I’m writing this on my return flight after attending the 2016 CHADD conference and visiting old friends in California. I had the pleasure of meeting ADHD experts from around the country, including authors, ADHD coaches, executive coaches, trainers of coaches, psychotherapists, parent coaches, and advocates. 

I attended sessions on women with ADHD, college students, ADHD and meditation research, and recent research on adults with ADHD who did not meet diagnostic criteria in their youth. One keynote speaker was Dr. Thomas Brown (Brown ADD Scales) who highlighted what research tells us about the ADHD brain and the effects of this neurological difference. Dr. Brown shared a metaphor about adult ADHD that came to him from a former client: “ADHD is like erectile dysfunction of the mind…if you can’t get it (your attention) up, you can’t get it to work.”

Another keynote speaker was Dr. Susan Smalley (suesmalley.com), founder of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, whose early work focused on genetics and ADHD. She presented research that makes a compelling case for practicing mindfulness. She said it clearly helps individuals manage their emotional lives effectively and direct their attention intentionally. Her research shows that the benefits are achieved relatively quickly.

A third keynote speaker was Dr. Luis Rhodes, who highlighted his research in New Zealand, and a colleague’s in Brazil, on adults with ADHD who appear not to have had ADHD in their youth. Dr. Rhodes made a case for eliminating the “age of onset” criterion in diagnosing ADHD.

I met with a number of experts, authors, and creative entrepreneurs: Casey Dixon (dixonlifecoaching.com), an ADHD coach and mindfulness practitioner who specializes in coaching attorneys and professionals with ADHD; Melissa Orlov (adhdmarriage.com), Nancie Kohlenberger (BA4Us.com), and Steve Kohlengerger, who specialize in ADHD in marriages; Elaine Taylor-Klaus (impactadhd.com), a parenting coach, author, and speaker; Elaine’s daughter Brex, who at age 22 is a successful actor in Los Angeles; Dr. Alan Graham (act10.com), an ADHD coach and psychologist; Jessica McCabe (YouTube: bit.ly/howtoadhd), a talented YouTube personality and advocate; and Dr. Harvey Parker (addwarehouse.com), founder of CHADD, ADD Warehouse, and Specialty Press. Dr. Parker is an author and psychologist who currently provides medical education to physicians (naceonline.com).

In Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of meeting Sylvia Castillo, community organizer, and social justice advocate for poor people, immigrants and people of color. Those natural roles were forged in response to the Ku Klux Klan’s campaign of hatred and violence in the early 1960’s. Sylvia’s family were targets simply for being a Latino family in a white community. She told me she wasn’t aware of her difference until her family moved from Pico Rivera, a Mexican American suburb, to Long Beach. She and her sisters lived with threats of violence in childhood for integrating into a majority white school system in California. Sylvia’s mother had to raise her children to reject the slurs white students were calling them and teach them courage and tolerance.  Her mom was an activist who once worked with Robert Kennedy. Sylvia shares my concern for minority youth—including those with ADHD—who are at risk for entering the juvenile corrections system more easily than the mental health system. 

Let’s continue to embrace our neurological difference, as well as the multinational diversity that defines American culture. We all belong.

If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be drowning every day. – Leonard Cohen

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