Inspiration and insights from the 2011 #CHADDconf

Editor’s note:  This week Rob Tudisco shares some highlights from the 2011 CHADD annual conference.  Highlights include a summary of Ned Hallowell and Dr. Russel Barkley’s talk, Is ADHD a gift or a disability, and Dr. Tim Wilens’s perspective on ADHD coaching as an effective strategy for college students. Enjoy!

I recently returned from CHADD’s National Conference in Orlando and as always it was an inspiring experience.  Attending a large conference is a reminder of the extraordinary community I work within.  Organizations like CHADD and Edge are not websites or status updates, but people whose lives have been touched by ADHD.  Meeting with parents, educators, coaches and clinicians encourages the comfort of knowing that none of us are alone with living with the challenges that ADHD presents. 

 2011 CHADD National Conference Highlights

Dr. Timothy Willens, MD discussed his work with adolescents and college students.  He identified treatment options, behavioral support and exercise as a part of a multi-modal approach to addressing ADHD symptoms.  Dr. Willens also directly advocated for the importance of ADHD coaching for college age students, citing a body of growing research about its efficacy and capacity of  ADHD coaching to provide structure, support and accountability.  His report was a significant indicator that ADHD coaching is growing in popularity, understanding and legitimacy in the ADHD community.

Is ADHD a gift or a disability?

The closing plenary session was a co-presentation by Dr. Russell Barkley and Dr. Edward Hallowell. The two have long been rumored to have polarized views on the nature of ADHD and whether or not it is a gift of creativity or a completely debilitating disorder.  Barkley and Hallowell outlined their common understanding backed up by solid statistical evidence.

Barkley and Hallowell agree on the following points:

  •  ADHD is a potentially disabling disorder that has very serious consequences if not treated.
  • The mind of someone with ADHD is like having a “Ferrari for a brain, with bicycle brakes.”
  • With proper treatment, individuals with ADHD are capable of amazing feats and accomplishments.
  • With effective treatment includes therapy and (notably) coaching, individuals with ADHD can achieve their potential.
  • Once the challenges of ADHD are addressed through treatment, the resilience that people have developed over years of dealing with their ADHD can help them accomplish great things.

Two final thoughts from Hallowell I found inspiring:

  • ADHD is not necessarily a gift, but through treatment his patients unwrap the gifts of their own unique talents, while clearing away the distraction of their ADHD, so that their individual talents can shine through.
  • The unique creative perspective of ADHD is “impulsivity gone right!”

The conference was a phenomenal experience that left me reenergized.  I strongly encourage all of you to look into attending conferences such as this in the future.

~Robert Tudisco, Edge Foundation Executive Director


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