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

What We’ve Learned About Trauma and Learning Challenges

What are traumatic events?

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network defines a traumatic event as “a sudden and unexpected occurrence that causes intense fear and may involve a threat of physical harm or actual physical harm. A traumatic experience may have a profound effect on the physical health, mental health, and development of a student.” These events are often referred to as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Traumatic events can arise from neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse.

The impact of trauma on learning

Recent neurobiological, epigenetic, and psychological studies have shown that traumatic experiences in childhood can have many long term effects.They can:

  • Diminish concentration, memory, and the organizational and language abilities children need to succeed in school.
  • Lead to problems with academic performance,
  • Result in inappropriate behavior in the classroom, and difficulty forming relationships.

According to research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser-Permanente, these impacts can add up to poor academic performance, and later problems in life, including:

  • Risky health behaviors,
  • Chronic health conditions,
  • Low life potential, and
  • Early death.

Resilience can make the difference

According to a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, entitled Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Lifelong Consequences of Trauma, past traumatic events do not necessarily dictate the future for the child.  The report authors cite the ability of “protective factors” that can counter adverse childhood experiences and  build resilience that allows a child to thrive. They state:

“Children survive and even thrive despite the trauma in their lives. For these children, adverse experiences are counterbalanced with protective factors. Adverse events and protective factors experienced together have the potential to foster resilience. Our knowledge about what constitutes resilience in children is evolving, but we know that several factors are positively related to such protection, including cognitive capacity, healthy attachment relationships (especially with parents and caregivers), the motivation and ability to learn and engage with the environment, the ability to regulate emotions and behavior, and supportive environmental systems,including education, cultural beliefs, and faith-based communities.”

Toward a practice of building resilience

Today, research is leading to a better understanding of the role that non-cognitive capabilities – e.g., grit, self-control, perseverance and delay of gratification play in a child’s ability to succeed in school.  Paul Tough, bestselling author of How Children Succeed and Helping Children Succeed, outlines this research in a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, “How Kids Learn Resilience.” These non-cognitive capabilities form the foundation of the executive functioning skills everyone needs to perform well both in school and at work. Executive function coaching, a proven method for helping students with learning challenges, succeeds because it builds both interpersonal relationship skills and non-cognitive capacity.

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What If? – I have ADHD but I don’t let it stand in my way

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That phrase, spoken more than fifteen years ago by my then-ten-year-old son, still brings tears to my eyes. He wrote this to his teacher on the first day of fifth grade. She had given him a “get to know you questionnaire.” This was his answer to her final question, which asked the students if there was anything else she should know about them.

If only we could freeze those moments. I would love to say that he continues to feel that way all the time but that is not our reality. Having children with ADHD and other executive function-challenges can be compared to life on a roller coaster. As a retired teacher, guidance counselor, and now an ADHD/EF coach, I feel that my experiences have prepared me for the next stage of parenting. But it is not easy. I have come to realize that it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Most parents, after their child is diagnosed, feel that they need to solve the problem. They want to help their children overcome their disability and protect them from the world.   Frequently, we feel that we did something wrong, that we must fix the situation or find a magical answer. I was no exception. After researching this topic for many years and filling several rooms with books on ADHD, EF and positive psychology, I have come to the realization that the best gift we can give is to accept them for who they are.

We do not need to give up future plans for our children but we do need to accept them as they exist. We can be aware of their weaknesses and help them develop their strengths. As parents, we need to help them recognize that as they approach life differently, they can achieve their goals.

Those diagnosed with ADHD and EF challenges must learn to adapt to our competitive society and to appreciate themselves. We also must help professionals, family members and others to refrain from squeezing our square pegs into round holes. What if, instead, we delighted in their differences? As their parents and coaches, we have the power to concentrate on their strengths, provide support when needed, and most importantly, not allow them to use their diagnosis as a crutch.

If these children are brought up to recognize their gifts, just imagine what they could accomplish. If we help them recognize their situation as an opportunity to develop strategies that will allow them succeed, they will become stronger and more adaptable.

I can only imagine the number of negative verbal and non-verbal messages that these individuals receive on a daily basis. What if they could depend on their families to be supportive and their homes to be an oasis of positive reinforcement? What if they could trust our verbal and non-verbal communication would instill a sense of well being, rather than a source of shame and inadequacy?

What if we were able to accept the fact that we, as parents, do not have the power to fix our children or find a magic answer?

What if we concentrated on what we can control, and helped our children realize that they are creative, resourceful and whole? What if we helped them recognize that life is not black or white? What if we helped our children realize that because of their differences, not in spite of them, they have much to offer?

What if every individual diagnosed with ADHD and executive-functioning challenges could say: “I have ADHD but I don’t let it stand in my way.”

Written by: Cheryl Breining, LMSW, M.Ed, MS, ACC, CPCC, Edge Coach, Certified Life and Parenting Coach, The Life Coaching Corner Inc., Contact her atwww.thelifecoachingcorner.com.

Is your Student Lacking Emotional Intelligence?

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Is your Student Lacking Emotional Intelligence?

You’ve witnessed the scenario, the semester starts off smoothly and the student is doing pretty well. The assignments are not too difficult and the academic year is flowing with relative ease. As the semester continues, usually shortly before mid-terms, turbulence takes over. The student suddenly becomes overwhelmed and overloaded, assignment due dates are rapidly approaching and time is running out. The student is not properly prepared and encounters difficulty finding the help needed to succeed. This may describe your ADHD student, but it can also define someone low in emotional intelligence. Those with ADHD may likely be low in emotional intelligence skills as well.

 

ADHD AND EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE?
When dealing with ADHD, we tend to focus on proficiencies related to time management, procrastination, organization, and memory. These skills are important, but we do not spend as much time discussing critical areas that relate to persistence, self-advocacy, flexibility, emotional control and stress management. These areas of personal development, called emotional intelligence, can be learned to help avoid academic disruption. Self-advocacy can help a student to politely and confidently say no to excessive campus activities; emotional control can help one properly confront a problem roommate; persistence can help a student to bounce back from a bad grade on a test to try again with new determination.

 

WHAT IS EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE?
Daniel Goldman, the father of emotional intelligence, states that life success involves only 20% intellect and 80% the ability to connect and build strong relationships with others. Those that are skilled at building strong relationships possess emotional control, self-advocacy, stress management, persistence and other such skills.  Emotional intelligence is defined as using emotions well to guide thinking and behavior. Studies show students with high emotional intelligence do better academically. High emotional intelligence also improves a person’s social interactions and helps one develop friendships and lasting relationships.

Low emotional intelligence stifles healthy social interactions. Low self-awareness and low self-confidence disrupts positive relationship building. The student may lack a healthy network of friendships and relationships with others, which can be crucial in social problem solving and motivation while in college. A student with low emotional intelligence is not comfortable approaching a teacher for clarity on an assignment or feel weird going to the disabilities office and asking for the necessary accommodations needed for academic success. This is because they have not built the relationships and comfort with those persons that would make interacting with them relatively easy. In some instances, the student is not even aware that an intervention is needed. Too often, instructors assume that the student is unwilling to try or not interested in learning.

 

DEVELOPING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Believe it or not, for some people, emotional intelligence comes naturally. This means that it is easier for them to create the bonds and obtain the information they need to achieve their goals. These are the people that can connect with everyone in the room. They may have been the class clown or the teacher’s pet in school. They were probably a part of the popular crowd. The good news is, emotional intelligence is a skill that can be practiced and developed.  Research suggests that by making a person aware of the skills that they are lacking and practicing the proper responses, one can develop the skills needed to improve their emotional intelligence. For a student, this can mean better friendships, better relationships with professors or improved interactions. For students with ADHD, developing emotional intelligence can ese the mid-semester rush and equip students with the tools needed to finish the semester as smoothly as they began.

 

Steven McDaniels is an Edge Foundation coach. He serves as the Director of Fitness and Athletics at Beacon College, where he previously served as the Director of Life Coaching.

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Figuring Out How We Learn Best: Don’t Change the Peg, Change the Hole!

Figuring Out How We Learn Best: Don’t Change the Peg, Change the Hole!

There is an old saying that “a square peg won’t fit in a round hole.” Yet much of education, especially for those of us with learning disabilities, seems to consist of trying to force this square peg into the proverbial round hole. But, can we change the hole?

It’s an established fact, people learn differently from one another. Not only do some people learn best by listening, some by reading, some by doing and so on. Some students learn best in large gatherings and others in small groups. There are people who learn best with lots of noise in the background. And conversely, some people learn best in quiet surroundings.

There are people who like to move while learning while there are others who prefer stillness. In lectures, there are people who learn best taking lots of notes and students who learn best with almost no notes at all.

A traditional school can’t possibly accommodate all these learning styles. The accommodation that helps the person who likes noise hurts the one who likes quiet. Moreover, allowing Bill to move around the room may distract John who prefers stillness. A lecture with 400 people is not a seminar with 10.

Although I would say that special-education schools and programs are better equipped to deal with this glorious variety, even the best can’t do it all. Outside of school, though, we can try to accommodate both our children and ourselves. And, importantly, we need to recognize that our own optimum learning styles may not be those of our children.

Simply finding out how you or your child learns best won’t magically make you learn everything easily. But it will help. Because, the hole may be closer to the right shape than you thought.

Written by Peter Flom PhD. He is a learning-disabled adult, a husband, a father a professional statistician and author of “Screwed Up Somehow, but Not Stupid.” Peter can be reached at: peterflomconsulting@mindspring.com.

Why is Checking-In an Important Part of ADHD/EF Coaching?

Source: Why is Checking-In an Important Part of ADHD/EF Coaching?