’s life academically, socially, and emotionally. Learn how to recognize when your child has too much on their plate. When they do, help them make a list to figure out their priorities and what can wait until another time.”And remember -- if you see signs of clinical anxiety/depression or are worried your child is at risk of harming themselves, always make an emergency appointment with a healthcare provider.Social and emotional developmentMore than half (55%) of parents are concerned that their child will fall behind emotionally in the upcoming year and will not be able to catch up, including 68% of parents of kids with learning and thinking differences and 41% without. The majority of educators (63%) surveyed are concerned about students’ social development this school year. Find ways to help your child reconnect with friends and peers. This might mean making sure they are getting out of the house regularly -- be it the grocery store, neighborhood activities, sporting events, or beyond, it’s critical that children engage with and feel a part of their community. For older children, try talking to them about how they're feeling about their friends and relationships. Help them identify and plan ways to (safely) engage with friends and build those relationships again.As it relates to “modeling” behavior for children, Understood expert Michelle Lassiter also calls out the importance of parents addressing their own emotional wellbeing in order to help their child do the same. “Encouraging parents to focus on their own emotional wellbeing and then discuss it with their children is an excellent first step. From there, you can help each other find the tools -- be it meditation, yoga, breathing exercise, physical activity -- that both you and your child need to thrive emotionally and mentally.”If any of the challenges reported in this article or survey are familiar to you or someone you know, visit Understood or the following resources:Supporting children’s mental health this school yearWhen kids are anxious about the coronavirus: What to doWill my child bounce back from the coronavirus crisis?Anxiety in people who learn and think differentlySigns of anxiety in young kidsSigns of anxiety in tweens and teens10 ways to help your grade-schooler cope with stress10 ways to help your middle- or high-schooler cope with stressSigns of depression at different agesDownload: Anxiety log to find out why your child gets anxious

  • The Opportunity Gap

    Black girls with ADHD and learning differences are often overlooked. Youth advocate Atira Roberson wants that to change. Atira Roberson says she’s Black, female, learning disability — don’t see three, don't see her. The Opportunity Gap welcomes Atira show special conversation means Black girl learning differences United States. Atira shares journey — student IEP, unaware differences, candidate master’s public administration. talks strong Black mother advocated her, church community supported along way. shares number one priority educational change country: stopping criminalization Black girls ADHD learning disabilities.Related resourcesTo Black America learning disabilityVideo: African American poet learns differentlyTwo Black women discuss teen ADHD put juvie homeworkEpisode transcriptAtira: It's delicate balance. I'm Black, I'm female, I'm learning disability. three parts make Atira Atira is. don't see three equally, don't see me.Julian: Welcome "The Opportunity Gap," podcast families kids color learn think differently. explore issues privilege, race, identity. goal help advocate child. I'm Julian Saavedra.Marissa: I'm Marissa Wallace. Julian worked together years teachers public charter school Philadelphia, saw opportunity gaps firsthand.Julian: we're parents kids color. personal us.Welcome back, everybody. Julian Saavedra and…?Marissa: …Marissa Wallace.Julian: think need jump today really awesome guest today. let's jump in. Learning thinking differences common, regardless race, age, gender. know learning thinking differences look different everyone.In today's episode, want really talk Black girls specifically, Black girls learning thinking differences, often overlooked criminalized school. know need conversations many times possible gigantic problem across country.Today, want make sure uplift guest story. today welcome incredibly special guest. amazing writer, she's currently pursuing master's public administration University Texas San Antonio. serves Young Adult Leadership Council National Center Learning Disabilities.And she's part Understood family. goal become education program policy analyst shape future education. to, one day, proudly serving U.S. Secretary Education. OK, Secretary Atira, welcome pod.Atira: Yes, let's go ahead speak atmosphere.Marissa: like Julian said, we're super-duper excited talk get know you. Let's start jump tell us yourself.Atira: born raised Hot Springs, Arkansas. I'm central Arkansas. started first part education career, always tell people started going Catholic private school. got pulled got put public education system, um, get later.So aside time school, mentioned, work part-time, serve much possible. That's one favorite things serve, excited this. problem, little bit anything do, know somewhere there, little girl looks like me, needs hear this.Marissa: Yes. need people tell story. thank you, thank open absolutely right. mentioned little bit schooling changed private setting public school setting. talk us tell us little bit experience different settings.Atira: Absolutely. was, want say, yeah, around early 2000s. Catholic private school Hot Springs. got pulled there, believe either right right pulled end-of-year standardized tests given us, administered us, outdated like substantial amount years, don't even know possible, happened. Next thing know, I'm public school, able get tested learning attention issues. result that, obviously behind clearly taught supposed to, much supposed to, supposed to.I got held back. repeated first grade, didn't tell going on, just, went it. get definitely wanted shield me, looking back, wish would've told little bit more. course, water kid understand far aware give credit for.I repeated first grade thankfully, school went to, performing arts elementary school, got to, got pulled think almost every day, I'm mistaken. got go resource room able get one-on-one time. get tested again, remember, point want say around middle school, find was, far learning disability. got high school really was, guess, kind involved more. way IEP meetings, able get pulled mainstream classes, majority classes high school regular, except math, dyscalculia. think would nice know senior year one final IEP meeting handed big folder stuff, sat one night flipped like, "Oh, didn't know this."Marissa: listeners, reminding everyone IEP stands Individualized Education Program, it's really important program; designed you, it's support you. It's plan learn best possible way.Atira: thankfully, know, power Google internet, period, I'm able research dive more. didn't know; didn't tell me; school wasn't going tell me. really school didn't think going really anything outside high school day? academic adviser told mom would lucky anything beyond high school go vocational school, don't know would make slur vocational school, nothing wrong that.A degree degree, matter get from, far I'm concerned. never fault anybody need do. Also, saves money. go vocational school, please.Marissa: That's pretty intense decision he's making age. Atira, mentioned shielded process. shielding come school family?Atira: would say definitely both. understand why, looking back, think preparing stuff myself, get college, handle paperwork, go meetings, communicate, communicate yourself.So was, ended going undergrad, forced position figure out, thankfully access really good disability resource center, absolutely amazing. Even then, things feel like could done help mitigate that, have, unfortunately, low self-esteem. low self-esteem, easy target. People smell you. made easy get bullied did, ashamed. thought owe anybody explanation. feel like it's important. end way conversations topic learning disabilities. especially Black person learning disabilities, far people aware of.Julian: Atira, wanted ask specifically intersection Black woman learning disability. know, spoke experiences school relation programming happened.There's something specific experience Black folks country. specifically relation challenges may faced. speak intersection racially, also way you're learning thinking differences related that?Atira: It's like really hard time get it, I'm proud this. conversation friend mine people like, "Oh, need call gift," I'm going sugarcoat it. learning disability. is. it's bad thing. don't know we're scared word "disability." It's good. It's — is. doesn't bad makes uncomfortable makes want clutch pearls doesn't mean need apologize it. going for? it's never going change. someone learning disability day die. reason seat table, deserve whether think not. I'm going take materials build table seat matter. matter conversation we're going away. many Black stud

  • At the end of each summer of my childhood, I’d get an aching feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was time to go back to school.Because of my learning differences, I have trouble with writing, organization and processing information. School was like trying to swim in quicksand. I struggled so much in my classes and developed anxiety about almost every aspect of schoolwork. Summer meant salvation from the academic stress. But summer always ended.In the weeks before the start of school, my parents thought the best way to help was to be relentlessly upbeat with me.“I have a feeling this new school year is going to be different,” my dad would say confidently.“We know you’re going to do way better,” my mom added.“And it’s essential for your future that you try to get better grades,” they both said. “You can do it.”I’d nod agreeably, trying to end the conversation and block it all out.Behind my parents’ cheerful statements, they also had their own anxieties. My father, a successful doctor, confessed to one of my teachers that he feared I would never get to college. And my mom blamed herself for the fact I couldn’t get my act together in school.My parents tried everything they could to help me academically. Each year, I got more support in my classes. I tried different tutors and programs. A few times they even had me switch schools. With each change, I promised them: “I’ll do better this year.” Some of the changes did help. But deep down, I knew I couldn’t live up to the standard they set.Eventually, the focus on school wore down our relationship. Some of my fondest childhood memories of summer are going to the movies with my parents and playing Ping-Pong with them. But those activities faded away as school started. Whenever we spent time together, the conversation eventually turned to schoolwork: “Shouldn’t you be studying?”I reached a breaking point in middle school. I was failing most of my subjects. Thoughts of failure replayed over and over in my head, like a bad movie. My freshman year of high school wasn’t much better.That’s when something started to click for my parents.They started to realize my learning differences had nothing to do with me not trying enough. School would always be hard for me, no matter how much support I had. And acting like everything was going to be OK wasn’t helping me. What I needed was for them to acknowledge and be open about my struggles. Thankfully, they started to do that.In the summer before college, my parents sat me down. Over four years of high school, our relationship had changed—for the better.“We know college is going to be really challenging for you,” my dad said.“It’s not going to be easy, but we’re proud of your effort regardless of your grades,” my mom added softly.That freshman year in college, I worked hard and got through my classes. I still struggled, but it helped that my parents were honest about my challenges. Their support gave me the self-esteem I needed to persevere, with far less frustration and angst.They still wanted me to do well in school. They still encouraged me. But they never again denied my learning differences or placed an unfair expectation on me. It was less about my grades, and more about my journey with learning and thinking differences.Recently, I spoke with my mom and dad about things they would have done differently during back-to-school season. They said their biggest regret wasn’t about my academics. It was about saying to me that everything would be fine when they knew it might not be. They told me they wished they’d understood earlier how hard it was for me. And I gave both of them a hug.Read a child expert’s advice on how to help your child with back-to-school anxiety. Get tips on how to reduce jitters for the first day of school. And learn what not to say to a child with learning and thinking differences about the new school year.Any opinions, views, information and other content contained in blogs on are the sole responsibility of the writer of the blog, and do not necessarily reflect the views, values, opinions or beliefs of, and are not endorsed by, Understood.

  • In It

    In this bonus episode, Rachel Bozek and Gretchen Vierstra share summer reading recommendations and tips to encourage kids to read. In this bonus episode, Rachel Bozek, Gretchen Vierstra, and a few of their Understood colleagues share summer reading recommendations. Learn about books that embrace differences for readers of all ages. Plus, get tips on how to make summer reading fun for kids. Reading recommendations mentioned in this episodeJust Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, by Sonia SotomayorRosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea BeatyFish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly HuntButton Pusher, by Tyler Page Disability Visibility (Adapted for Young Adults): 17 First-Person Stories for Today, edited by Alice WongRelated resources Summer reading reimagined: How to help all kids enjoy reading9 books that explore and embrace differenceEpisode transcriptGretchen: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "In It." 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. We're between seasons right now. Just taking a little break before we get to work on a bunch of great conversations for Season 5.Gretchen: That said, we are not disappearing on you. We'll be dropping bonus content here and there throughout the summer, including today.Rachel: Yes, there have been a lot of water cooler discussions — or, in our case, virtual water cooler discussions — about good summer reads here at Understood, especially for kids who learn and think differently. So we thought it would be a good idea to pass some of those suggestions on to you.Gretchen: First, though, we want to go back for just a minute to a conversation we had last year with Jeremee DeMoir about summer reading.Rachel: Jeremee used to teach middle school and high school. Now he's the owner of a bookstore in Memphis, Tennessee, called DeMoir Books and Things.Gretchen: In our conversation with him. He made the excellent point that even for kids who struggle with reading, summer reading doesn't have to be a burden. There are lots of ways to open them up to a love of books. Let's listen.Jeremee: As an educator, you often deal with children who have learning disabilities, such as like dyslexia, or just issues with focusing — ADHD, ADD. And so for them, it's challenging finding pieces that work for them. But the beauty about it is that literature comes in so many different mediums. As an educator, we know that literacy is an umbrella, and so we know that it's not just reading, it's also speaking and listening. So we find audiobooks that might work for them. You find graphic novels where the text might be a little more chopped up to where it's more digestible.And so when you find something that kids can engage with that is super awesome to them and then finding it in a medium that's accessible to them, then it becomes like this door that's being blown off the hinges and they're able to kind of find something that really fits them.Rachel: That's a great reminder that there are lots of ways to make reading accessible to your kids during the summer.Gretchen: Let's get to our book recommendations. The first one comes from Kim Greene, the editorial director here at Understood.Kim: My summer reading recommendation is "Just Ask, Be Different, Be Brave, Be You." And it's written by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. "Just Ask" is a picture book. Mostly it introduces readers to different characters and tells you more about their differences, but also their superpowers. So it includes characters with autism, Tourette syndrome, kids who stutter, diabetes, food allergies. We're talking a really wide spectrum of the beautiful things that make us all different.I'd recommend this book to any parent or caregiver of a child in elementary school, maybe even a little bit younger. The book is, I think, officially recommended for ages 4 to 8, but I read it with my 3-year-old. It really has this great message about "just ask," which is so innate to what young kids do is they have so many questions, so they just ask.I should say that the book is not encouraging children to go up to people with disabilities and interrogate with them questions and whatnot. It's actually quite clear that that's something that some people don't like, but instead encourages kids to, you know, turn to the adult in their life and to ask questions.Rachel: You know, I've seen that book. And besides having a great overall message, I just add that the illustrations are wonderful. OK, let's get to another recommendation.Craig: I am Craig Woody. I am a senior data engineer here at Understood. I have a summer reading recommendation. One of my daughter's favorite books is "Rosie Revere, Engineer." It's written by Andrea Beaty. It's a great book about a young girl who's got ideas that are different from her classmates and her family. And she finds ways to power through learning and thinking differently and inventing things that not everyone else appreciates.One of my favorite scenes is when her great aunt visits her. Her great aunt is called Rose, but the way she dresses and the way she's presented it definitely implies that she's Rosie the Riveter, because she talks about her time building airplanes and how she never got the chance to fly.That character really — I think it's pivotal for the story, because she steps in and shows little Rosie that you can think differently and you can build things differently. And ultimately, at the end of the day, if you're helping other people, if you're trying to be a good person, the how you get to the end, it doesn't really matter. As an engineer myself, I think that it's great to show people there's more than one way to get to the end.Rachel: How about you, Gretchen? Do you have a book to recommend?Gretchen: I do. Actually, I asked my kids to recommend a book, and they told me about something they both read, probably in about fourth or fifth grade. And the book is called "Fish in a Tree" by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. And it's probably for ages about 10 and up. And it's a fiction book, and it's about a sixth grader named Ally who struggles with reading and writing and has been covering it up by acting out. And it's only when she has a substitute teacher who says to her "I'm going to figure out how to make you stay in this classroom and not get sent to the office" that he discovers she has undiagnosed dyslexia.And that's why my kids said they liked it. They liked it because they said they loved reading about a teacher who really took a moment to care about a kid and see through the acting out and figure out what was going on. But full disclosure, I have not read it myself, but my kids say it's a great read.Rachel: You know, I haven't read that either, Gretchen. But I really love the idea that it's a substitute teacher who comes in, because I think that they get kind of a bad rap a lot of time. And personal story: One of the best teachers that both of my kids ever had and who I remain friends with started out at their school as a substitute. She was in for maternity coverage and at the beginning of the year I was like, "Oh boy, we got a sub for the year." And she's wonderful. And, you know, I think, I think subs — I'm glad to see that they got a little moment in the spotlight here in this book.Gretchen: Mm hmm. So what about you? Do you have a recommendation, Rachel?Rachel: I do. I do. So this is one that I heard about and tracked down for myself. It's called "Button Pusher," by Tyler Page. It's a YA book. So it's really for, like, the 11 to 14-ish or 11 and ups. But I love a graphic novel, so I found it. And it's also a memoir. So it looks like a comic book, but it's the author's own story about his childhood and kind of tells the story of his journey of learning about ADHD and kind of a lot of the things that he ran into as a kid.There are some intense family dynamics with the parents. The book covers counseling and therapy. There is medication talk, all from this kid's perspective and from a very real perspective, because this was his actual experience.You know, one thing that I thought was really interesting, too, is that every so often he kind of breaks from his own story to offer an explanation of the science or the research behind something that's going on in this kid's life. So there is like the "what's happening in the brain right now," and it'll stop. And like that page will be kind of like a different color palette or you just, you know, that you're in a different section for a page or two.And then there is the same kind of thing with like time blindness, when something like related to that is happening in the story. And those are all things that we've talked about here. And so it was really nice to see it kind of applied to this kid's life. So I just, you know, I really enjoyed it from that perspective. And I think it's something that adults might also really enjoy, even though it's technically in the kids' section of the library and in the bookstores.Gretchen: Yeah, I think it sounds really cool. I love the fact that it actually has some science, right? Some information about ADHD in the book. That sounds really great. We actually have one more recommendation from one of our colleagues. So let's listen to that.Jennifer: Hi, my name is Jennifer Spindler and I'm a senior research manager at Understood. The book I'm recommending is "Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories From the 21st Century," and it's written by Alice Wong. It's actually a compendium of short stories written by other disabled writers that she put together as a part of a larger project to bring more disabled voices into literature and into the media. Each of the stories features a person with a disability and difference, and one of the reasons that I really loved it was that you get to see a glimpse of someone's life and an experience that is similar to yours, but at the same time really different.One of the things that really drew me to the book is Alice Wong is a part of a disability movement for ensuring that authors, as well as writers who are neurodivergent, who have chronic illness, are at the forefront of writing their own stories. And reading each of the stories, it helped me diversify in my own mind — the struggles and barriers that people who are not accepted in this world by an ableist society have to go through.I recommend this book for everyone, maybe specifically for adults, because of the reading level. But you know, anyone can really connect to the stories and feel the experience that these writers are speaking about and enjoy it as well as, you know, become more introspective about their own lives.Gretchen: Jennifer's book recommendation sounds like it's obviously great for parents, adults to read, but I bet teens in your families might enjoy reading a collection of stories like that, too. So you never know.Rachel: And you know, don't worry if you also didn't manage to get all the titles that came up here today, like I did not. It's not a problem. We've got all of that information in the show notes from the episode.Gretchen: Well, that is it for today. We really hope you're having a great summer, and hopefully you're reading some great books, too.Rachel: Thanks for listening and thanks for always being in it with us.

  • Going back to school can be a stressful time for kids and families. There may be big changes like switching to a new school or having more than one teacher. Kids who learn and think differently can be particularly anxious about keeping up or fitting in.If your child is anxious or worried leading up to the start of school, these tips can help.Talk about the transitionIt’s important for your child to know you’re there to listen and help problem-solve. Find a time to talk when your child is relatively calm. (Avoid times such as when your child is upset or getting ready for school.) Here are some things you can say.“Let’s think of ways I can help make going back easier for you.” For example, you might pack a special snack or walk your child to the classroom (if allowed) on the first few days. But make it clear that staying home from school just because your child doesn’t want to go isn’t an option.“What do you like about school?” Talk about good memories from previous years. Highlight these positive moments and use them as a reminder that school can be rewarding and fun.“Is there anything in particular about this school year that’s worrying you?” Is your child anxious about keeping up? Getting along with teachers? Making friends? Getting bullied? Talking about your child’s specific concerns can help you find specific solutions.“I see that you’re anxious about school. But I believe in you and I’m here to help.” Projecting a sense of confidence and understanding may seem like a small thing. But when kids know that you know what they’re going through, it can make a big difference.Don’t react to tantrumsSometimes, anxiety can lead to angry outbursts. If your child has a tantrum about going back to school, try to stay calm and avoid getting angry or upset. This can be hard to do in the moment, but it makes a huge difference. Tantrums are an attention-seeking behavior. It’s best to ignore them, then praise your child when you see calmer behavior. Later, ask when would be a good time to talk about why your child was upset.Start switching into school mode earlyWaiting until the last minute to change schedules and routines can make some kids feel more anxious, not less. Start the process before the school year begins. Practice morning and evening routines. Move to a school-year schedule in advance (ideally a few weeks early, but no less than one week). That includes school wake-up times, bedtimes, and mealtimes.Get everything in order ahead of time. Gather needed school supplies at least one week before school starts. Work on organizing your child’s backpack. And get to know the class schedule if you have it.Give your child choices. Have your child pick out what to wear on the first day of school. Or have your child choose a favorite meal for dinner for that night. Having a choice gives kids a sense of control and excitement about school. (With younger kids, you can pick out a few options and let them decide.)Reach out to others for support. Try to set up a time for your child and a classmate to play before the school year starts. It’s a good opportunity for you, too. Talking with other families about their own back-to-school struggles and successes is a reminder that you’re not alone.Talking with your child and taking steps to ease concerns can smooth the transition back to school. But if these strategies don’t help, keep an eye on what you’re seeing. You can use an anxiety log to take notes. The notes will come in handy if you decide to reach out to someone, like a health care professional, for help.Learn about the signs of anxiety and the difference between stress and anxiety.

  • In It

    In this bonus episode, Rachel Bozek and Gretchen Vierstra share a few of their favorite moments from Season 4 of In It. In this bonus episode, Rachel Bozek and Gretchen Vierstra share a few of their favorite moments from Season 4. From self-advocacy at IEP meetings to our kids’ social lives, we covered a lot of ground this season. Tune in to hear which topics the hosts are still thinking about — including why there’s no shame in bringing a five-inch binder to your next parent-teacher conference. Related resources The power of self-advocacy for kids at IEP and 504 meetingsMath anxiety, dyscalculia, and other reasons math can be hard for kidsThe social lives of our kids: When to worry, when to let goHow to make the most of parent-teacher conferencesEpisode transcriptGretchen: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "In It." 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. We're between seasons right now, just taking a little time to rest and also to plan for all the great new episodes we'll start sharing with you in the fall.Gretchen: In the meantime, though, we do not want to leave you in the lurch. So we'll be dropping in some bonus content here in there.Rachel: Today, we're sharing a few of the moments from this past season that have really stayed with us. Maybe they resonated with you.Gretchen: Or maybe they're from an episode you missed. In which case, now is a great time to go back and listen. As always, we'll have links to all of them in the show notes. So, Rachel, want to start us off?Rachel: Sure. So the first moment I want to share comes from our conversation with Melody Maitland on how to empower our kids and teach them to self-advocate, especially when it comes to IEP and 504 meetings.Melody: The first thing to know about advocacy is it's very individualized. So I always start with self-awareness. Does the student I'm working with know their interests, their needs, their strengths, their challenge areas? Do they know what a 504 plan or an IEP is? Do they know what they have that plan for — their diagnosis, their differing ability, disability, whatever we call it? And really just engaging in those conversations, because there tends to be this culture of nicety, like we don't want to tell them because we don't want them to feel bad.But in doing so, we create more stigma by not talking about it, right? That silence speaks volumes about how we view differing abilities. So it starts with that self-awareness. And then really comes that communication piece in supporting them and being able to communicate those needs and strengths and challenge areas.Rachel: So the reason I picked that quote is that I really appreciated Melody's acknowledgment of the importance of a kid being part of this conversation. And I realized while she was telling us about that, that that's not really something I've been doing a lot of. Which is probably the case for a lot of parents. And so I've found it really helpful now, as I've had to look at what's coming for each of my kids' 504s. And it helps me be able to consider including them in the conversation if that's something that they want to do.Gretchen: Yeah, I think that episode that you picked also relates to our more recent episode on getting kids ready for college and real life. And so this idea of teaching our kids early to be self-advocates and to talk about themselves at meetings like that is really important.Rachel: Yeah.Gretchen: So then do you have another favorite pick from this year, Rachel?Rachel: I do. So my second pick is from a conversation we had with Brendan Hodnett on some of the challenges that come up with kids who struggle with math. I was really interested in the distinction between dyscalculia, which is more of a learning difference related to math, and math anxiety, where a student may understand mathematical concepts, but anxiety prevents them from being able to do those operations under pressure, say for an exam or something.And Brendan ended up sharing with us a very simple strategy for decreasing that anxiety. It's a physiological sigh. And needless to say, it can be used in so many different situations and absolutely does not only apply to math anxiety.Brendan: You know what a physiological sigh is? You ever heard of 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 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, then a little bit more, and then let it out. And really just two of those, you automatically just feel your body, just go....Rachel: Yeah. So, yeah, I really loved this. Like while it was happening, when we were talking with him, I was like, this is going to be one of my favorite moments from this season. And it totally was. And it's actually a thing that I have used and done a couple of times. Even though I don't have math exams anymore. I'm kind of feeling like maybe we should do one right now.Gretchen: I think we should.Rachel: OK. I feel so much better. How are you feeling?Gretchen: Good. Good.Rachel: All right. So, Gretchen. Now that we're very relaxed, what are a couple of your most memorable moments from the season?Gretchen: So my first pick is from an episode we did on the social lives of our kids, where we got into how to differentiate between social isolation that may require some help from us, versus social isolation that is just an expression of who our kid is. We were talking to a mom named Ellen about her son. And something she said I think could apply to a lot of us. And that was that our kids can be different from us and may need different things than we did when we were their age.Ellen: Just this last weekend was homecoming. And I asked about homecoming, and he looked at me like I was crazy. Like, why would I want to do that? It was like, have you ever met me? No, that's not my scene.You have these ideas of how your children are going to be and what they're going to be like. And they have their own ideas about what they're going to be. And that's really hard in some ways. And in other ways, you know, it means they're comfortable. And one of the things that has really helped is seeing how comfortable he is in his own skin.Gretchen: So why I picked this is because I have two kids, one in middle, one in high school. And they're so different from each other. One is more social than the other. And I was probably more social than both of them are. And so sometimes I have to keep myself in check and say, this is who they are and they're happy. And as long as I'm aware of anything that might be going on with social media or other woes that can affect teens, as long as I'm checking in, it's OK. So I just really loved that Ellen brought this to light for us to think about.Rachel: Yeah, that's a really good one. Do you have another one?Gretchen: Yes. And I apologize because this clip comes from a conversation we had about parent-teacher conferences. And honestly, I know — who wants to think about that in the middle of summer? But this was a really great conversation with DeJunne' Clarke Jackson, all about how to make the most of these meetings. And as an overpreparer myself, one thing I appreciated is what DeJunne' had to say about how she prepares as a mom to a child with dyslexia and ADHD.DeJunne': I am known as the Five-Inch Binder Mom. And I wear that badge proudly. I have in my binder my son's history all throughout his schooling, all his evaluations, parent-teacher conference notes, his test scores. So all of those things. When I'm having a conversation with a teacher about his progress, those things are important to bring to the table. That conversation is rooted in that information. And so you should absolutely prepare.How much you prepare for, you know, it's individualized, depends on, you know, where your child is, especially if a child doesn't have any — my youngest is 8. And we have been very fortunate to not have our hands on him as much as my oldest. And so my parent-teacher conferences with his teachers look different. And I show up to those meetings with barely a thing in hand. And I'm just there to mostly listen.Gretchen: You're the One-Inch Binder Mom for those briefings, or half an inch.DeJunne': I can say I'm the Spiral Notebook Mom for those.Gretchen: So why did I pick this clip? Well, it's because as parents, we care. And I love that she just made it OK to show that we care.Rachel: I enjoyed that conversation, too. And I remember feeling like, oh, you know, you don't have to apologize for walking in with a long list of questions, or, you know, what some people might call overprepared. Like, that's OK. And I think at the end of the day, teachers appreciate it.Gretchen: Totally.Rachel: OK, So there you have it. As we said before, we have links to each of these episodes. And we'll drop them in the show notes so you can go back and listen if you'd like.Gretchen: We'll be back in a couple of weeks with some summer reading recommendations for and about kids who learn and think differently.Rachel: Till then, we hope you're having a great summer and thanks for listening. And thanks for always being in it with us.

  • Getting kids ready to go back to school is not always an easy task. And when you think about it, why would it be? Back-to-school transitions can be really tough for kids. And chances are this upcoming school year will be even tougher. For many kids, going back to school will mean going back to the classroom for the first time since the pandemic began.Starting a new school year can be scary, especially if kids haven’t been in a school building for a long time. But the key is to help make this transition smooth and gentle. If you’re not feeling prepared for the upcoming school year, don’t panic. Don’t lose hope. I’ve shared lots of ideas with families and teachers over the years. Here are some of the suggestions they’ve found most helpful:Keep the summer fun going. Plan at least one activity for the first week of school.Allow more downtime with the TV or computer after school than you usually will during the school year. Then gradually reduce or eliminate screen time once school really gets underway.Keep the schedule clear. Try not to make any extra plans or appointments for the first two weeks of school, so kids can relax after school.Be present as much as possible for at least the first week. This way you can set up school-day routines gradually instead of all at once.Let kids stay up a little later the first week of school. In the second and third weeks, begin moving to an earlier sleep schedule.Stress the importance of breakfast. Eating before school will give kids energy to start their day.Returning to school can be exciting, stressful, and exhausting all at the same time. Some kids might need a little more time to adjust. If getting back into the school groove isn’t working out well, tackle things gradually. Keep some of the summer fun alive and give enough downtime.Are you a parent or caregiver looking for more? Update teachers on how distance learning impacted your child. Try these back-to-school downloads to help start the year off right.

  • ADHD Aha!

    Voice actor and theme park performer Yinan Shentu nails what ADHD sounds like. Hear how he re-read a sentence so many times that he knew he had ADHD. ADHD sound like? hyperactivity feel like? Yinan Shentu, voice actor, theme park performer, world-class collector hobbies, hits nail head impressions descriptions. Yinan diagnosed ADHD last year starting yet another new hobby: stock trading. reading trading, realized re-reading sentence seven times still couldn’t remember about. One online ADHD test later, felt certain ADHD.A lot childhood made sense diagnosis. would act time keep bored — even clown talked behavior! Now, Yinan’s ever-changing job performing different characters fits right fast-paced brain.Join conversation host Laura Key Yinan. also talk fidgeting, starting task hardest part.Related resourcesImpulsivity childrenThe 3 areas executive functionADHD creativityEpisode transcriptYinan: remember reading sentence seven times row still understanding heck read. one sentence. don't even remember short sentence long sentence. remember reading it, getting end going, "Wait, read?" Reading again. Nope. Didn't get that. finally thinking, "I don't think normal."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. I'm today Yinan Shentu. Yinan actor theme park performer lives Orlando area. Welcome, Yinan.Yinan: Thank me.Laura: OK. want get started explaining audience, listeners, job is, it's interesting. think describe opposed me.Yinan: It's always funny trying describe it, part we're kind limited realm talking exactly do. I'll start saying regularly performer theme park world central Florida. perform Walt Disney World Resort, perform Universal Orlando Resort. I've character performer, actor, since 2013 so. bring life magical Disney friends see park, well Universal well. several actor roles Universal many, many different things years.Been stilt walker. learned still walk Disney stilt walker shows. puppeteer puppeteer Disney, L.A. studying really, really cool people well. I've done puppet stuff L.A., really, really cool. One challenging things I've ever done, honestly. Let's see, else? mean....Laura: mean, need more? mean, that's amazing. Stilt walking, puppetry, theme parks. I'm sure listeners already noticed amazing voice is. know can't give specifics voiceover work may may done, but....Yinan: Well, I — something recently came out. animated, first ever animated debut, is — I'm still processing it. Amazing able say, "Oh yeah, I'm anime streaming service that's streaming service anime." that's pretty mind-blowing haven't exactly processed yet, don't think.Laura: Seems like fun job. I'm sure it's also challenging lots ways. want use opportunity say "aha" moment led diagnosis last year 2021 something job-like side. really something full-time job. tell that?Yinan: guess kind hobby. looking stock market trading investing — specifically, swing trading day trading, really interested statistical side that. also was — shortest path executing decision making money, I'm practical sense. like, OK, well definitely easiest, quickest way. immediate reward payoff really, really cool.So delved subject. listening podcasts, reading books, watching YouTube video, joining Discord community, taking everything possibly could. remember reading couple e-books. finished one two, next one reading — bit dry material there. mean, imagine that: stock trading, dry material. me, something still interested in. Except moments where — know, diagnosis later realized moments throughout childhood — would reading thing multiple times. I'd reading section book realizing idea read. I'll go back I'll read again.Or would happen often childhood was, "Oh, I'm fast reader!" I'm really not. brain skipping parts text doesn't find interesting almost automatically. picking next paragraph whatever catches attention. I'll reread Harry Potter books back kid. would reread time like, "I don't remember part. Oh, don't remember part. don't remember part." then, know, several decades later, finally like, "Oh, ADHD, that's why."Laura: need unpack little bit. was — mean, stock trading. like full-time job, first all. different world. got interested it. many ADHD-related threads there, right? got stock trading — probably, like intensity it, quick payoff it.Yinan: Well, quarantine, working theme park. very, slow reopen. love creative, love putting creativity things. grown traditional Chinese upbringing, I'm also pretty good numbers analysis. One good friends referred "a computer sense humor," thought accurate put social media, like little description section underneath profile picture.Laura: love it. It's call sign: computer sense humor.Yinan: really is. really is. I'll wear that, I'll wear medal proudly.Laura: OK, latch hobby, interest, etc., sounds like actually reading started tip leads towards getting evaluated ADHD — reading, getting distracted reading. accurate?Yinan: Yes. getting distracted talking, apparently, obviously ramble.Laura: It's part show, know, it's good.Yinan: explicitly remember: read sentence book seven times row. every time would get end, would go, "Nope, clue read." Go back beginning. Read again. Nope. clue — seven times counted. that's point kind like, never really thought ADHD. Growing '90s, able catch sort thing necessarily advanced now, so.... didn't poorly — don't ask parents — school.So indication of, oh, kid might ADHD. Except like bad behavior problems never really understood, totally do.Laura: led reading thing getting evaluated ADHD?Yinan: moment where — partner always kind talked, seriously, about, know, might ADHD, might, know, we're little neurodivergent. ADHD never one things really even pictured. couple days later said don't take online ADHD test made somebody that, know, wasn't somebody trying sell something. — like medical-adjacent sort website whatever.And she's asking questions. I'm listening ask like, "Yeah. Doesn't everybody that? Yeah. Doesn't everybody that? Yes." wasn't even like — don't like speak absolutes. Sometimes when, know, like strongly agree, kind agree. never really like hit strongly agree unless I'm like 110% believing is. never like go extremes. hearing questions like, yes, definitely, yes, definitely, strongly agree, strongly agree way down.And like, "Huh. I've ADHD." thought days, weeks, months, years come, like, oh God, makes much sense. reading tends get little difficult me, to — especially like academic reading? force slow read understanding mentally able to. explained lot school, being — like example, senior year high school. AP classes except English. ones-level English. even honors. Ones-level English. like, don't understand. funny. like SAT, critical reading worst subject. yet want actor. really, really wanted actor.Laura: know, don't even know. went journalism school. got master's

  • Starting a new school year can be a difficult time for many kids. Technology like apps can help—not just with reading, writing, and math, but also with organization and social skills. Here are eight apps that can help kids manage back-to-school challenges.Price and availability may vary but were accurate at the time of publication, on July 24, 2019. Understood does not endorse or receive financial compensation for the sale of any of these products.Flocabulary: Educational Hip-Hop for K–12Flocabulary: Educational Hip-Hop for K–12 uses catchy songs and rhymes to help kids learn. The app covers lots of topics, like language arts, vocabulary, and math. It also has videos on common back-to-school challenges, like managing anxiety and bullying. The videos are broken down by grade. There’s also a companion website schools can subscribe to so all students can use Flocabulary.Price: Free to try ($1.99 per month subscription)Available for: Android, iOSBear in Mind App: To-Do List, Reminder, TasksBear in Mind App: To-Do List, Reminder, Tasks can help grade-schoolers get organized in the new school year. The app lets kids set reminders and make to-do lists with the help of cute animations and icons. There are icons for things like taking medication, doing homework, and remembering a lunchbox. When kids finish all their tasks for the day, a cartoon panda appears and gives them a positive message. Older kids may want to try out popular organization apps like Remember the Milk and Google Keep.Price: $1.99Available for: iOSHeadspaceIf your child is coping with back-to-school stress, meditation could help. Headspace teaches kids how to meditate. It has a sleek interface, and uses fun cartoon videos to show kids how meditation works. If Headspace isn’t right for your child, check out other meditation apps for kids.Price: Free to try ($12.99 per month subscription)Available for: Android, iOSmyHomeworkWhen kids start middle school or high school, they have to get used to getting homework from multiple teachers each day. myHomework is a “digital backpack” that can help kids manage assignments. It tracks classes, schedules, and due dates. Students and their families, along with teachers, can use the app to communicate. It works on multiple devices, like smartphones, Chromebooks, and computers.Keep in mind that the school may already have a digital backpack app it wants kids to use. So check with your child’s school before using myHomework.Price: Basic membership is free ($4.99 per year for more features)Available for: Android, iOSBookly Read MoreBookly Read More (formerly called Bookout) is a reading log app that lets kids keep track of books they read. Kids who have more reading assignments this year than last may find it especially helpful. Kids enter the book name or scan its ISBN number, and the app pulls up information about the book. It lets kids take notes and save key quotes. And it keeps track of things like pages and time read.Price: Free ($4.99 per month for more features and no ads)Available for: Android, iOSTinyTapTinyTap helps grade-schoolers and middle-schoolers work on specific academic or social skills. Families and kids can create lessons, games, or quizzes on any topic. Kids can also access dozens of lessons and games created by other people. There are a bunch of popular ones made by teachers to help kids learn to make inferences and understand social situations. It has reading and math lessons, too.Price: Free to try ($4.99 per month subscription)Available for: Android, iOSHigh School StoryHigh School Story lets kids set up a virtual high school. It can help teens who are having a tough time adjusting to high school. In the made-up high school, kids have to navigate tricky social situations, like dating, bullying, and problems related to self-image. As kids complete quests, they get positive messages about kindness and being true to themselves.Price: Free (with some in-app purchases)Available for: Android, iOSGoNoodle KidsGoNoodle Kids encourages kids to move and be mindful throughout the day. There are stretching routines to jump-start the morning, games to get kids “pumped up” for the day, and breathing exercises to help beat school stress. The app is connected to the popular GoNoodle website, which many schools use with students.Price: FreeAvailable for: Android, iOS

  • In It

    Many families worry about their kids’ social lives. But when your child has a learning difference, you might worry even more. Hear one mom’s story. Many families worry kids’ social lives. child learning difference, might worry even more. happens realize looks like loneliness actually loneliness child? In episode, hosts Rachel Bozek Gretchen Vierstra talk Ellen, mom three kids ages 11 16. Ellen shares story son, high-schooler nonverbal learning disability (NVLD) written expression disorder. Hear Ellen talk always worried son’s social life. find stopped worrying learned let son kind social life works best him.Related resources My child likes alone. mean he’s lonely?What grade-schooler lonelyWhat teen tween lonelyWhat nonverbal learning disabilities?What written expression disorder?Episode transcriptGretchen: Understood Podcast Network, "In It," podcast ins outs…Rachel: …the ups downs…Gretchen: …of supporting kids learn think differently. I'm Gretchen Vierstra, former classroom teacher editor Understood. Rachel: I'm Rachel Bozek, writer editor raising two kids ADHD. Today, we're talking challenge figuring worry you're kids' social life "them" thing "you" thing. Gretchen: Right. sometimes parental anxieties — maybe based past experiences —make hard see clearly what's going kids, especially comes social lives. Rachel: guest today, Ellen, mom three kids ages 16 11. oldest, we'll call Jay, diagnosed written expression disorder nonverbal learning disorder. Jay never super social, question whether friends enough friends, well, that's something that's worried Ellen lot years. Gretchen: here's thing: Ellen kid, bullied experienced lot loneliness. experience, understandably, left extra sensitive possibility children might bullied simply lonely. Rachel: wanted talk Ellen learn separate negative childhood experiences experiences kids. We're grateful sharing personal story. Gretchen: Ellen, welcome "In It." Ellen: Thanks me.Gretchen: So, start off, maybe tell us little bit son, Jay. Ellen: So, he's junior high school really great, pretty quirky, quiet kid band particular, marching band. That's big thing. he's always loved school he's really excited that. He's taking bunch AP classes, stressful, told need stay it, control. So…Gretchen: Got it. love he's marching band fanatic. marching band. played flute. play? Ellen: plays sousaphone. Gretchen: Nice. Rachel: Yes. Also marching band kid, clarinet. So, maybe… Gretchen: Oh, fun, Rachel!Rachel: …we start little side ensemble. So, understand Jay learning thinking differences. tell us formal diagnosis differences mean day day? Ellen: Yeah. So, formal diagnosis non-verbal learning disorder also disorder written expression. So, disorder written expression, would say everything wants say head, can't figure get head onto paper. sort dissolves. words dissolve. non-verbal, think him, really hard time spatial visualization, knowing things sort literal, understanding nuances meaning words tones have. tough time tones voice well. best example ninth grade, maybe? got email teacher, math teacher, saying computer broken, in-class worksheet done in-class worksheet. sort shortly gotten diagnosis. So, went talked said "Jay, didn't worksheet?" like, "I don't know. didn't to." like, "But said did." said, "No." said, "Well, say?" said, "Well, said, 'If don't computer, worksheet'." said, "Oh, think saying worksheet also meant could didn't want to?" he's like, "Yeah, that's means." like "Oh, OK. No. circumstance, really meant worksheet." so, it's sort thing. Gretchen: think we're going shift conversation heart matter, topic today, feels like we're worried kids' social interactions think might lonely enough friends. So, start worry Jay socially? Ellen: probably started third grade. noticed was, like wasn't invited many birthday parties wasn't inviting kids house wasn't invited go anybody else's house. seeing kids age, really, social life sort expanding, felt like contracting. Rachel: ever talk back concerns might socially isolated? something seemed self-conscious about? Ellen: So, didn't immediately talk him, sort start school gatherings things. started really paying lot attention would watch, know, kind gathering kids around, would watch interactions sort look kind eye roll somebody says something they're like snicker don't see. never saw anything like that, it's reassuring, know, never saw signs bullied mocked or, know, kids didn't like him. people eats lunch with, saw signs kids like him, wasn't anybody's, like, super close friend. One reasons didn't talk fifth grade really pretty badly bullied. so, spent lot sort third maybe mid-high school, really feeling left things like worrying left worrying people, know, really kind feeling like place people really painful hard sort tease putting experience experience. so, sort talked therapist kind held back little bit talking him. Rachel: seem want socially days? Ellen: So, see sort in-between kind fifth grade junior high school, questioned asked wanted people asked concerned it. gotten clear emphatic responses he's gotten older "I see everybody want school. fine. don't want people come house. don't know would do. I'm super interested I'm tired don't want go anybody else's." little bit — hasn't quite said many words — little bit like, "You're making feel like there's something wrong asking this. is... Rachel: Yeah. Ellen: …the last thing want make feel. Gretchen: imagine must hard watch because, said, brought back memories you, right? also, know, like kids, right? feels like heart’s walking outside body time, right? So, kid's getting invited something worry it, really difficult. manage feelings? Ellen: really, really hard, spent lot time sort focusing on, "I him. me. different experience. pay attention to, know kids treating school, seemed fine behaving, seemed fine." Like never said me, "Oh, didn't get invited birthday party" "Oh, wish could go here." he's super communicative kid, feel like would something maybe. it's really hard trust that's case. Gretchen: So, know daughters, right? Ellen: Yeah. Gretchen: anything experience raising made think differently this? tend compare stop yourself? mean, what's like, three kids? Ellen: Yeah, girls completely different. much social much invested seeing friends constantly. do, compare. it's hard they're really comparable. know, think give little bit marker things are. think three children made realize completely different three other.There one area comparison hard, middle daughter struggling year, almost two years, eating disorder. really tremendous number awful things that. one things hardest realizing much pain cannot see she's reporting us, don't know. that, course, calls things kids say question, because, know,

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