In September we went to the ADHD Foundation Conference. The speakers were excellent and we met some fascinating people. The focus of the day was on ADHD but there were plenty of insights for parents and professionals supporting all young people with executive function challenges.
Dr Tony Lloyd the CEO of the ADHD Foundation kicked off the day. The foundation describes itself as ‘The Neurodiverse Charity’, so it was unsurprising but welcomed to hear him explain that their vision is that ‘every school should embrace a neurodiverse paradigm’.
This idea is central to our approach; we believe that we should be training all teachers need to about how childrens’ brains develop and how executive function skills can be supported and strengthened in mainstream classrooms.
In the same vein, Professor Amanda Kirby who runs Embracing Complexity and DO-IT solutions spoke passionately about the importance of teacher training, pointing out how little teachers know about atypical brain development, never mind non neuro-typical development and learning. Here at CiMF we believe we cannot wait for children to have educational health care plans and more support – we need to be supporting them in mainstream classrooms now.
Dr Ed Halliwell, the American psychiatrist, author and all round ADHD guru gave a rousing speech describing people with ADHD as ‘the dreamers, the entrepreneurs, the creatives, the game changers – the people who thought the world was round’. On a more sombre note he explained how people with ADHD can fall to the way side when they don’t get the right support and instead get a moral diagnosis of lazy – citing the high rates of people with ADHD who are divorced, incarcerated and have addiction issues. These, he warned are often are the people who have a legacy of ‘unexplained underachievement’ – something we recognise of lots of young people we support.
We love the analogy he uses to help young people with ADHD understand and master their brains. He tells them that they have an amazing brain, a Ferrari brain, a racing brain, but with terrible brakes, but if they can learn to control their brakes, then they can become superstars.
Another highlight was Rory Bremner – the stand up comedian and patron of the ADHD Foundation. It was fascinating hearing from Rory about how his adult ADHD diagnosis led to him focusing on his failures, and that we need to support young people to constructively process what a diagnosis means. Rory also offers some sage advice which has clearly served him well: ‘ADHD Is my best friend and my worst enemy. Finding the right career and something you’re good at is key”.
We hope this was an interesting snapshot of what was an eye opening day