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ADHD and Giftedness - A Coach's Perspective by Ian and Kimberlee King [Spark 1(2), p. 6-7]

September 01, 2013 8:09 PM | Deleted user

Ian and Kimberlee King are Life Coaches/ Consultants who specialize in working with people who are both Gifted and AD/ HD. While not all their clients fall into this category, they have a unique approach and an understanding of this special group of highly talented people. Learn more about Ian and Kimberlee King at Inspired Attention.

We have a very unique clientele. Our clients are, for the most part, gifted, even though many of them refute the label, and they all have AD/HD tendencies, some diagnosed, some not. We say AD/HD “tendencies” because many clients are never formally diagnosed and honestly, we could care less about the diagnosis. What we care about are the impacts these “tendencies” are having on the quality of our client’s life.


AD/HD tendencies might include having 157 ideas all at once (usually most of them are really great!), starting many projects and finishing few, forgetfulness, poor time awareness, disorganization, transition problems, relationship challenges, intensity, demoralization, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, and addiction. Many are surprised to learn that the AD/HD brain is a highly addictive brain and that can dramatically impact one’s life. Most people understand that AD/HD is a low dopamine state in the brain. And many who have AD/HD people in their families have done their research and understand the benefits of medication to mitigate this low dopamine state. Some of our clients have had great success with their medication, some have struggled to find a medicine that works for them, and others have chosen not to medicate. Medicated or not, all of our clients have a desire to master their tendencies, exploit their strengths, and grow beyond their current state.


Some of our clients are successful entrepreneurs, executives, college students, families, adolescents...really, there is no “typical” client, although there are typical impacts. Our clients are all wildly unique and require a very holistic approach. Every gifted AD/HD person is like a wonderful puzzle that requires enormous patience and love.
Instead of repeating what others have said about AD/HD or even giftedness, we wanted to share with you some of our lessons learned about working with gifted and AD/HD individuals that might cause you to think, or even prove useful along your own path.

1. "You have to capture the heart before you can open the head for change.” --Peter S. Jensen, M.D., co-author of Super-Parenting for AD/HD
Gifted people, especially those who are working with a challenge like AD/HD, tend to better connect with a peer. This means that to coach a gifted person with a fast processing brain, you need to be able to keep up. Their humor is fast and complex and so is their internal defense mechanism. If the coach cannot keep up or provide stimulating conversation, the connection is weak and the client will have difficulty trusting that the coach is capable of understanding. Connection is critical for the client to feel safe to take the vulnerable steps necessary for transformative change. Also, someone with the personal internal experience of these issues is going to be a better fit as long as they are well-managed. An AD/HD coach with AD/HD must be extremely adept at managing their own tendencies. And if those tendencies are well-managed, the modeling is incredibly powerful.

2. "Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you." -- Roger Ebert
Intensity - If you know anything about gifted people, you know they are intense. Their range of emotions is larger than most. That can be an incredible gift. And having such intense emotions, including tears of joy and existential depression, can be difficult at times to bear. A coach needs to be able to empathize with this intensity and help the client find the value of both the positive and negative emotions.

More than these things, our clients’ intensities are some of their biggest strengths. Without intensity, there is little radical change in our world. Our clients are often change agents in their own environment. Sometimes to the positive, other times not. What we support in our clients helps them to work towards ownership and mastery of their impacts, allowing new possibilities that did not exist before.

3. "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." --Albert Einstein
What is really necessary for sustainable change is training and learning a different internal decision making model. One must move out of a head-oriented decision making model into a body-oriented model. The head is a really wonderful processor of information, but a really bad place to find answers. Our “knowings” are in our body. Many of our AD/HD, gifted clients have taken refuge from their intense “feelings” in their bodies and taken up residence in their cortex. We teach them (and they teach themselves) how to move out of their heads to make decisions that line up with their true selves. When this occurs, that endless loop of similar frustrations and recurrent circumstance changes radically.

4. "Children require guidance and sympathy far more than instruction.” --Anne Sullivan, teacher to Helen Keller
The demoralization that our clients have suffered has often turned them into their own worst enemy. Having endured a lifetime (however long it’s been) of being told they are not living up to their potential or failing at school or at jobs or relationships, our clients have gathered enough emotional scars to shock even a seasoned psychologist. This must be addressed. The self limiting belief that they are broken or failures or lazy or unworthy must be turned around, and this can be no easy task.

Once the client has brought these false beliefs up to themselves, with a further understanding of their chemical make-up, gifts, talents, and strengths, they can often make extraordinary strides towards new places. Other times, if moving forward is not possible, we partner with therapists and other colleagues to augment our clients’ strengths. Every person needs a team. We support our clients to be the captain of theirs.

5. "The medical diagnosis of the mind therefore risks creating new disorders, the disorders we’ve cited, such as shame, fear, inferiority, loss of hope, reduced enthusiasm, shattered dreams, and despair.” --Edward Hallowell, M.D.
It takes a strength-based approach. We do not look at AD/HD as a dysfunction. Gifted individuals are wildly resistant to being viewed as broken despite their own raging inner critic. We look at it as functionality. This style of brain has huge gifts and what it is capable of doing is astounding. The client needs to understand how to exploit their gifts to extreme. Then, the challenges begin to shrink, and the client begins to believe that they are capable of overcoming them.

In conclusion, we never see our clients as anything but creative, resourceful, and whole. They have all the answers they will ever need inside them. Gifted and AD/HD people are some of THE most brilliant people on the planet. Their gifts are limitless. Yet very often they do not thrive until one person sees them for who they really are. To be seen is all they need to find the inner courage to set aside their self-limiting beliefs and alter their negative perceptions. That is when we, as coaches, find our clients coming up with their own accommodations and strategies. Eventually they learn to coach themselves, and step into a new way of embracing their unique way of functioning.


Reprinted [in Spark] with permission of Inspired Attention, Inc.

Posted retroactively on March 13, 2015. 

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