Understanding ADHD

This past holiday weekend my daughter Sarah and her boyfriend (I’ll call him Josh) visited from Michigan.

At some point during the weekend, the conversation turned to Sarah’s housekeeping skills, or rather her challenges when it comes to housekeeping.

Dirty dishes were mentioned. Apparently it bothers Josh when there are dishes left in the sink. They have a dishwasher so it’s just a matter of loading them into the machine. Josh couldn’t understand what was so difficult about doing this.

Sarah tried to explain that it wasn’t just the dishes. When she cleans up the kitchen, she does a thorough job. The dishes get loaded, the counters and stove wiped down, even the cupboards and fridge.

Like a lot of ADDers, Sarah is a perfectionist and she is easily overwhelmed. She doesn’t just see a sink with dishes in it; she sees the entire job that she has to do and she is overwhelmed.

I spent a lot of time trying to help Josh understand this, but I didn’t have any luck.

How do you explain what ADHD is like to someone who knows nothing about it? How do you help them understand how ADHD affects your life?

Communication and education are big factors in this. So is an open mind. Someone who believes that ADHD is an excuse or doesn’t exist at all will never be tolerant towards your symptoms.

There are lots of places to find information about ADHD, including right here. 🙂 Handing someone a print out of a web page, however, isn’t likely to do the trick. Reading about something and actually experiencing or witnessing it are completely different things.

One of the ways that you can help someone understand your ADHD is to let them into your life and your brain. For instance, Sarah might take Josh into the kitchen with her and tell him out loud what she is thinking and feeling.

Of course, for this to work, Josh has to want to learn and understand. If Sarah’s attempts to explain her ADHD to him are met with objections and suggestions, then she is wasting her breath.

A quick note: the other thing that is going on here and may be with you and your significant other is the fundamental differences between men and women. Women want to be heard and understood; men see a problem and want to solve it.

Another way that you can help your loved ones understand you and your ADHD better is through the use of video.

Rick Lavoie is an educator who specializes in Special Education, including ADHD and learning disabilities. He has been featured on television shows, in newspapers and magazines, and his videos have been shown on PBS.

On his website, you can find out about his books and videos and purchase them if you wish. I guarantee that they will help you understand yourself better and let others see you in a clearer light. I especially like “F.A.T. City; How Difficult Can This Be?”.

If you would like a preview, I’ve found a number of video clips on You Tube. I’m sure that you can find others if you look.

Working together to understand your ADHD can enrich your relationships and bring you closer together. It’s well worth the effort.

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About Brenda Nicholson

I am an ADHD Expert, Coach, and Consultant. I want you to learn how to celebrate your life with ADHD too.


  1. kirk horton says:

    As an adult with ADHD, I found I was lacking in sooooo many skill sets. I had poor social skills (my wife can attest to this), poor organization (I can’t find my way out of an elevator), and of course, distractions….

    I finally hired a coach who specializes in ADHD. She helped get me organized. She also had me try Play Attention (www.playattention.com — i think). Pretty cool program. I wear a helmet with senors and i can control the computer by attention alone! It makes me work on filtering out distractions, paying attention, and getting things done. Anyway, I’m doing soooooo much better. My wife is pleased. And Brenda, you’re right — communication is everything. Keep up the great work!

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