Head Injuries – Acquired ADD?


Head Injuries Affect Attention & Focus
whether the injury was mild or severe

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Brain-based Coaching Series

Boing-oing-oing-oing . . . OUCH!

As long as there have been humans, there have been hits to the head. Some of them were a actually caused by those humans!

Much attention has been paid to sports-concussions and severe forms of traumatic brain injury (TBI), especially those resulting in concussions and coma.

The milder impacts, such as those from falling off a bicycle or a ladder, the jolt from a low-speed car accident or taking a weak punch in a fistfight are far more common.

These milder injuries may not entail losing consciousness — more likely to result in a slightly dazed feeling or a brief lack in responsiveness before recovering — have gotten the attention they deserve only relatively recently

They ALL damage the brain, however.

“New data suggests blows to the head are on the rise among U.S. adults and kids, but definitive diagnosis remains elusive.” ~ Scientific American Mind

Questions remain as to how long it takes to recover, to what degree and how quickly each piece of the cognitive puzzle comes back on line reliably, as well as how to identify which brain injuries are likely to recover and why some never do.

Part of the challenge in understanding these injuries is how varied they can be.  But it is no small problem.

Making things worse still, suffering even one concussion elevates the risk of suffering another and may make it all the more challenging to recover from future damage.

Here’s a scary statistic: According to an article found on the Scientific American blogsite, the average a 10-year old can experience as many as 240 hits to the head in a single football season.

Related Post: How Do Brains Get Damaged?  Is YOURS?

Troubles Often Persist

Even when a brain-scan cannot pinpoint specific areas of damage, months after a concussion patients may still have lingering symptoms, including an inability to concentrate as well as headaches — even when initial brain scans reveal nothing amiss.

Dr. Jennifer Marin, a Pediatric emergency physician at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh says, “Explaining the concept of cognitive rest [for recovering from injury] is difficult when you can’t show an image of how the brain has been injured.”

At the hospital, she says, “we stabilize patients but then they go home and a lot of them will experience complications down the line.”

What KIND of “complications?”

Attentional deficits and reduced speed of information processing have been found consistently, in even mild head injuries, despite lack of gross deficits in intelligence or memory (Bohnen, Jolles, Twijnstra, Mellink, & Wijnen, 1995).

These deficits are frequently the most persisting cognitive complaints (Chan, 2001).

From an article on ScienceDirect from the Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology (Volume 21, Issue 4, May 2006, Pages 293-296):

Head injury typically results in diffuse damage (not in one specific spot) that produces a reduction in information processing capacity.

This processing capacity has been broadly described as the number of operations the brain can carry out at the same time.

Individuals with mild head injury demonstrate problems when they are required to analyze or process more information than they can handle simultaneously (Gronwall, 1989).

Decreased information processing has been posited to be primarily due to problems with attention (Kay, Newman, Cavallo, Ezrachi, & Resnick, 1992; Szymanski & Linn, 1992)

In addition, fatigue and/or stress, common following head injuries, have been shown to further compromise the processing speed of those who have incurred even a mild head injury (Ewing, McCarthy, Gronwall, & Wrightson, 1980; Wood, Novack, & Long, 1984).

Related Post: ABOUT Processing Speed

Or perhaps it’s because of slowed processing speed?

Research conducted by Ponsford and Kinsella (1992) demonstrated that the difficulty in performing a sustained attention task experienced by individuals who have suffered even a mild head injury may result more from a slowed speed of processing than from attentional deficits.

Fortunately, even though the speed of performance is reduced for head-injured participants, no significant reduction exists in terms of accuracy of performance (Stuss et al., 1985).

Related Posts:
Processing slower or more to think about?
Processing Efficiency is all about Juggling

REGARDLESS of the underlying problem, the effects on behavior are very much the same as the struggles of those with a particular Executive Functioning Disorder known as Attention Deficit Disorder.

Let’s take a look at what that means.

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Emergency Prep for lives that have A LOT of them!


When SHTF is a DAILY Occurrence . . .
and “Stuff Hits The Fan” repeatedly!

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
From the Executive Functioning Series

“Preparedness, when properly pursued, is a way of life,
not a sudden, spectacular program.” ~ Spencer W. Kimball

Time to revisit some older content . . .
(Updated content from a post originally published in February 2015)

Given what’s going in Texas, Louisiana and Florida during this Hurricane Season, there are a lot of “preparedness” articles to be found around the blogging universe these days.

THIS one’s a little different.

The first half of this article is a good disaster-prep reminder you probably will NOT see many other places – but the second half offers a bit of help toward preventing those “emergencies” in our everyday lives.

Lots to learn from the Survivalists

©Phillip Martin – artist/educator Found HERE

New to the acronym? “SHTF” is a Survivalist abbreviation for Stuff Hits The Fan (with another 4-letter “S” word replacing the one I used to keep things family-friendly).

As with any subgroup, Survivalists run the gamut from the extreme through the consumed by anxiety to the worried . . . all the way to the lower end of the scale: those who are merely cautious.

At base, many of them are no different from savers and planners in any other arena — except that Survivalists larder physical supplies and foodstuffs instead of cash reserves in more traditional savings formats.

They’ve lost faith in the system.

That’s something that many of us here in Alphabet City share with them.  Except the system we have a hard time trusting anymore is The Mental Health Care System which includes hospital administrators and health “professionals,” as well as the legislators charged with protecting the rights of the many in our society who have “invisible” disabilities.

It makes sense to me, given the probabilities,
that we ALL might be wise to expect the best
but prepare for the worst. just like those Survivalists.

Global catastrophe’s aside, the “worst” here in Alphabet City seems to happen A LOT more frequently than in the neurotypical population — and history has proven repeatedly that we can expect precious little help from the current state of the Mental Health [lack of an effective] System.

Let’s not spend time going over all of the ways in which the system is broken and desperately needs changing.  Despite the fact that I’ve been ringing that bell for over 25 years now – along with a great many other Mental Health advocates – things continue to worsen nonetheless.

Instead, let’s focus on what we might think about putting in place to, like good Scouts say, BE PREPARED.

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Impulsivity & Anger: Don’t Believe Everything You Think


Cognitive/Emotional Impulsivity

Managing the gap between impulse and reaction,
on the way
to putting a lid on “Response Hyperactivity”

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part of The Challenges Inventory™ Series

Driving Lessons

One of nine areas of concern measured by The Challenges Inventory™, the Impulsivity category measures impulse control, in many ways the indication of our ability to contain (or at least tolerate) the frustration of waiting.

In other words, the condition of our emotional brakes.

  • Individuals who are relatively balanced where impulsivity is concerned manage risk and drive behavior by weighing possible rewards against possible losses — which implies a brief moment of reflection between impulse and action.
  • Some individuals who say they prefer staying with what’s comfortably familiar, avoiding risks and risky behavior are ABLE to make that choice because they have what I like to call a relatively “low idle.”

In other words, activation takes more energy than the norm, so they often spend more time in the gap between impulse and action than the rest of us — the opposite end of the impulse control dynamic.

While I’m sure they’re grateful for small favors, avoiding a ready-fire-aim-oops situation, their lack of decisiveness costs them dearly in some arenas. Same tune, different verse.

  • At the other end of the impulsivity scale are individuals frequently described as “risk takers,” supposedly because they are strongly attracted to and excited by what’s new and different, lured into action by the call of the wild. These are the folks who are normally labeled IMPULSIVE!

I have observed that individuals who are repeatedly reckless have emotional brakes that have never been connected or, in the presence of the excitement of the moment, brakes that fail.

Good news/bad news

Impulsivity, while certainly a nuisance at times, is an important personality characteristic.

Giving in to impulse without pause for reflection can result in some fairly unfortunate outcomes, of course, but it would be just as unfortunate if that trait had been bred out of our species entirely.

We’d probably all be dead!

The trait of impulsivity is believed to have evolved as part of our fight or fight mechanism that kicks in automatically when our lives are in danger.

The survival of our genetic ancestors depended upon their biological ability to respond effectively to circumstances where strength and action needed to be marshaled immediately.

Since our cave ancestors who did not stop to reflect during life-threatening situations were the only ones left alive to pass their genes on to us, it would seem as if impulsivity is “hard-wired” into the human brain.

In appropriate doses and situations, it is actually a good thing. Not only does it help save our bacon when we find in ourselves dangerous situations, it’s what gives life those moments of spontaneity that make it fun to be alive.

Still, depending on its intensity, a tendency toward action with little to no thought or planning can get us in a heap of trouble. That’s usually when others refer to our behavior as impulsive – and it’s usually when life is suddenly not so much fun (for us or anyone around us!)

Impulsivity in the Emotional Arena

Most of us who have an impulsivity component to whatever else is going on with us have a pretty good idea of where our problems with impulsivity are likely to show up.  If not, we can always ask our loved ones – believe me, they know!

But the most troubling manifestations are internal – what we think about what’s going on around us.

A balanced degree of impulse control implies that we are ABLE to take a moment to control observable behavior, of course – and that we DO that – but there’s more to the story.

It also implies that we are able to monitor and moderate our thoughts and emotions with a moment of reflection between impulse and reaction.

That’s where things get tricky.

When our thoughts jump from item to item (often referred to as cognitive hyperactivity – a mind in overdrive or a “busy brain”), many of those thoughts quickly lead to emotional reactions.

As clinical psychologist Ari Tuckman, PsyD, and author of More Attention, Less Deficit: Successful Strategies for Adults with ADHD reminds everybody, some individuals  “tend to feel and express their emotions more strongly.”

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Putting things on autopilot gets more DONE


Systems Development puts things on Autopilot
and supercharges your Executive Functioning

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
From the Brain-based Coaching Series

My usual Friday post is posting a day early this week, to give you time to read it before Tinkertoy‘s post on National Dog Day – this Saturday, August 26, 2017

Don’t strain your brain!

Some things take a lot of “cognitive bandwidth” — which is a fancy way to say that your brain needs to work especially hard to do them.

Other things are so “automatic” we often say we can do them in our sleep.

The more things you can do without conscious thought, the more brain cells you make available for the areas where they are really needed.

  • Almost everything takes a lot of cognitive bandwidth at first introduction.  Nothing is automatic when we’re beginners — every piece of the puzzle takes concentration.
  • There are multiple decisions to be made – or recalled – at every step along the path of learning anything.  That’s HARD work for a brain. It’s an expensive process, in brain currency.
  • However, once a task becomes familiar it’s sometimes difficult to recall why we ever struggled with it to begin with. It’s become automatic – a habit – a system.
  • BUT systems development will never happen unless you follow its rules.  And that’s where systems development coaching is pure gold.

Let’s start at the very beginning with a bit of review . . .

What IS systems development coaching?

Systems Development Coaching is a way of working that focuses on helping a client discover the underlying concepts that will help them develop systems targeted to what works best for them. I’m about to share some of the ways we go about it for those of you taking the Lone Ranger approach.

But FIRST, let’s define our terms

system is a set or arrangement of things
so related as to form an organic whole.

Whenever you activate a system you are freed from having to burn up cognitive resources remembering each individual step — less likely to get distracted in the middle of a task, or stopped cold by the need to make one of those “expensive” pre-frontal cortex intensive decisions in the moment.

Most people are a little fuzzy about systems, probably because the last systems development training most of us received was potty-training.

How many of you have to actively remember what-comes-next when you’re going to the bathroom? (Except for putting down the toilet seat of course!) I’m sure you rarely think about it at all.

Unless the toilet paper is missing or the toilet overflows, or the doorknob comes off in your hand, I’ll bet you barely recall the trip once you get back to what you were doing.

Have you ever looked “everywhere” for a pen or something until you finally find it in the bathroom – yet you didn’t remember going INTO the bathroom?  (Hey, here’s that little notepad too!)

Exactly!

Systems vs Solutions

When we focus on solutions, we are generally focused on “fixing” – because we hope to come up with something that will solve a particular problem.

When we focus on systems, we develop templates that can be picked apart
to solve all sorts of problems —
some of which we are then able to avoid altogether from that point on.

While solutions tend to be more specific, templates are modular. We can port pieces of working systems to new situations to propagate new systems.

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Read any good books lately?


I have been invited to Guest Post TODAY!
The Power of Reading BOOKS
hosted by blogger Debby Gies [author D.G.Kaye]

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reblog with Intro from the Executive Functioning Series

Although she is in Toronto, Canada and I am “down south” in Cincinnati, Ohio, the miracle that is the blogging community has allowed us to develop a warm and wonderful virtual friendship.

For those who don’t already know her, Debby is a generous, popular and prolific blogger who is well-known for her memoirs filled with both heartfelt and humorous reflections on her own journey through life.

Uplifting and encouraging, each is written to offer positive support to anyone struggling with anything similar to the topics she tackles.

She is currently readying her next book for publication.

She asked me to give her a bit of time to focus on polishing the upcoming gem I’m sure it will be, honoring me by featuring something I would write especially for her regular Tuesday post.

So, of course, I chose to focus on what science has discovered about
the amazing brain-based benefits of reading a BOOK!

I’ll get you started below, and then send you over to read the entire article on her site. (or you can CLICK HERE to read the entire article over there right now)

I’ll respond to comments on either site – or both, if you choose.

I’ll bet most of you will be surprised to learn what science has discovered about the many great things book-readers are doing for their mental and physical health — simply by lounging on the couch reading a book!

If you are not already following Debby, click around while you’re there and get to know her and her books. You’ll be mighty glad you did.


Reading a book has the power to reshape your brain
and improve your ability to relate to others

Reading more but enjoying it less?

Thanks to our ability to scroll through endless words on our computers, tablets and smart phones, more people are reading than ever before.

Still, while the act of reading itself has increased, there is a significant difference between reading anything and reading a book that pulls you into the mind of the author as you take a mental vacation.

Even hours of reading on FaceBook, or skipping from blog to blog reading multiple articles on various subjects, does not seem to have the same positive effect as reading a novel, a memoir or a carefully curated collection of short-stories.

And the more time we spend online, the less time we have for reading those wonderful books on our TBR lists (“To Be Read”).

That’s a real shame, too, because reading a good book is not only an enjoyable, affordable “vacation” that broadens our perspective, it turns out that science has discovered that it actually improves our brain functioning in ways that translate to improved thinking, mood, functional intelligence, more positive and productive connections in our lives, and so-much-MORE.

The impact of a BOOK

Reading a book not only gives us access to someone else’s mindset and world view, it also seems to increase our ability to empathize with people in our day to day lives.

I’m sure that most of us who are avid readers are well acquainted with the feeling of stepping into another world while we read. Most of us also find that our view of our “real” world changes for days afterwards, even when we are not actively thinking about the story-line, the subject matter or the characters.

In my own experience, for example, after spending an evening with a character I could see clearly in my mind’s eye, for a few days following I have often felt like I was reacting as they might have. Sometimes I have the almost eerie sensation that I have taken on that character’s mannerisms.

Science has discovered that there’s a brain-based reason for that experience.

“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.” ~ neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns

Being captured by the world of a book with a strong narrative can trigger measurable changes in the brain — changes that linger for at least five days after reading.

Reading books and changing brain cells

Research from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia (published in the journal Brain Connectivity) found that reading a book can increase neural connectivity in a manner that mimics muscle memory.

Study changes were registered in two key areas of the brain:

  1. the left temporal cortex, an area associated with language receptivity, as well as, surprisingly,
  2. the brain’s primary sensory motor region, the central sulcus, associated with sensations and movement.

Neurons of the second region have been associated with tricking the mind into thinking it is actually doing something by merely thinking yourself through the activity.

Referred to as “grounded cognition,” that is the explanation given for the effectiveness of the practice of mental rehearsal used effectively by many athletes.

Thanks to the phenomenon of grounded cognition, it seems that merely thinking about the specifics of an athletic activity can activate the neurons associated with the physical doing of that activity.

In some cases, practicing mentally has been reported to improve performance almost as much as if the athletes had strained and sweated their way through an actual practice session.

Who knew that the same areas could be activated by narrative reading?

“The anterior [front] bank of the sulcus contains neurons that control movement of parts of the body,” Berns, lead author of the study above explained. He went on to say that the posterior [back] region contains neurons that receive sensory input from various parts of the body.

The enhanced connectivity in the posterior region suggests that the act of reading “transports” the reader into the body of the protagonist. Amazing, right?

But wait! There’s more . . . (click HERE to read all about it)

Book Fountain, Cincinnati Public Library (symbolizing the free flow of information) | © Creative Commons, 2012 Jean-François Schmitz | Found HERE

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Time management tips for better Executive Functioning


EF Management Tips and Tricks – Part IV
Time Management Systems to Develop into Habits

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
PART FOUR: In support of The Executive Functioning Series

Quick Review:

In the introduction to this part of the article, I went over some of the concepts underlying the systems approach and why it works.

Basically, systems and habits help us conserve cognitive resources for when they are really needed. I added the caveat that nothing works for everyone any more than one size fits ALL very well.

For those of you who have the motivation and time to figure out how to make an “off the rack” outfit fit you perfectly, be sure to read for the sense of the underlying principles and tweak from there to fit your very own life.

If you can’t “sew” and are disinclined to take the time to learn (since most of us have trouble keeping up with what we are already trying to squeeze into our days), remember that I offer systems development coaching, and would love to turn my attention to your life.

I am going to warn everyone one last time that few of my clients ever really hear me the first dozen times, so don’t be too surprised when the importance of some of these Basics float right past you too.

The sooner you make friends with the basic concepts – and put them into place – the sooner life gets a lot easier, more intentional, and a whole lot more fun.

FIVE Underlying System Basics

Found in Part-2
1.
Feed Your Head
2. Structure is your FRIEND
3. Nothing takes a minute

Found in Part-3
4. Write it down (any “it”)

In this section:
5. PAD your schedule
PAD-ing: Planning Aware of Details™

Don’t forget, as you read the final principle:

Each of you will, most likely, need to tweak to fit.  However, some version of all five underlying concepts need to be incorporated into your life (with systems and work-arounds in place and habitual) before challenges recede and strengths have more room to present themselves in your lives.

No pressure — let ’em simmer in your brain’s slow-cooker.

As long as you don’t actively resist you will be one step closer to getting a handle on that systematizing to follow-through thing.

So let’s get TO it!

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Change, Growth and Decision Dilemmas


Decision Anxiety
Another glitch in the Change Management process

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Edited reblog from an earlier post, Choices & Decisions

Chocolate, vanilla or tutti-frutti? Early Monday or late Thursday?
This drawer or that one?  Move away or stay put?
Have a baby, adopt a baby or remain a dual-income-no-kids couple?

Avoiding the Agony of Deciding

We each must make a great many decisions every single day.  A few of them we think about consciously and carefully, and some we make quickly and unconsciously – sometimes even really big and important ones.

Since our mental processes are subconsciously influenced by our emotions and memories, more frequently than not we remain oblivious to what really drives those decisions we make.

Then there are the many times we’re thrown into the agony of indecision – even between choices that are actually too small to, ultimately, make much of a difference in our lives.

Change, Growth & Decisions

There is no doubt that the process of change and growth would be easier if it were as predetermined and automatic as the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly.

However, I can’t help but wonder if, were we humans relieved of the task of having to decide what comes next, we would be more comfortable with life’s changes or more frustrated by them.

As difficult as most of us find the process, it seems we are practically “hard-wired” with some kind of drive to exercise our free will.

  • Since early childhood, few of us have been especially happy when someone else tells us what we must do.
  • More than a few of us absolutely refuse to acquiesce. (Why else do you think we describe that particularly early transitional stage characterized by the single word NO! as “The Terrible Twos?”)

So how come so many of us AGONIZE when it comes time to decide?

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Happy New Year’s Life Upgrades to YOU


Resolutions? Affirmations? Intentions?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
An edited reposting of an earlier idea

Drawing of a hand, arm, quill pen and paper, under the words New Year Resolutions - as if in handwriting.

A therapist I know has this to say about change:

“Everybody wants things to be different,
but nobody wants anything to change.”

He doesn’t add, “especially anything about THEM” – but I have always believed that’s what he was really talking about: the devil you know, and all that.

What IS it about change that makes us cringe?  

Never one to ask a rhetorical question without some kind of an answer gnawing at the edges of my mind, I’ll tell you what I’m thinking it is – at least where those of us with ADD/EFD brain wiring are concerned: it’s so darned disorienting.

  • JUST when we get a few processes on autopilot so that we can finally avoid the dreaded decision-making horror with every step of the process, and . . .
  • Just as we get things systematized, automated to the point where short-term memory deficits are no longer as likely to trip us up . . .
  • Some idiot updates the software and nothing works the same way anymore. (Those of us in the WordPress.com blogging community know I’m not JUST speaking metaphorically here!)

It’s beyond frustrating – it makes us feel stupid. It’s salt in an ADD/EFD wound that’s barely scabbed over to begin with.

Our only alternative is to revise and adjust, which sometimes feels like beginning anew — and often is exactly like beginning anew.

It seems that ever since the recently deceased futurist Alvin Toffler first published his only-constant-is-change Future Shock in 1970, nothing holds still for very long at all.  And, forced to adapt, we are absolutely powerless to do anything else about that but bitch.

Is it any wonder that we want to dig in our heels whenever and wherever we have a bit of power and change doesn’t seem absolutely necessary?

  • RESOLVE to change something we’re used to?
  • Change something about US?

When pigs fly, and not one moment sooner!

And yet . . .

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Relationship Repair when Apologies are Due


HOW to Apologize
beginning with how NOT to

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Intentionality Series

Find it on ADDCoach Wisdom on Pinterest – linked to thedailyquotes.com

Just because we didn’t do something intentionally (“on purpose”), doesn’t mean the injured party is not entitled to a sincere apology for the reality that we were involved and that something was damaged – or somebody was hurt – as a result.

Apologizing doesn’t mean that you have been purposely wrong and that the other person is absolutely right. It means that you value your relationship more than your ego.

ADD/EFD oopses

Far more often than many of the neurotypical members of society, those of us with what I refer to as Alphabet Disorders (AD[h]D, EFD, TBI, OCD and more) tend to say and do things that get us into hot water with our friends and loved ones.

  • Unfortunately, according to a great many of my clients through the years, instead of cleaning it up and asking for forgiveness, we tend to allow hurt and resentment to fester as a result of our reluctance to apologize.
  • Even more often, we make things even worse by our bungling attempts at taking responsibility for our actions when we do attempt to say we’re sorry – making it even more difficult for us to decide to apologize in the future.

While we might argue that the above points are two sides of the same coin, shame (certainly a factor), I have observed that only a few of us truly understand HOW to apologize – so we tend not to offer them as often as they are deserved.

That’s unfortunate, because apologizing costs us nothing, means a great deal to those we have disappointed or offended, and is a relatively easy thing to learn to do in an effective manner.

8 Reasons we don’t apologize more readily & more often

There are probably as many explanations as there are people who “refuse” to apologize, but they tend to cluster in areas similar to one or more of those below.

  1. We have collapsed blame, fault, and intentionality with apologyThey are NOT the same, and the presence of the former is completely unrelated to the need for an apology.
  2. Our egos are attached to appearing “perfect” or loving or emotionally sensitive in some black and white manner, fearing that apologizing makes us seem weak, ineffective or damaged in some fashion beyond that which we already fear that we might be.  The opposite is actually true.
  3. We aren’t fully appreciating the feelings of the individual at the effect of our actions, words or behavior, frequently because we ourselves would not respond in a similar manner.  We let ourselves off the hook with the lame excuse that they are “over-reacting”  — contexting our actions their fault.
  4. We feel as if we’re “always apologizing” – most often because we’ve been told that so many times throughout our lives we’ve concluded that yet another won’t really make much of a difference anyway. How can we expect to rebuild trust if we won’t take responsibility for our actions when they are hurtful?
  5. We don’t know how to “fix it,” and we are hoping that saying nothing will allow it to become no more important than a bit of dirt under a carpet.  By the time our attention is drawn to the huge dirty pile in the corner, it seems as if it really could be too late to repair the damage.
  6. They are younger than we are, or less senior, so we allow ourselves the excuse that an apology from us would be “inappropriate.”  Even very young children and junior office assistants are entitled to an apology whenever our actions would merit an apology to someone older or more senior – especially if we didn’t intend harm.
  7. It takes us a while to realize that an apology is probably due – or to work up the courage to offer one – and we don’t know how to begin at a later date.  It’s never to late to attempt to set things right.
  8. We lack the skill. When we believe we are apologizing, the person on the receiving end hears something entirely different: an attempt to shift the blame.

Whatever underlies our reticence or lack of effectiveness, we can learn to apologize effectively, and our happiness with our relationships will improve significantly once we do.

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The Brain: Why much of what you think you know is WRONG


Science Marches On
and older information becomes obsolete

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

The Importance of Life-Long Learning

It’s an essential endeavor for everyone with a brain to continue to seek out and pay attention to credible information that will help us delay – or avoid – the onset of dementia, preserving cognitive functionality as we age.

However, it is especially important for scientists, treatment and helping professionals to keep up with new information and incorporate it into their theories, tests and treatment protocols.

And yet . . .

I have been beating this drum – while seeking new, scientifically valid information for over 30 years now – in my futile attempt [so far] to get some traction toward effective care for those of us with Executive Functioning disorders.

A concept known as Confirmation Bias explains part of the reason that my efforts [and those of others] have, for the most part, failed – but timing is everything.

Related Post: Why we HATE to Change our Minds

Getting updated, substantially more accurate information to “the professional down the street” simply takes far too long, as the continual explosion of partially-informed new coaches, bloggers and pinners confuse and confound the issue further.

They all seem to be well-intended, albeit at least partially misguided, spreading obsolete information all over the internet at an unprecedented rate.  For those who make an effort to continue to learn, it seems that the more that new information might persuade them to update their theories and methodologies along with their information base, the more tightly they hold to cherished beliefs – the very essence of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory makes predictions that are counter-intuitive — predictions that have been confirmed in numerous scientific experiments.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept or the term, you will probably be surprised to see how widely it applies. Once you learn to pay attention to it, you will also be surprised at how it changes your behavior as well as your perception of your world.

Embracing its reality might also encourage you to investigate brain-based information further, allowing your mind to incorporate the latest in scientific findings, rather than repeating information that is, sometimes, decades old.

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Productivity, Focus & Follow-through


What helps & what hurts
– so that you don’t unintentionally
make accomplishment harder  –

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

The Motivation/Activation/Focus Continuum

As I’ve explained in the Activation articles, cheerleading – or any other attempt to motivate someone who is struggling with activation – is likely to backfire.

There are many tips and techniques that can help a person who struggles with Executive Functions initiate action and stay on track to completion, but most of them are counter-intuitive. The “typical” advice only works for the “typical” person.

Attempting to explain the differences between the neurotypical and the neuro-diverse, I’ve said many times, “The reasons they don’t do things are seldom the same as the reasons we don’t do things.”

Different causes mandate different approaches and ideas.

One of the best ideas I know is to make use of the services of a Body Double – as long as both partners are aware of some of the unwritten rules of the game.

Body Double Confusion

An ADD Coaching technique I introduced in Body Doubles for Activation & Accountability, the Body Double concept underscores how simply having another person in the room can make things easier to do — because it is an externalized reminder of the need to stay on track for the person being doubled.

Haven’t you ever noticed how much easier it is to stay on track on certain types of tasks when somebody is observing?

Some repeat information from the earlier article:

  • It’s important to note that the Body Double does not actively help, advise, disrupt concentration or comment outside of a structured, agreed upon set of circumstances.
  • The Body Double’s only task is to sit quietly out of the way, reading or writing while the ADD/EFDer attends to work (unless it has been agreed in advance that s/he will interrupt a hyperfocused worker-bee occasionally to ensure that s/he stops for periodic breaks or for meals).
  • Frequently, the Body Double brings along a compatible task of his or her own – like journaling, knitting or catching up with email on a laptop or tablet.  They’re only there to externalize the observing ego of the person they’re doubling – the witness self of the person they are assisting.

I have observed for almost three decades now that having another person in the room actually helps those of us with activation and follow-through struggles focus on the task at hand, and stay on-task to completion — provided that the person in our space doesn’t feel it is their job to “help” us with what we are doing.

THAT’s where the confusion begins

In general, people tend to think about “helping” as an active state: donating food, clearing the table, fixing a flat — DOing something.

So when they are asked for help as a Body Double, they tend to be as much an active off-task distraction as a passive partner who helps to improve the odds that someone with Executive Functioning struggles will stay on track.

  • They often assume they are at least supposed to ask how things are going, or for a report of what has been done so far, or to remind the person of the items still undone (or something else that also needs to be done).
  • Unfortunately, intruding on the process in a manner that might be intended to be  “actively helpful assistance” actually makes things harder – sometimes much harder.

To be really helpful to someone already struggling with attention, focus and follow-through, a Body Double needs to be passive.

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The Backwards To-Do List


A Different Way
to Help you get UNSTUCK
Help for Activation, Hyperfocus & Scattered Energy

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Another article in the ACTIVATION Series

Expanding on a helpful concept

In last Monday’s article [How to STOP chasing your tail], I introduced a productivity tracking technique I call The Backwards To-Do List.

Over the years, I have received many requests to explain the idea. I hope this article will help those of you with similar questions.

I initially developed this technique for myself, a year or two after my own ADD diagnosis – several decades ago now. I figured it out after realizing that the “standard” advice about making To-Do lists left me DE-motivated, rather than it’s opposite.

Lacking a sense of time, I never could get the hang of how much to put on the darned thing. Plus, my high level of distractibility made it certain that there would be many items undone every day.

As I told you in Monday’s article:

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Unlike our neurotypical friends and families, those of us in the ADD/EFD camp find it more difficult to “let it go” when we see a to-do list with items untouched.

  • Many of us who try the typical advice end up becoming so demotivated that we tend to conclude that “to-do lists don’t work.”
  • Others in our club feel so overwhelmed by day after day of undone to-dos that we end up doing practically nothing at all.

We need to do it another way

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Choices and Decisions


Navigating the Forks in the Road
Carefully Anticipated
– or –

Suddenly Forced Upon Us

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

Describing Decision Anxiety

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost*

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

*Published in 1916,
the first poem in the Mountain Interval collection.

Decision Anxiety?

Speaker_-_ScaredAlong with other sources exploring this poem, Wikipedia informs us that renowned poet Robert Frost (3/26/1874 – 1/29/1963) wrote The Road Not Taken as a gentle mockery of the agonizing that frequently accompanies indecision (in particular, the process of indecision that his good friend, writer Edward Thomas, displayed on their many walks together).

Although we are told that Frost later expressed his irritation that most readers took the poem more seriously than he had intended, we continue to do so because it so perfectly illustrates our experience of decision anxiety.

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Change, Growth and Decision Dilemmas

There is no doubt that the process of growth would certainly be easier if it were as predetermined and automatic as the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly.

However, I can’t help but wonder if, were we humans relieved of the task of having to decide what comes next, we would be more comfortable with life’s changes or more frustrated by them.

As difficult as most of us find the process, it seems we are practically “hard-wired” with some kind of drive to exercise our free will.

  • Since early childhood, few of us have been especially happy when someone else tells us what we must do.
  • More than a few of us absolutely refuse to acquiesce. (Why else do you think we describe that particularly early transitional stage characterized by the single word NO! as “The Terrible Twos?”)

So how come so many of us AGONIZE when it comes time to decide?

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Why you can’t and how you can – Part 1


PFC and EFDs

The PreFrontal Cortex and
Executive Functioning Disorders & Struggles

“The more you know about Executive Functions, their disorders,
and the mechanisms behind them,
the better you’ll be able to build – or rebuild – executive skills,
AS you work around them to manage challenges
and  overcome difficulties.”
~ Madelyn Griffith-Haynie

Cognitive Skills and Cognitive Challenges

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part of the Executive Functioning Series

Executive functioning processes include working memory, focused attention and attentional control, along with cognitive and behavioral flexibility.

These areas are products of a great many brain-based skills we rarely realize our brain has taught itself to do – unless it hasn’t. 

For example:

In other words, the brain’s Executive Functions consist of a collection of mental abilities that help our brains organize information of many types in a manner that we can act on it.

Executive functioning challenges can produce a wide range of symptoms in wide variety of individuals – as well as in the same individual in various environments, at various times, or as they age.

  • Once sufficient motivation is identified, STRONG executive functioning skills enable us to pay attention, plan, organize, remember things, prioritize, get started on tasks, locate items we’ve misplaced (and ourselves within our world) relatively quickly and easily.
  • With WEAK executive functioning skills – without dedicated focus on developing strategies and work-arounds – handling even the simplest of tasks can become life stoppers.

Recalling a specific term, name or birthday, for example, could be as big a challenge as completing an assignment, finding something important you’ve misplaced or adhering to a schedule!

As I reminded you in the last EF article, Executive Functioning Disorders – not just kid stuff, more than a few scientists position the cognitive and attentional struggles experienced by those with ADD/ADHD/TBI etc. AS a condition of impaired Executive Functions (especially ADD experts who have spent their entire careers studying EFDs like ADD/ADHD).

One of my favorite sources is Dr. Thomas E. Brown from Yale, who has a particularly cogent explanation of EF challenges.  [SEE: A New Understanding of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)]

image source: addwithease.com

For the most part, as I have said many times, the executive functions are mediated through a particular region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex [PFC].

WHICH MEANS THAT any individual with a disorder, stroke or other brain damage affecting the prefrontal cortex is highly likely to experience brain-based executive functioning challenges of one sort or another.  It also includes individuals with cognitive and learning challenges since birth.

That includes individuals OF ANY AGE with mood disorders, autistic spectrum disorders, TBI/ABI, and more than a few neurological conditions such as sensory integration disorders, Parkinson’s, dyslexia — in fact, almost all of what I refer to as the alphabet disorders.

Everything is fuzzy when the PFC is doing a sub-par job!

However, thanks to the miracle of neuroplasticity, appropriate intervention can be helpful at any age, allowing your brain to create new pathways it can access more quickly and easily. 

Things can change, even into adulthood – but only once you become aware of the reasons behind the need for change, take new actions, and develop the habit of using them long enough for new “roads” to be constructed between your ears.

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