Hosted by Dr. Blandine French, this podcast series focuses on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) and is designed to help young people and their families. We are delighted to produce this podcast series in partnership with Clinical Partners, the UK’s largest private mental health partnership.
This episode focuses on giving yourself the right support and Blandine is joined by Ruth Pearse, from Parenting Special Children, and Chris, a university student with lived experience of ADHD.
Chris begins by discussing how it felt when he received his diagnosis and what the first big issues were that he faced following this. Chris also comments on how he identifies the key issues that he is struggling with and what his approach is to make a change, before discussing what type of support there is for young people and shares an example of his own experiences.
Blandine, Ruth and Chris then explore how talking about ADHD can make a difference and share what they found helpful to better understand how ADHD can affect you, including listening to other people’s experiences through podcasts or literature.
Blandine, Ruth and Chris also comment on how people with ADHD stay organised, with Chris sharing his own tips and tricks and Ruth discussing the importance of understanding ADHD to be able to create helpful strategies and find what’s right for you.
Furthermore, Chris and Ruth share their top three tips for giving yourself the right support and the key messages that they would like people to take from this podcast.
This podcast series for young people is supported by Clinical Partners. With the UK’s largest network of senior mental health professionals, Clinical Partners can help ensure your child has fast-tracked the right diagnosis and optimized treatment plan. For further information and advice for families and carers, search for Clinical Partners ADHD or visit their website.
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Other episodes in the series
Blandine has worked with parents of children with ADHD and adult patients for the last 8 years. She also received a diagnosis of ADHD as an adult which enabled her to go back to university to gain a degree in child psychology. Blandine’s main research interest in neurodevelopmental disorders, most specifically ADHD and Dyspraxia. Bio and image via The Institute of Mental Health Nottingham
Ruth is the Founder and Chief Executive of Parenting Special Children, a Berkshire-based charity supporting families with neurodiverse children and young people. Ruth is also a parent of three young adults who are neurodiverse, two of whom have ADHD and one who’s got learning disability, and was a primary teacher in a school with a specialist unit for children with physical disabilities. Bio and image via Parenting Special Children
Hi my name is Chris. I am someone who has personal experience of ADHD. Topics surrounding mental health and learning disabilities has always been something that I am passionate about and openly wanting to discuss with others in order to reduce the stigmas attached to such conditions. I am currently a student nurse and looking into improving services for young people and adults. I enjoy listening to podcasts and music alike and like to give my all to the work that I’m doing.
[00:00:30.360] Dr. Blandine French: Hello and welcome to ‘ADHD, a Young Person’s Guide’. This podcast series focuses on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, referred to as ADHD. And is designed to help young people and their families. It is produced by the mental health charity, the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, ACAMH for short. In partnership with Clinical Partners, the UK’s largest private mental health partnership. Search for Clinical Partners ADHD or visit www.clinicalpartners.co.uk for more information.
I’m Dr. Blandine French. I am a researcher at MindTech at the University of Nottingham. My main research interests are on neurodevelopmental disorders, but more specifically ADHD and dyspraxia. I work with young people and parents of children with ADHD, and I myself received a diagnosis of ADHD as an adult, which helped me make sense of my life as a child and adolescent and helped me go to University and put the right support in place.
The focus of today’s discussion is about giving yourself the right support. So you’ve got a diagnosis, now what? Where do you go from there? How can you identify the many issues you are struggling with? And how can you take a strength-based approach to managing your ADHD? We’ll be looking at what support is out there for you. What the key evidence-based apps, books, and planners are to help make sense of things? And why changing it up regularly makes a difference.
Today, I’m delighted to be joined by Ruth Pearse, who is the Founder and CEO of Parenting Special Children, a charity based in Berkshire. Parenting Special Children’s mission is to provide specialist parenting support to parents and carers of children and young people with special needs, so they can create positive change in their lives. You can find out more at www.parentingspecialchildren.co.uk. Ruth, welcome can you please start with a brief introduction about who you are, please?
[00:02:32.205] Ruth Pearse: Hi my name is Ruth Pearse. I’m from Parenting Special Children, a Berkshire-based charity, supporting families with neurodiverse children and young people. And also, I’m a parent of three young adults who are neurodiverse, two of whom have ADHD and one who’s got learning disability. So, I bring that lived experience as well as experience of working with many families.
[00:02:57.038] Dr. Blandine French: And Chris, would you like to introduce yourself?
[00:03:00.530] Chris: So hi. I’m Chris. I’m 26. I got diagnosed about four years ago now. And I am currently at University, I’m studying to be a mental health nurse myself. I guess from my own personal experience of mental health. I’ve always had a passion for that and sort more psychological subjects.
[00:03:23.672] Dr. Blandine French: Chris, how did you feel when you got your diagnosis and what were the first big issues that you faced?
[00:03:30.140] Chris: I guess for me when I got diagnosed with ADHD, I didn’t really know that much about it myself. I knew the sort of basics of it, and my family suspected something was different about me in terms of my personality. But they didn’t, again, understand what was truly going on. And it took a while in the initial phases of being diagnosed with ADHD that they had to get their head around that and figure out what was helpful, what was not so helpful to say. So I guess it’s a whole spectrum of bins for anyone who got diagnosed.
And a lot of issues around just how best to approach it, but then also how it sort of defines me I suppose. And yeah, it really turned into a sense that I didn’t really know that much about it myself. And I obviously knew that I had some sort of problem that I did want to face. But yeah, I think that the issues were mainly around sort of family dynamics and being diagnosed with any illness I think.
[00:04:40.222] Dr. Blandine French: So Ruth, what is a strength-based approach to managing ADHD and how can our strength help the area we find more challenging?
[00:04:48.570] Ruth Pearse: So a strength-based approach is looking at the strengths rather than the deficits or the challenges. The name ADHD already has two sorts of negative words in there, so deficit disorder. So we’re wanting to reframe that really and see it as a much more– a different approach, rather than the disorder and the deficit. So taking a strength-based approach means that we focus on our strengths, our abilities.
So that could be the energy that you have, or the focus, the determination, that creative thinking, problem-solving rather than the challenges that means that we feel very negative about ADHD. Second question, how can our strengths help the areas we find more challenging, are again, focusing on those strengths I just mentioned. So we see it as a more positive. And they actually say having hyper-focus can help us really develop our skills in a particular area, which is something that’s much needed.
So somebody doing a PhD in a particular area, maybe something that they can then focus on. So that can be a strength rather than a challenge. And it’s easy to feel a failure when we look at a deficit model rather than a positive model, a strength-based approach. So finding those people who are your supporters, who can celebrate your strengths and encourage you in those and guide you, can help overcome the challenges that might come with ADHD.
[00:06:27.835] Dr. Blandine French: How do you identify the key issues that you’re struggling with? Do you choose a small step to make a change or like kind of bonding?
[00:06:36.650] Chris: I mean, I guess for me I’ve always found that doing it step by step is a lot more beneficial, but also more achievable really when it comes to any sort of goal setting. If I try and do everything all at once, then it’s just going to overwhelm me even more and it’s meant it’s going to be a lot more challenging for me. I am still someone who does have the tendency to want to do everything all in one go. And want everything like instantly and straight away and not wanting to have to wait.
I’m quite an impatient person. But no, I do think that obviously, I have to be realistic. And yeah, step-by-step approach, more sort of gradual– as much as it’s difficult as it is to tolerate, I think making those smaller changes can sort of add up to a more sort of long-term benefit.
[00:07:37.273] Dr. Blandine French: Thank you, Chris. So for you what type of support is there for young people? Can you give an example of your experience?
[00:07:44.900] Chris: With my ADHD, I’ve got different support over the years from family and friends, from other sort of study staff. It’s been difficult to get support sometimes. I’ve not really known where to go. My university have been really helpful. They’ve given me a lot more adjustments when it comes to assignments, and I’ve been able to speak with university staff as well about my condition. And yeah, there is support out there. But I would say that there could be more support available, especially when it comes to the peer support aspect of it and sort of relating to people who are going through similar experiences. But when I did start university, I applied for Disability Support Allowance. They basically linked me with an individual who worked for the disability support team at my university.
And they were able to offer me assistive software, a laptop which they could partially fund for, which sort of aided and helped with my studies. It’s like a laptop, which is a bit more specialized for people who do have any sort of condition that might affect their concentration or their ability to focus on things. So yeah, if anyone’s applying for University, I think prior to actually starting, I would encourage them to get Disability Support Allowance first. Go to DSA, apply for that first, and then you can get software from that. And then also just looking at your university website or speaking to your personal tutor at university or college, they can guide you to a support team who have that ability to give you the assistance as well. There’s also always a support team at university, or at least there should be.
[00:09:55.473] Dr. Blandine French: Will talking about ADHD really make a difference?
[00:09:59.010] Ruth Pearse: Absolutely, because from talking to many families, you can find your tribe. So that you’re not on your own. So, there might be local support groups and local organizations that you can join that will give you information and you can learn more about ADHD, which is really important. There are such a lot of different websites, but websites that I have found particularly helpful and would recommend are– in the UK, there’s the ADHD Foundation and there’s a lot of information there for young adults and young people and parents and professionals who can support you.
ADDitude is an American website, and they are excellent. They have really short articles that are quick to read, which is always great, videos that you can watch, and really lots of strategies. And so, I think, hearing what other people find difficult and strategies to help is invaluable.
[00:11:05.095] Dr. Blandine French: Thank you, Ruth. I think you’re completely right. Talking about it makes you understand what actually is ADHD and what isn’t. So I find that there are a lot of people on TikTok or Instagram that talk about the little quirks that come with having ADHD that I personally never thought were part of the official diagnosis. So for example, people with ADHD have got high sensory functioning issues. So things like sound and touch and taste and smell can really affect how we concentrate, or we don’t like wearing certain fabrics or we don’t like the pictures of certain things. Well, this was never explained to me in my diagnosis. Looking at people, listening to podcasts, giving other people’s experience of having ADHD really helped me understand all the little nuances that having ADHD have.
So I think it’s really good advice to look at that and listen to the people’s experience because then it makes you better understand how it affects you. Chris, anything else you’d like to add?
[00:12:04.730] Chris: Yeah. So I do listen to podcasts quite a lot on BBC Sounds or Spotify. I’ve read quite a few books not really ADHD-specific. I guess, they can be used for that reason. And there’s a book that I would personally recommend, but it’s more to do with I guess, anxiety rather than ADHD specifically.
Well, it’s called Get Out Of Your Mind And Into Your Life by Stephen Hayes. And I find that that’s been a really good book to read, kind of allowing you to anchor yourself back when you are overthinking things and when you are sort of having difficulty when it comes to concentration, just gives you some tools. And I also listen to podcasts at various times. There’s been a podcast before called Balance, which is about more sort of mindfulness techniques and relaxation techniques.
And then podcasts, which are more sort of like just chat shows. It’s not really like strategies as such, but they’re just podcasts that just talk about mental health in general, which I find helpful because I feel like I’m not alone with it and I can relate to someone who’s going through a similar thing. So sometimes it’s not just about finding out advice, it’s more just actually listening to a podcast, which makes me feel less alone with the struggle of ADHD.
[00:13:45.950] Ruth Pearse: Yeah. I particularly like the Neurodiverse. They use comic illustrations a lot which, again, you don’t need lots of words. You just need the right words. And so I love what they do. And they tackle every subject. And I think as Blandine with saying around sensory issues or the heightened emotions that people feel. They may not be explained at diagnosis, but learning more about them and then seeing how other people manage and knowing that you’re not alone is really valuable.
[00:14:19.850] Dr. Blandine French: ADDitude is also very good because it has really specific articles. So you’re right. This is a really good resource for young people and adults because if you put ADHD and friendship, or ADHD and hormones, or ADHD are having children or anything into the search criteria of Attitude, it comes up with loads of articles about how to deal with things like that. How to talk to your boss, how to talk to your peers. Very short articles that are really informative, and it’s really supportive for young people. Chris, tell us how you stay organized?
[00:14:54.800] Chris: When it comes to tools and approaches, I’m personally always– obviously, in today’s world, you got everyone’s got a smartphone. And I use my calendar a lot of the time to stay organized and yeah, keep my life in check with events. And I do forget things quite a lot of time because my brain goes into overdrive at times. But yeah, I find that kind of views and things like to-do lists really helpful.
So whenever I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed with things and a bit overburdened with things, I tend to do like a to-do list just so that I don’t forget things and also just to make sure that I’m in control of doing the things that are more like a top priority versus a task that might just be needed to do later on in the day or in the week. And so, I find those sorts of things really helpful and just taking them off as I go along. Otherwise, I sort of jump from one thing to the next without really thinking about it. And then also with university work or any college work I’ve had in the past, I’ve also had assistive software given to me on my laptop. So, if there’s obviously anyone out there that wanted to look into any software that might be helpful, there’s a software called Mind View, which I use for my work, but also for keeping organized.
And it’s basically a software where you can kind of organize and create templates for your assignments, essays, exams, revisions in a more constructive way and in a way which allows you to kind of do like different views. So like maybe a spider diagram or a bar chart or whatever really works for you. And it just gives you a different sort of visual aspect, instead of reading loads of different paragraphs, loads of different sentences. You can see it in more of a diagram form. So yeah, those sorts of things. And also, I use things like text-to-speech translation apps. And I find them quite helpful because sometimes I find that reading pages and pages of text really difficult. So, I can highlight different text, and then it just reads out for me like in a sort of podcast form, I suppose. That’s always quite helpful to use.
[00:17:45.560] Dr. Blandine French: Ruth, anything to add?
[00:17:47.780] Ruth Pearse: Again, it’s sort of understanding ADHD. Coming back to the first question that the more you understand, the less that you might feel guilty and feel overwhelmed. So if we know that with ADHD executive function, the way that our brain responds to organization can be challenged. So if we know that, we can put things into place. And I think the earlier that we learn that and we gain strategies to help us, the better because that will carry us through.
Like Blandine said, you have to bring in the changes because our brain can only manage for so long, and then it needs change. And so, that is a challenge in itself. So there will be plenty of apps, and I can give you examples, but they also will be subjective. They’ll be what’s right for you. So looking at the ones that have been suggested, and I want to give a shout-out to Neurodiverse, as well, because I got some of this information from them because I know that they will be using them.
So Forest is one of the apps that was suggested and a planner app, but there are a lot of apps. And so it has got to be right for you because you can start using it and then just think, no, this isn’t for me at all. So it’s about exploring what’s right for you.
[00:19:15.745] Dr. Blandine French: Thank you, Ruth. I think that’s a really important point with any ADHD tips. We can give a lot of tips on getting organized and remembering things and focusing, et cetera. But A, it really depends on the ADHD person. And B, what works sometimes might not work at other times. And C, just because one app doesn’t work doesn’t mean another app won’t work. I think it’s quite easy to get down. You’re trying an app and it just doesn’t work for you and you think, oh gosh, I just can’t remember things. But actually, it’s just because this one app is not right. It’s not the right notes. It doesn’t come in the right format, or it doesn’t do the things that you want to do. But other organizing apps might be exactly what you need. So it’s just a matter of trial and error.
[00:20:04.700] Ruth Pearse: Yeah. I think what you said as well, Blandine is that it’s important, as you said, that different things work for different people and they work for a certain amount of time. Otherwise, I think we’d go into that guilt feeling, oh, I’m just rubbish organization, and that doesn’t help. So knowing that you’re going to have to ring the changes is quite helpful when I was thinking through this, I was thinking about the fact that we have our phones on us probably 99% of the time. And that could be a challenge if you’ve got ADHD because actually, you might find it hard to switch off from your phone. However, it’s a really good tool to have plus to use alert. So having a calendar on there and putting reminders so that it comes up on your phone when you need to do something can be really helpful because you’ve got prompts, so everything can go on your phone.
And like your notes on your phone, to-do lists are really helpful to keep on doing. So that gives you prompts. And you can have different sections, home, work, school, and it’s easy. You’ve got your phone. I know it’s not that easy because otherwise, we would all be doing it, but I think it’s finding what’s right for you. I just also wanted to add that have people around you that can support you. So somebody who’s more organized than you. You all have strengths and they’ll have other strengths, and challenges. So having somebody who can help you is really key.
[00:21:39.810] Dr. Blandine French: And maybe help with some things, like for example, my manager puts it in my diary and invites me to meetings, which means they come up on my online diary. So I don’t have to remember that every Wednesday, I’ve got a meeting. And it would be the same if you are at university, maybe asking one of your peers to input the lectures on your diary. Invite you to lectures on your Google Calendar, or any other online diaries. So, asking the support from your parents or from your partner or someone to just set it up for you. Then you don’t have to worry about if you have put it in your calendar or not. And that’s the kind of support that you can get from friends and family.
Chris, are you able to kind recognize a time during the day, like, wow, I need to kind of have a time out? How do you kind of recognize those signs, those signals, and what do you do? What’s your coping mechanism?
[00:22:34.890] Chris: Yeah. I suppose for myself, the warning signs are more when I’m actually ruminating by myself and if I’m not isolating myself. And if that’s the case, I tend to either — well, depending on where I am or who’s available, I tend to either just share my thoughts with parents, with family, someone I trust. I think that’s the best way that I tend to get support.
If I can’t do that, then I always find that either writing out how I feel– I’ve got a daily journal that I have, doing some sort of drawing or painting, where I can draw or sketch something out which resembles how I’m feeling at the moment. I’ve done a lot of art therapy in the past. And then like a lot of group therapy where you do journaling, as well.
I find those sorts of creative spaces really, really helpful. I just think it gives you that sort of external outlet. Obviously, everyone’s different, but when it does come to ADHD, I do find that creative spaces are really, really helpful in supporting me get out of that rumination phase. If that doesn’t work, then I do talk to people. And I find that just communicating how I feel, it gets it out of my system. And then obviously, when I first got diagnosed, I think there was like online research I did in terms of trying to find new coping strategies that I could use in my personal life, but also in my academic studies as well. So, I would just encourage anyone to really do research online. There’s a lot of information on that, be it a YouTube video or would that be some other sort of online support website.
[00:24:31.930] Dr. Blandine French: Ruth, how regularly do you have to change what you’re using to support you?
[00:24:36.635] Ruth Pearse: I think it’s getting the balance because you need to give enough time for something to work. So, they say it takes six weeks to change a habit. Maybe not somebody with ADHD, but it does take time to embed change. However, the ADHD brain lights lots of change. And so I think if you’re getting warning signs that your brain is just not engaging with that method anymore, then it’s time to look at something that might work. The system that you’re using might have gotten too complicated, or you might feel a bit overwhelmed by it.
So it’s finding another system that will work. Keeping it simple is really important and might mean you don’t need to change it so often. Finding, again, somebody to help you. So if you’re thinking this just isn’t working and you’re dropping the ball, ask someone else to help you. And also, look at some of the people that Blandine has mentioned on social media, or they might be using new systems that will help you.
[00:25:39.930] Dr. Blandine French: And is there an element, as well, of again, understanding subtle changes? So, for example, color coding might change how you view the planner, for example. And it’s just integrating those small changes can actually work very well, as well. If changing the whole system seems overwhelming.
[00:25:59.170] Ruth Pearse: Yeah, that’s really helpful. Small changes can make a big difference.
[00:26:05.000] Dr. Blandine French: So what are your top three tips for giving yourself the right support? What are the key messages that you would like people to take from this podcast?
[00:26:14.920] Ruth Pearse: Find someone who can celebrate your strengths and support you with the challenges, all-around organization, and any other way that ADHD impacts you. So having that strength-based approach, find systems to support you. There are more systems than ever. And as Blandine said, those little changes can make a big difference so not to feel overwhelmed. Finally, really celebrate your strengths. So that you have got that really positive attitude that can carry you through the challenges when they come.
[00:26:49.975] Dr. Blandine French: What are your top three tips for giving yourself the right support?
[00:26:53.980] Chris: Top three tips I would say, number one would be everyone’s an individual. So, make sure that you have a few different coping strategies, which you find helpful, and it’s not just about what one person find helpful is definitely the right one for you. So for me, it might be art and writing, but that might not work for someone else. Second, I would say speak out. So family, friends, that external support, just find one or two people who you can trust. It doesn’t have to be a whole range of people, just one or two people. And then three, I would say, if you need that professional support or any sort of therapeutic support, then obviously, the GP might be able to signpost you to therapy services. That’s how I sort of got diagnosed in the first place. So, the earlier you get diagnosed and you sort of get that reassurance, then the better I think.
[00:27:45.977] Dr. Blandine French: Chris and Ruth, thank you very much for this really useful podcast. Do please subscribe to this series of podcast titled, ADHD; A young person’s guide. Other episodes include Sleep, Adjusting to Change, Risky Behaviour. And a two-part special on Women and Girls. For more details, please visit the ACAMH website, www.acamh.org. And Twitter, @acamh, A-C-A-M-H. And don’t forget to follow us on your preferred streaming platform. Let us know if you enjoyed the podcast with a rating or review, and do share with friends and colleagues.