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Episode 111: How to Help Kids with ADHD with Penny Williams Part 2

Brief summary of show:

In this episode, Penny Williams joins me for part 2 of our conversation from last week’s episode, to share about how parents can best support their kids with ADHD.

A parenting coach for neurodiverse families, Penny Williams is the award-winning author of four books on ADHD, including "Boy Without Instructions," host of the Beautifully Complex Podcast, co-host of the annual Neurodiversity Summits, and co-founder of The Behavior Revolution, an initiative devoted to celebrating and supporting kids with ADHD or autism through neuroscience-backed insights, hard-won strategies, compassion, and guidance. Penny empowers parents to help their neuro-atypical kids — and families — thrive.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [2:03] Are there more cases of ADHD now, or are we simply more aware?

  • [6:50] How to know which steps to take when it comes to an ADHD diagnosis

  • [8:30] Developments in ADHD that you may not be aware of

  • [12:55] How to ask for help coping when you're struggling

  • [13:30] Diagnosing kids vs. Adults with ADHD

  • [17:20] Why ADHD is hard to present

  • [19:00] Identifying behaviors and medications

  • [22:05] The impact of technology on addictive behavior

  • [23:50] Is technology making ADHD better or worse for kids who have it?

Notes from Natalie:

Connect with Penny

Connect with Me

View Transcript for this Episode

Natalie: turn, struggle into hope raising kids with a D H D and autism. We dive into this topic next on the podcast.

Natalie: Hi everyone, it's Natalie. Last week I talked with parenting expert Penny Williams to discuss the challenges of parenting when things just don't go as planned, and it seems like that happens often. Our conversation was so good, I had to split it into two parts. Penny helps families who have children with A D H D and autism.

And today we're talking about the importance of setting boundaries around technology and holding children accountable for their actions, while also allowing for some unstructured fun time. We also talk about compromises and nurturing kids' interests outside of technology. Penny emphasizes the need to remain patient.

And persistent in encouraging kids to try new things and explore their passions. Even if that takes time, I encourage you to go back, listen to the first part, I'll be sure and put that in the show notes before we get started today. So a little bit about Penny. She's an award-winning author, journalist, and parent of a son with a D H D.

And autism. She also is the founder of the Parenting A D H D and Autism Academy. As we get started, I wanna encourage you to hit the subscribe button so you won't miss a single episode of the podcast. And please share this with someone who can use a dose of inspiration and information. Sit back, relax, and join us for an informative conversation today.

Penny. Thanks so much for joining me. We have so much to talk about, and the last time I spoke with you, we talked about changing your mindset when it comes to issues that kind of hit you in that are difficult and being positive, but I wanted to go deeper with you.

Into the topic that you have become an expert in firsthand with a son who is on the spectrum, a D h D. And I know you coach people now in these specific topics.

And I wanna ask you, because as a parenting reporter, as a health reporter for so many years, I feel like, and I think our society feels like we have so many more cases of this mm-hmm.

Than we. In the last few decades, is that true or are we just more aware of these issues in our kids today?

Pennt: I think it's both. I think we're much more aware. We have a lot more adults getting diagnosed, a lot more women and girls who tend to fall through the cracks with ADHD and autism. And I think also there is an increase in the prevalence of it.

And so we have both factors that are kind of feeding into it, and I think it makes it look like it's growing more. You know, that prevalence is totally increasing and I think it's really a mix of the two. So I think, you know, if it's jumping by 20%, it's probably like jumping by 10% and 10 other percent are people who.

Are just being diagnosed that wouldn't have been even a few years ago. Really, it's constantly changing and that really speaks to how we're actually talking about it now. We're actually not ignoring and putting aside ADHD and autism anymore. We're really looking at the concept of neurodiversity.

Accepting it and addressing it. Mm-hmm. And trying to figure out how to weave it into our culture because it's here, you know? And I think that sometimes we get too focused on those statistics. Like, oh my gosh, there's so many more kids. Like I think I just saw yesterday, one in six now for adhd. That's crazy.

Crazy. Yeah. That means in every classroom of 30 kids, there's five kids. With adhd. Right. And that's a lot. It's a lot for our teachers to deal with. It's a lot for our classroom environments. Right. And it's a lot more need when our kids are at school. And then of course there's home and everywhere else in life.

Right. Yeah. But it. Here, it's not going anywhere. Clearly. It is increasing in prevalence and diagnosis. And so what do we do with that? You know, we can sort of try to look at why that's happening and that is important. That is very important. But when you are the parent of a child who is struggling, Your kid already has these diagnoses, right?

Focusing on how it happened isn't very helpful for you. Where you are focusing more on the challenges that your child is facing and how to help them to live their best life with them is really where that focus, I think for parents. And even educators needs to be right. Like these are the specific challenges.

And sometimes, you know, we have these. Terrible arguments about labeling kids and should we diagnose them, should we not? Mm-hmm. And the truth is that the labels open doors. They get our kids accommodations in school. They provide coverage for insurance, for things like therapy, and they are necessary just to even know what you're dealing with.

But they aren't necessarily necessary to focus on once you have them. Meaning my child struggles with emotional regulation when he was young, hyperactivity, impulsivity, I could focus on those specific things and how do I help him with these challenges versus he has h adhd you know, adhd, right?

Mm-hmm. And getting really stuck in that. And so, I think that we have to sort of say, okay, labels are here for a reason and we're not trying to necessarily segment and call our kids out. We're trying to figure out the path that's going to be most helpful with them, and then just saying, you know, okay, what am I specifically dealing with and what is going to be helpful?

Yeah. In, in those times. Who are some,

Natalie: give me some examples because I know there are people listening who will relate to the clients you have.

So who are some of the, many clients that you have that you can coach and you can help? Are these parents who are saying, my son was just diagnosed with. A D H D and I don't know if I should take the medication or not, or are there natural things we can do, or, I'm just giving you examples.

Mm-hmm. Give us a few specifics so that people who can relate, can learn from

Pennt: them. Yeah. And it's really all the things, like it's parents who have just gotten a diagnosis. They don't know what to do. Life is really overwhelming and chaotic. Mm-hmm. Nobody feels good, right. And so they're looking for that way forward.

Early on, they want guidance with that. Sometimes it is parents who have been trying a lot of things and they're just not getting results. Mm-hmm. They're still struggling with big emotions, they're still struggling with dysregulation, they're still struggling with an intense child. Maybe they're still struggling with a kid who's not doing well at school.

And they. Want some change. They want some improvement and they're trying really hard, which is where I was the first couple of years because I didn't know what to do. I didn't mm-hmm. Have that guidance and so I was just trying things and they weren't working. I was trying things and they weren't working and yeah, it was so hard.

Right. It's so hard to be in that place where you're giving everything to help your kids. Like

Natalie: sometimes it's not just helpful, it's not knowing what, what questions to ask. Like you're so overwhelmed. Yeah. Focus, I don't know. I don't know what to ask the doctor, or I don't know what. Mm-hmm. To advise the teachers because you're just so overwhelmed.

Can you talk a little bit about developments more recent? People might not know because they're overwhelmed. Mm-hmm. And developments in a D H D A D D, autism, give us some of the, the recent things that are helping, or advice that you might give because it feels as if we're seeing progress, at least in the medical world, in the holistic world in the teaching space.

Give us some updates and things that might help.

Pennt: Yeah. What I am most excited about in this community is the shift to the neuro behavioral model. Really looking at the autonomic nervous system and the brain and what is going on in our kids' bodies and minds. That is, Creating and controlling their behavior because this is where we get to that really, really deep understanding of what's going on with our kids, and then that creates the clarity.

For how to help. And so we're talking about recognizing when kids are dysregulated. We often talk about fight, flight, or freeze. Mm-hmm. Those are different states of their nervous system. That is their body reacting to something in their environment, sensory, a lagging skill, an unmet need, not feeling seen, heard, or understood.

These are all things that can be sort of trigger. That nervous system, and often in our kids who are neuro divergent adults as well, they have a much more sensitive system. They're more easily triggered into those dysregulated states and. So now we're focusing a lot on, okay, I see that my kid is activated.

Their, you know, nervous system is activated. They're dysregulated, they're not really in control of this. Now that is a signal. Now their body is acting on instinct. They have not. Planned and gone forward with intention. So say my child yells at me. I hate you. You never loved me. You know, which my kid did in the grocery store many times when he was little.

And it was painful, right? Because he couldn't have three boxes of sugary cereal, right? Because he just didn't have the coping skills. I wish I had known then that like, and I knew it wasn't him. It was very out of character, right? I knew that wasn't really him, but I didn't recognize yet that like that was actually his nervous system.

Trying to take control of a situation he didn't have control over. It wasn't him going, well, I wonder if I can really hurt my mom's feelings and embarrass her in the grocery store right now. I think I'm gonna try that. That's not happening. Right. And that clarity of intention and the biology behind those challenges that we're dealing with.

Huge, I think. And it was definitely a turning point for me, understanding that my kid didn't have control over some of that stuff or that it was happening because he was developmentally delayed. A big shift for me was knowing that kids with ADHD or autism, you know, developmental disabilities in general, they're two to three years behind their peers in different aspects.

My son, who is. As far as like planning an organization, he's probably at, you know, Each three, maybe like he's years and years behind because his brain just isn't wired for organization. And so it's very asynchronous, which really confuses people, right? Like my kid does really well. This one thing, he is totally advanced here, but oh my gosh, like why are we so far behind here?

And then we start trying to, figure that out. And we label it, we make assumptions. Oh, he is lazy, he is disrespectful, he's because the world makes assumptions. And that's

Natalie: exactly, that can be really har harmful. Mm-hmm. Difficult for you as a mom. Yeah. And for the young person or even the adult who feels shamed because they're not organized.

Pennt: yeah, we're talking about sometimes, you know, my kid can't get ready in the morning and we're yelling at each other and, you know my kid won't go to bed when I ask them to.

Or we're really struggling in school sometimes. I'm having such a hard time just coping with this.

I just really need help. You know, I had a conversation with a mom yesterday. I just really need your experience on how to cope with this specific challenge that we're having, and that can be such a relief just to talk to somebody who has gone through what you're going through and validates that it's really, really hard, but that also you can get through it That's so valuable on its.

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