Brain-based Symptoms Mandate Brain-based Training

ACO Conference Binder 2012 –
Blog expanded Speaker Content

“Too many people don’t care what happens
so long as it doesn’t happen to them.”
~ William Howard Taft

“Always do right; this will gratify some people
and astonish the rest.”
~ Mark Twain

Throwing down the Gauntlet:
a challenge to ADD professionals

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Brain-based Coaches for Brain-based Symptoms

As we learned in an earlier article in this series, TBI Part I, neuropsychological impairments caused by brain injury may be characterized in terms of three functional systems, foundational in the Challenges of ADD Spectrum dysregulations as well as those of the community of those who have experienced Traumatic Brain Injuries of various sorts.

(1) intellect, which is the information-handling aspect of behavior;
(2) emotionality, which concerns feelings and motivations;  and
(3) control, which has to do with how behavior is expressed.
Source: Neuropsychological Assessment, 3nd  Ed., 1995,  by Muriel D. Lezak

Remember also that, according to the
Brain Wellness and BioFeedback Center of Washington, D.C.
there is substantial overlap in the symptoms that are diagnostic
for both MTBI* and ADD.

“Overlap” commonly includes trouble with some or all of the following: 

  • attention
  • concentration
  • distraction hypersensitivity
  • short-term memory
  • organizing
  • prioritizing
  • impulsiveness
  • multi-tasking

 — and occasionally —

  • impaired social skills, and
  • mood swings

These observations are supported by quantitative data from brain imaging studies with children and adults diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.  Single photon emission computed tomography [SPECT] and positron emission tomography [PET] scan studies show decreased metabolism in many areas of the brain that are involved in various cognitive processes including attentional, inhibitory, and decision making behaviors.

*MTB – “Mild Traumatic Brain Injury,”  a term that has fallen into disfavor because there is nothing mild about it’s cognitive after-effects. Research has shown that even a “mild” case of TBI can result in long-lasting neurological issues that include slowing of cognitive processes, confusion, chronic headache, post traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Evidenced-Based Data and “Broken Brains”

*thanks Patrick!

Thanks to a large body of evidence-based information from the TBI and Learning Disabilities communities, we DO know that brain differences exist.

The success of alternative curricula have proven them to be effective reaching and teaching ALL kinds of minds that might otherwise have found, not only school, but life itself incredibly frustrating and difficult.

The most successful of these endeavors look at learning through the lens of solid brain-based findings, what the All Kinds of Minds non-profit learning initiative refers to as a neurodevelopmental framework.

Anyone who reads or watches television is surely aware of the behavioral and cognitive changes that accompany dementias, strokes, and brain-injuries due to accidents of one sort or another.

Most sensible individuals readily accept that those changes are a direct result of brain damage, leaving areas of the brain incapable of performing their role in the neural relay race, or doing so inefficiently or incompletely.

Why is it so difficult to believe that that someone might be be born with parts of the brain that function inefficiently, or that brain development might not proceed in that so-called neurotypical fashion in ALL individuals, and that there might be similar behavioral and cognitive differences as a result?

Implications to Functioning

Comparing ADD Affect to Brain-Based Imbalances

Taking what we know about ADD affect and Executive Functioning Dysregulations, it’s imperative that all coaches and professionals working with neuro-atypical populations take a closer look at areas of the brain implicated in behaviors common in our client population – even as we remember that the brain operates in a distributed manner, in combination with the body, the mind, the psyche and the spirit.

For the sake of discussion, study and education only, we can isolate the areas of “regulation responsibility” of, for example, the Cingulate Gyrus from the Prefrontal Cortex from the Basil Ganglia or the Temporal Lobes.

We can speak of what we expect to see when one area is over or under-active, for example, or when lesions or swelling compromise the functioning of a particular area of the brain.  It gives us a place to begin, and underscores the importance of the additional, brain-based training essential for any ADD Coach, ADD Therapist, or ADD medical professional worthy of the name.

We can target medications based on what we observe and fashion treatment protocols based on our perspectives of the implications of what we observe, based on information known currently.

And yet, our efforts are beneficial to a client or patient’s overall functioning only to the degree that paving a single road in a transportation network improves one’s ability to navigate rush hour traffic more efficiently – UNLESS we look equally closely at the interconnectedness of the dynamics of the entire system from the point of view of the single “commuter” who comes to us for help.

And it is essential to remember that neuroscience is a rapidly evolving field.

  • New information renders some of what we thought we knew and understood obsolete.
  • As Science discovers more about that miracle between our ears, it is incumbent upon those of us who work in helping fields to continuously upgrade our skill-sets.

Moving BEYOND “vanilla” Models

“You cannot raise a man up by calling him down.”
~ William Boetckerout

How can we reasonably expect to offer useful work-arounds and coping strategies unless we have the background training to understand the parameters of the problems of our particular clients as unique individuals, with brains as unique as their fingerprints?

There is no “motivational” or behavioral technique we can offer or employ that will change the reality of a road – or a pathway in the brain – that needs to be “driven around” to circumnavigate a functional problem.

Still, pointing to a single street – or a particular area of the brain – as THE explanation for the reason why our client’s morning routine takes twice the time and effort estimated as “reasonable” is short-sighted, if not downright foolish.

It is useful, and I believe it is essential, to understand what is going on in the brain if we expect to avoid doing more harm than good in our attempts to help individuals with anything but plain vanilla functioning.

And yet, if our treatment modalities and expectations remain anchored in a time when brain-based information was unavailable or unknown, how can we consider ourselves competent to offer a PROFESSIONAL service?

A Word to my fellow ADD Coaches

On the way to clarifying our role as ADD coaches, and how that relates to the manner in which we must tweak Core Competencies held sacred by those who do not understand or work with our population, I offer the following.

Underscoring comments to therapists made by Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.
at the 1996 ADDA Convention, in her session entitled
Helping the ADD Adult “Take Charge” of his ADD:

“To work effectively with adult ADD clients, [an ADD coach] needs to take on new roles, and in many cases, to shed old attitudes. Many adult ADD clients report having been engaged in [coaching] which was largely ineffective, and at times actually destructive because ADD symptoms were interpreted “psychologically” by the [coach], rather than understood as symptoms of a neurocognitive disorder.

Those [coaches] who truly wish to engage in the most helpful and constructive process with their clients must learn to break many . . . rules of [the coaching field generally], and to engage in a very active, directive process. This style of interaction may not be comfortable for some [coaches].

For others, it may simply be a matter of learning new roles
and developing new areas of knowledge.”

Deja Vu all over again

As I have said since the very first session of the world’s very first ADD-Coach Training, and will continue to say until my dying day, regardless of how many of my colleagues opine otherwise:

ADD Coaching is so-much-MORE than ADD icing on a vanilla cake.
To be effective, it must be
ADD-specific through and through.

ADD Coaching Technique works with anyone who has a brain —
the same cannot be said of some of the older technologies.

And ONLY ADD Coaching Technique is effective with the neurodiverse.


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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

3 Responses to Brain-based Symptoms Mandate Brain-based Training

  1. Pingback: How do brains get damaged? Is yours? | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Reblogged this on ORIGINAL GUIDANCE FOUNDATION and commented:
    This is an amazing article worth reading if you your self or a loved on has ADHD.

    Liked by 1 person

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