Over the past few weeks, many of my clients have requested more information on support and resources for ADHD and Autism. I've compiled a list of notes and recommendations below. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to me (email@example.com).
This is a long blog, so feel free to skip to the header of the topics that you're interested in.
Medication is a tool that about 70-90% of people with ADHD benefit from. ADHD medication helps people to focus, sustain attention, reduce hyperactivity, and reduce impulsivity, but may not always help with organization, procrastination, and time management challenges. People with ADHD often find that one medication works for them better than others, even within the same class of medication. Even trying short vs. long term medication can make a big difference, so work with your doctor to find the right fit for you. Some people with ADHD find that medication doesn't work well for them at all. This happens sometimes and it does not mean that the person doesn't have ADHD.
Some psychotherapists specialize in helping people develop and implement strategies for managing ADHD as well as help them reframe some of the negative messaging they may have received about their ADHD (for example: that they're lazy or unmotivated).
In Bend, Oregon:
Coaching can often be an effective tool to help break down tasks and goals into manageable, actionable steps and then hold the client accountable for the actions they want to take. Coaching can also provide the necessary structure for managing weekly tasks, and furnish an understanding listener during the times when frustration arises. (You can schedule a free consultation with me here)
Behavioral Support & Strategy (ADHD)
Exercise helps to reduce ADHD symptoms. It is important to distinguish between exercise for fitness and exercise for focus. Fitness usually involves a more intense period of exercise, while exercising for helping focus with ADHD can be 5 - 10 minutes of activity.
It is best to work with your brain, rather than against it. This means that when you are having rouble focusing, it is better to just take a break than to force yourself to continue to try. Alternatively, if you are in a hyper-focus mode, it's okay to skip breaks as long as you plan a longer period of rest and recovery when the hyper-focus is complete.
People with ADHD benefit from being able to control the level of stimulation in their environment. This could mean being able to have a quiet, distraction-free space when you need it - or noise when you need it. This might mean wearing headphones or ear plugs in certain environments - or on different occasions.
Changing environments can also be really helpful. Moving from your desk to the couch or from your office to a coffee shop can have a positive impact.
People with ADHD often have the experience where if something is out of sight it is out of mind. This means that they tend to do better when they place important items (like planners and pillboxes) where they will regularly see it.
It is very common for people with ADHD to get interested in a lot of different hobbies. The downside of this is that it can be expensive. Often local 'buy nothing' or 'trade' groups work great for people with ADHD.
People with ADHD find it useful to create a 'launch pad'. This is a place where all of your important things go before you leave the house. Keys, wallet, mail that needs to be mailed, canvas grocery bags - anything you need to complete out of the home tasks.
Calendars can be hard to manage, but they can also be helpful. Calendars are most helpful when there is a place to offload the "to do" items and other things that need to get done, and when necessary transition and recovery time are scheduled into the day. For example, you might have a meeting from 10am - 11am, but might also need to schedule from 11am - 11:30am to recover and refocus. Often people with ADHD can 'gloss over' details of their day. For example, if you need to be somewhere at 10am, you need to leave the house at 9:45, which means you have to start getting ready to leave the house at 9:30 (or earlier). When you schedule all of these tiny parts of your day into your planner, you have less of a tendency to overcommit, be late, or end the day being exhausted and overwhelmed. This is especially true for someone who is gifted with both ADHD and Autism.
One strategy for helping people stay on task is called "body doubling" which means having a supportive and nonjudgmental person work with you to provide you with reminders when needed. (See below for free online body doubling support)
Reframing Differences (ADHD)
People with ADHD often have trouble consistently using and applying strategies that involve many of the self-regulation skills they struggle with. For some people medication helps, for others, environmental changes help - the key is finding your unique recipe and then having compassion for the ebb and flow of its use.
Some people with ADHD will get down on themselves for not "finishing" things, like housework or hobbies. It's important and helpful to reflect on what it means to be "finished". Often we think of being finished as having some kind of final product or mastery, but that's a very narrow definition that doesn't serve people well.
It is entirely reasonable (and wise) to acknowledge that some tasks and activities are so challenging that they are not worth the effort. For example, some people with ADHD will hire housekeepers, or accept that their house will never be as tidy as the 'expected' or the 'norm'.
It can be important & healthy to set limits on actives with friends and family.
It can be really challenging to reframe traits associated with ADHD and Autism as not a personal failing. You are okay just the way you are, and it is even okay to struggle in accepting that statement.
Websites (ADHD & Autism)
Books (ADHD & Autism)
Apps (ADHD & Autism)
Podcasts (ADHD & Autism)
Social Media (ADHD & Autism)
MeetUp Groups (Online/Remote)
Reframing Differences (Autism)
Many people have stereotypes in their minds about how an Autistic person looks and behaves. They might say things like, "You don't look Autistic" or "You make eye contact so you can't be Autistic" or "Maybe you're Autistic, but it must not be that bad because you're able to work." These kinds of comments are incorrect and based on outdated ideas.
Many Autistic people engage in repetitive behaviors known as "stimming." These behaviors are an important means of self-regulation and therefore shouldn't be reduced, eliminated, or altered (unless they are harmful). Many Autistic people (particularly undiagnosed/late diagnosed) channeled this into nail biting, cheek biting, fidgeting, or holding their hands in fists.
Consistent routines and repetitiveness in general help to establish a level of predictability in a social world that feels very unpredictable. Such routines also shouldn't be reduced, eliminated are altered (unless they are harmful).
Autistic people tend to have more focused and intense interests than neurotypical people. Research suggests that engaging in these interests is positively associated with wellbeing and helps Autistic people develop emotional awareness, social skills, and coping skills. Accordingly, they are encouraged to pursue these interests, even if other people find them "too intense".
There is nothing wrong with needing support for tasks that other people can do without support. Our culture is highly individualistic, but other cultures highly value interdependence and relying on each other. What level of help is "socially acceptable" is highly arbitrary and varies based on cultural standards.
Managing the Sensory Environment
Autistic people have a harder time filtering out distracting sensory information. Accordingly, they often benefit from tools like noise-canceling headphones, ear plugs, and other devices to help the regulate their sensory experience. For example, playing loud music through headphones while grocery shopping to help drown out some of the other overwhelming sounds might be beneficial.
Other tools that may be helpful are weighted blanket, weighted clothes or sensory toys.
Because the sensory environment is so important, it is important to be thoughtful about your physical space. The may mean keeping sensory and self-care tools nearby, reducing clutter, dimming lights, using rugs or insulation to reduce noice, and having help keeping the space that way.
It is perfectly reasonable to be thoughtful and discerning about clothing. There is nothing wrong with dressing in a way that allows you to be comfortable. Reducing the decision around clothing can also be very helpful. For example, if you find clothes that feel comfortable, purchasing multiples of those clothes and wearing them constantly is totally reasonable.
Social Engagement (Autism)
One thing Autistic people are taught by society is that they should endure discomfort for the comfort of others. For example, they should make eye contact even though it makes them uncomfortable. This makes it mush more challenging for Autistic people to know when they're feeling discomfort (as they have been taught to ignore and discard it) and set boundaries that they are actually comfortable with. Learning to monitor discomfort, set boundaries and conceive their own boundaries as acceptable is an import goal for Autistic people.
Many Autistic people benefit from preparing for new situations by researching them ahead of time and getting a very explicit and clear understanding of expectations. For example, if you're going to a new restaurant, it is often helpful to look at the restaurant's website, seeing how the outside of the building looks on Google Street View, reviewing the menu, and knowing ahead of time where the bathrooms are.
Autistic people often need more scripting and pre-planning for social events than neurotypical people. This means that they benefit form more time to prepare for events, which is a normal and reasonable thing.
Autistic people tend to do better with digital communication than real time communication as this allows them to take the time they need to process information.
I hope this was helpful. If you have questions, thoughts, or things to add to this blog, post a comment below or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mindy Amita Aisling