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ADHD - A Guide

Before we begin, it is crucial to emphasise that I am not a medical professional, and this article discusses some common myths surrounding neurodiversity but not all. Neurodiversity is a broad topic area. Neurodiversity touches my life, as it does for many.  Numbers of neurodivergence in the global population are difficult to quantify, partially due to variance in conditions, diagnosis and reporting differences across geography. Continually increasing knowledge means that many people are being diagnosed later in life, and sadly even with increased knowledge and awareness some individuals remain undiagnosed. Undiagnosed individuals can find it tricky to gauge whether they are ‘neurotypical' if what you are is your ‘typical’. 


If you are high functioning undiagnosed, others will suspect there is something different about you in one form or another. They will see your ability to hyper-focus, your penchant for oversharing, and how distracted you are, but you are always the first to come up with ideas that no one else has in record time. They know through your behaviours and characteristics that you are different. What they don’t see is the ever-present, on the horizon, burnout looming, continuing to navigate this unyielding realm called life. 


This common scenario is victim to a pervasive myth: that high-functioning neurodivergent individuals have an easy journey, as much as the next neurotypical person, and are devoid of significant challenges. In essence, this misconception suggests that because high-functioning individuals with neurodivergent conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) seem to have fewer outward signs of their condition, they must navigate life effortlessly, without encountering the barriers and misunderstandings faced by their counterparts. 


This myth obscures the reality that neurodivergence, in all its forms, brings with it a diverse range of strengths and challenges that shape the lived experiences of individuals across the ADHD spectrum. From navigating social nuances to managing sensory sensitivities and executive function differences, this constitutes a series of unique obstacles in their daily lives. While individuals with high-functioning neurodivergent conditions may excel in certain areas and possess remarkable talents and abilities, they also grapple with many challenges that can significantly impact their well-being and quality of life. 


Conversely, the myths are not only for the (known as) higher-functioning neurodiverse. Unhelpfully, the perpetuation of beliefs that individuals with more pronounced cognitive or developmental differences are inherently limited in their potential and capabilities suggests that those classified as lower functioning cannot engage meaningfully with the world around them or develop valuable skills and talents. However, such a simplistic label fails to recognise the diverse range of abilities and potentials present within neurodivergent individuals across the spectrum. By reducing individuals to a singular label based on perceived functioning level, the complex interplay of strengths and challenges that shape each person's unique neurodiverse profile is overlooked, and stereotyping takes front and centre stage.




The truth is that neurodiversity encompasses a broad spectrum of abilities, and individuals labelled as lower functioning possess a wealth of untapped potential and capacity for growth. While they may face significant obstacles in areas such as communication, social interaction, and independent living skills, it is essential to recognise that everyone has inherent worth and the ability to contribute meaningfully to society. Embracing a more nuanced understanding of neurodiversity involves moving beyond limiting stereotypes and providing tailored support and accommodations that empower individuals to thrive and fulfil their potential. Through increased awareness, acceptance, and advocacy, we can create a more inclusive society that values diverse strengths and contributions of all individuals, regardless of their neurodiverse differences.


If you have read this far and you suspect or are aware that you or someone you care for is neurodivergent, please read on. In the link below, there is a worksheet of help and support that will assist in you navigating a neurotypical world without losing your inner peace. 


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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) worksheet.


Bring your thoughts to the front of your mind and acknowledging them can help to create strategies that deal with situations in an alternate way. Consider the following questions, and possibly write them down or pop in your note app the answers.



What struggle with Executive Function can you recognise in yourself? E.g., my ability to organise my day is a struggle for me. 


How do you Socially Interact? E.g. I am not the best at reading body language. 


Cognitive Processing. When faced with a problem, do you seem to come up with ideas your counterparts do not?


What are your Sensory Sensitivities? E.g., Lollipop sticks on your teeth, cotton wool, and gloves on your hands. 


How do you best receive Communication? E.g. I prefer you to text me rather than call. 


How do you most commonly communicate with others? E.g. face-to-face interactions work better for me because the tone is lost in text messages. 



Things to try that may help.


Executive Function


  1. Create a list of things you must achieve today and stick it through once you have completed the task. 

  2. Set alarms on your phone to remind you of appointments and important deadlines. 

  3. Always have a clock with you and in front of you (e.g., working from a laptop).

  4. Support others in holding you accountable. Shying away from accountability will not help you change your behaviours. 

  5. Place items you like in the shopping basket and agree with yourself to leave purchasing until a later time/date. 

  6. Ask for support from others. E.gCan you come and talk to me while I do the dishes? Otherwise, I will procrastinate, and the dishes will not get washed.



Social interaction


  1. Socialise with friends you are comfortable and familiar with. Even if it is a new venue, go with someone you know well. 

  2. Practice reading faces (nonverbal cues) either with friends face to face or looking at pictures online. 

  3. Remove as many anxiety-inducing situations as you can e.g., ringing ahead to a pub and booking a table, booking a taxi to collect you at a predetermined time, or knowing where the bathrooms are before entering the building. 

  4. Keep interactions to smaller groups and build up to bigger crowds. 

  5. Breathing techniques if you begin to feel overwhelmed in the social situation. 


Cognitive processing 


  1. Find your strengths e.g. those who are dyslexic may excel in visual-special reasoning (good sense of direction) and creative thinking. Feel good about being exceptional in those arenas. 

  2. Ask for support from others. They will assist you in a task that you usually find challenging. It may help you to understand what is required next time. 

  3. Distractions. Sometimes we need quiet to access what we need to get a task done. Just because everyone else is ok with papers rustling when they are trying to concentrate, it doesn’t mean you have to be. 

  4. Good sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise helps your brain work at its optimum.

  5. Listen to music. In some cases, listening to music while undertaking another activity helps productivity. This may be a result of different areas of the brain required to process memory, emotions, and movements. 




Sensory sensitivities


  1. Know your sensitivities. Log them. Are you sensory seeking or sensory sensitive? These may have been confused and knowing the differences will help you navigate the sensory area. 

  2. Limit exposure to situations where you know you will struggle. 

  3. If you must enter a situation you will struggle with, some self-talk about what you are about to engage in and reassure yourself that there will be an end to the sensitivity, a way to exit the situation if need be. One step at a time with this. 

  4. Give yourself sensory breaks (think of your happy place).

  5. Breathing techniques to soothe if you become distressed. 




Communication 


  1. Know how you best communicate and how you would like to be communicated with. 

  2. Don’t feel pressured into partaking in a communication medium that you are not comfortable with. It is ok to prefer to write a letter or text message, as opposed to face to face or call. 

  3. If face to face you can check that you have understood the conversation correctly. It is ok to do so.



Some helpful links: 



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