The Power of Edge Coaching

Since its inception in 2006, the Edge Foundation has demonstrated the power of its coaching techniques in the home, school and workplace settings. The effectiveness of our approach has been verified both in practice and by an independent research study. We wanted to share some of the elements that make the Edge coaching experience so powerful.

The Four Elements of Edge Coaching

There are 4 elements of the Edge Coaching approach that help make it so transformative.

Connection – A highly trained coach working one-on-one with a young person. Not parental, not disciplinary, not teacher, not therapist, and not just a well-meaning volunteer.

Agency – The youth directs the coaching session, not the adult. The coach asks “what is new for you this week?” Whatever the answer, the young person decides what to focus on and that becomes the agenda for the coaching session. The young person is in command.

Competence – The coach uses Edge’s non-directive questioning technique. This doesn’t direct the young person, but instead draws out a description and analysis of the problem being addressed, the young person’s goal, alternative strategies, and which strategy the youth wants to pursue in the coming week. The young person leaves the coaching session with total ownership of the problem, the goal, and the strategy to be used in the coming week. He or she feels competent to carry out the strategy for a week.

Repetition – Coaching sessions happen every week. If the strategy selected for the past week was ineffective, that is acknowledged and the coach and young person determine that a different strategy needs to be developed. This develops perseverance, grit and resilience.

What Makes Edge Coaching Different

Many programs have the first and last element: a caring adult and repetition, whether they bring in a volunteer to drill phonics or a peer mentor to talk about school problems. What makes Edge work is that we build AGENCY and COMPETENCE. We build attributes the young person is going to need throughout life – a sense of control, knowing that he or she is an effective person who can make decisions and control outcomes and practice recognizing problems and changing course when needed.

Edge uses the same techniques that executive coaches use with senior business leaders: draw out a clear identification of the issue, get the person being coached to identify alternative approaches and own a strategy, get together again in a week, identify and own the results, strategize and try some more.

Edge works with a lot of young people who have been given tutoring or mentoring but have not been offered a chance to make decisions and own outcomes. Our program has had great results even in the most difficult circumstances: with homeless youth, young people in foster care, and young people in the lowest income brackets at the most poorly performing schools.

The Core of Coaching

In the future, Edge will extend its coaching programs into new areas and in new directions. But the four elements above will continue to be what makes the Edge coaching approach one of  the most effective ways to help individuals with attention and learning challenges develop self-regulation,perseverance,willpower and grit.

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Strategies for Surviving the First Year of College with ADHD

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Research indicates that college students with ADHD have a greater chance of failing and having to retake classes, getting lower grade point averages, and leaving college without graduating than students without ADHD. This can come as a surprise to some parents. Often these same kids have done well in high school, and scored well on standardized tests. But college life, especially when it is away from home, can be a difficult transition.

Bonnie Mincu, an ADHD coach, writing in her blog Thrive with ADHD, identifies 4 primary reasons for the problems ADHD students have – especially in their freshman year:

  • Disorganization
  • Denial
  • Distraction
  • Derailment

Denial can be a big part of the problem. An article in Education Week indicated that 69 percent of students with ADHD and other learning disabilities “no longer consider themselves disabled once they reach college.” This change in perspective results in low use of accommodations and support. This

Micah Goldfus surveyed student coordinators at a number of colleges and universities around the country to get their recommendations for ADHD students who are struggling in college:

  • Own your ADHD – don’t deny it or think you are going to leave it behind. Embrace your difference and make the most of it.
  • Use disability services and accommodations – Take advantage of the resources that are available to help. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to contact the disability office and ask for more accommodations if you need them. Don’t be afraid to ask your professors for help as well.
  • Understand how you learn best – It is worth taking the time to discover your particular learning style and what works best for you rather than trying to copy what everyone else does.
  • Connect with the wider LD / ADHD community – Many students (perhaps as many as one in five) is an LD / ADHD student. Seek them out and share – either in person or through online forums. You will realize you are not along and could some valuable advice from those who have been going through the same struggles.
  • Understand the policies of your school – Every school is somewhat different with respect to support, accommodations, and policies around LD and ADHD students. Be sure you understand the rules for your school to get the help you need.
  • Explore – College gives you the opportunity to break out of your academic comfort zone. You can try out new subjects and explore topics because they’re interesting to you (not because they’re easy or they’re what you’ve always been good at).

It can also be a good idea to engage an ADHD coach during the freshman year of college. This can help you stay focused and avoid the “4 D’s” that Bonnie Mincu identified.

Whatever your strategy, be prepared for the challenges that transitioning to college brings. Succeeding with that transition can make the transition to career easier.

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Could Childhood ADHD Be a Sleep Disorder?

sleeping-childOver the past several decades, U.S. parents and teachers have reported epidemic levels of children with trouble focusing, impulsive behavior and so much energy that they are bouncing off walls. Educators, policymakers and scientists have referred to ADHD, as a national crisis and have spent billions of dollars looking into its cause.

They’ve looked at genetics, brain development, exposure to toxic substances like lead, the push for early academics, and many other factors. But now a growing number of researchers are asking what if the answer to at least some cases of ADHD is due to the fact that many kids today simply aren’t getting the sleep they need, leading to challenging behaviors that mimic ADHD?

Several studies in the past have identified links between ADHD and problems with the length, timing and quality of sleep. There seems to be growing evidence that some children have been diagnosed with ADHD when, in fact, they suffer from insufficient sleep, insomnia, breathing issues or other sleep disorders.

But now research, presented recently at  European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Conference in Paris takes this a step further and suggests that ADHD itself may be a sleep disorder. The latest data on this topic examined people’s natural cycle of sleeping and waking and showed that study subjects with ADHD had levels of the hormone melatonin that rose 1.5 hours later in the night than those without ADHD. As a result, they fell asleep later and got less sleep overall, with consequences for other body processes. When the day and night rhythm is disturbed, explained researcher Sandra Kooij of the Vrije Universiteit Medical Centre in Amsterdam, so are temperature, movement and the timing of meals. Each change can lead to inattentiveness and challenging behavior.

Karen Bonuck, a professor of family and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, during her work for the National Institutes of Health, found that a large number of preschool children were going to sleep at 11 p.m. or later but had to be up before 8 a.m. to go to school. They were getting far less sleep than the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for children of that age. “Challenging behavior is a huge problem in the classrooms on a national level, and the symptoms of lack of sleep can look a lot like the symptoms of ADHD,” she said in discussing her findings.

While tantalizing linkages between sleep disorders and ADHD are becoming more evident, most clinicians will probably not be ready to accept that ADHD itself is a sleep disorder. William E. Pelham, a longtime ADHD specialist who directs the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University, represents this viewpoint when he says, “Sleep is an issue for anything where you are trying to measure attention. But I don’t believe it accounts for the vast majority of ADHD in the United States.”

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Executive Function Coaching Saves Lives

Here’s is a recent report from Executive Function Coach and Trainer Erin Wilson:

“It was a Friday–I had just gotten home from school, the Seattle summer had started early, and I was exhausted. I was getting a popsicle out of the freezer and beginning to settle down when my phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize, but I had broken the rule of not giving my phone number out to students; so, student was my guess. I thought about ignoring it—Oh, come on! It’s Friday evening!—but I hit the green button anyway.

“It was one of my 17-year-old students who immediately started apologizing for bothering me, and talking of hanging up, but I kept him on the line. ‘No, I’m here. What’s going on?’ I asked.”

‘Well, I am on the Aurora Bridge and getting ready to jump, but I knew you would be mad at me if I didn’t talk to you before I jumped.’

‘Oh, gosh, Malcolm. Yes, indeed. Thank you for calling. I am here. Let’s figure this out together.’

A conversation ensued, at the end of which they agreed to go for milkshakes. She drove to the bridge and picked him up. Malcolm is still with us.

As unique as this conversation was, it is also typical. Malcolm meets with Erin once a week for executive function coaching. Erin mostly just asks questions: “What’s going on?” “How was your week?” How are you doing on your goal?” “What is your strategy?” “How is that working for you?” “What did you learn from that?” “What can you do differently?”

As unique as Malcolm’s problem is, it is also typical. So many kids in our schools are problems, or cause problems, feel they have a problem, told they have a problem. What was Malcolm’s problem? Was it dyslexia or ADHD? Was he a victim of high stress in the home or the neighborhood? Was he being bullied? Was it “Executive Function Disorder?” Suggest your favorite dysfunction.

Notice what bad habits we are in! It doesn’t really matter what “problem” he has or what his “learning difference” is, does it? Whatever the problem, he needs a partner who knows how to strengthen his executive function. Does he need better planning skills? Whatever. Whatever the matter is, he needs practice in owning his own brain, so he can own his own decisions, so he can own his own life.

What saved Malcolm’s life was not Erin’s personality, but a person who was trained to do what few people in schools are in the habit of doing: talking to students as if they are decision makers, as if they want to make a difference, as if they are leading their own lives. Each of us needs another person who acts as if the only thing that matters right now is the choices I make, and knows how to help me figure out the good ones.

Is any work in a school more important than this? How many “at risk” kids would be “at risk” if school were a place for learning to think? What would happen to our graduation rates if school focused everyone on maximizing internally motivated decision-making?


About the Author

Rick Ackerly is a nationally recognized educator, speaker and leadership coach with more than 40 years of experience in schools, 35 as head of school. He is the author of The Genius in Every Child: Encouraging Character, Curiosity and Creativity in Children. His blog is www.geniusinchildren.org.

Ty Pennington’s Extreme ADHD Makeover

While many celebrities are reticent to talk about their learning challenges, Ty Pennington has been vocal about his ADHD diagnosis. Pennington is the former host of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and today the co-host of “American Diner Revival.” He says he is proof that a person with ADHD can focus on one thing long enough to make it happen.

Ty Pennington’s Childhood Struggles with ADHD

For all of his childhood, he wasn’t aware that he had ADHD. In grade school, his hyperactivity seemed in the way of everything he tried to accomplish. As a result, he spent a lot of his time in the hallway or in detention. School was difficult. By his own account, Ty says he swung on the blinds, ran around the classroom, and playfully slapped other students on the back of the head. He would read a book but not remember a word, cause chaos in the classroom daily, and spend most of his time being disciplined instead of learning. He was finally officially diagnosed with ADHD while in college.

He spoke with Nicki Gostin of the Huffington Post about his childhood experiences with ADHD.

“My mom was studying to be a child psychologist and she went to my elementary school to test the worst kid they had. They were like, “Mrs. Pennington, you really don’t want to know who that is.” They let her observe me through a window and within 20 minutes I stripped naked, wore my desk around and swung on the blinds. I was just a complete distraction to all the other students.

Back then, they didn’t even know what to call it. They put me on antihistamines to try and make me drowsy. They tried everything. It certainly affected my confidence and my belief in myself. When everyone’s afraid you’re going to hurt yourself from just mowing the lawn, you start to believe them. Once I figured out I was pretty decent at art and people were interested in hiring me, I realized I had a skill besides injuring myself.

What’s kind of funny is that I ended up working with power tools to pay my way through art school and still have all my digits.”

Finding Creativity Amid the Chaos

Pennington admits that ADHD hurt his confidence and his belief in his own abilities, but he found success by pursuing art, design, and carpentry. Later a modeling scout approached him and he began a career in print advertising, TV, and endorsements. Pennington was able to leverage his photogenic appearance, charismatic sense of humor, and love for carpentry into his own empire of television shows, magazine publications, home fashion designs, and personal appearances. He also won an Emmy award for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

Today he manufactures his own line of furniture and writes a regular column for Enjoy magazine in addition to his work in television. Ty Pennington is proof that no matter how strong the symptoms of ADHD might be, they can be harnessed into a creative and fulfilling career.

Celebrities with ADHD: Ty Pennington

Helping Your ADHD Child Win the Homework Battle

Getting homework assignments done can be a huge struggle for kids with ADHD. It is important as homework problems are often a reason kids with ADHD fail in school. However, with some planning, you can help make homework less of a struggle for both you and your child. .… READ MORE

Homework battles

Driving While Distracted: Tips for Teen Drivers with ADHD

The National Safety Council notes that half of all teens will be involved in a car crash before graduating from high school. The primary cause: inexperience. Teen drivers with ADD, ADHD or similar learning challenges face even greater risks and need to develop driving habits that will help keep focused while on the road and out of harm’s way. .… READ MOREbtw-crash