As the summer winds down and the prospect of returning to College is fast approaching, I thought it would be a great time to reflect on this life changing year. I moved from BC to Nova Scotia in search of change; I found that and so much more. In July 2011, I started what would turn out to be the biggest life changing event of my life. I enrolled at the ADD Coach Academy (ADDCA) and began to peel back the layers of my ADHD to expose who I was at the core. What I realized in this process was that I had the beginnings of a great foundation and just had to figure out how to make my ADHD work for me instead of it controlling my life. It didn’t take long at all for the light bulb to go off! Within months I was incredibly enlightened and filled with purpose and passion. I was excited for what the future would bring and my attitude reflected that excitement. While my coach played and integral role in this transformation, I was the one drivers seat and I wasn’t ever going to look back.
In September of 2011 I started college after being out of school (with the exception of trade school which I completed as a Red Seal Plumber / Gasfitter in 2007) for the better part of 15 years. I never was a star student by any means, so the idea of returning to school should have been somewhat intimidating. I made a conscious decision to block out any negative concerns I had about the upcoming year and allowed myself to be free and confident as I faced this exciting transition in my life. Not only did I excel this past year but I proved to myself once and for all that this is where I was meant to be all along. Human Services is not an easy course by any means. At the core of the program, you are expected to also dig deep and peel back any emotional layers that are getting in your way of success. You were also expected to relate life experience to help you relate to the course material. The professors at NSCC were incredibly supportive with the fact that ADHD was at the forefront of my thoughts and encouraged me to use that as a “lived resource” throughout the year.
In October of 2011 I started the ADHD EMPOWERMENT HOUR; a weekly FREE ADHD support group that grew from an idea to over 13 students (including one from a neighboring University). This group allowed me to tie all that I was learning at Coaching school in with what I was learning in Human Services and have a place to deliver my insight. We all learned a lot about ourselves and some close bonds were formed in the experience. I am excited to come back again this year and offer the group to returning as well as incoming students.
As a result of putting on the group, I quickly came to realize that ADHD was not the only thing that affected students. As the first semester went on and the stress of school built, I found that there were bigger issues on the table (depression, anxiety, etc) which triggered me to educate myself as much as possible on this. In late November, a group of mental health consumers were invited to speak on their experience with mental illness in our psychology class. The aforementioned symptoms were discussed along with many others. They were spreading the message of Peer Support and how to best support their peers through their own life experience. This was exactly what I was looking for and in January of 2012 I made a call to CMHA and by the next week I was volunteering with this program. I have gained an incredible amount of empathy working with this group and continue to be inspired by them to this day. I attend weekly 2 hour round table meetings and we are in the process of figuring out how to expose this incredible service within the community.
In February 2012, a month before Coaching school was coming to an end, I received a call from Joy LaRusic (Disability Coordinator at NSCC, Truro campus) who had exciting news. She had been talking to the provincial disabilities coordinator who and received an inquiry from a local University into ADHD Life Coaching. She asked Joy if she had ever heard of such a thing and with that call the next chapter of my life was launched. I began Coaching this student the following week and invited her to attend the ADHD EMPOWERMENT HOUR whenever she could. I had slowly been plugging away on the business plan, logo and website while in school full time during the day and Monday to Thursday, my nights were consumed with Coaching school. There was no time to lose however, and in early March 2012 I launched my business ADDvocacy ADHD & Life Skills Coaching Ltd. Two weeks later, while everyone was enjoying spring break, I was fully engulfed in creating my website and within 3 days, I had all the content written, photo’s purchased and layout in place. By early April, I celebrated my official website launch www.ADDvocacyCoach.ca which came out looking amazing thanks to my website developer (Amy Gibbs) who I would highly recommend to anyone looking to have a site done up for them. School came to an end in mid April 2012. I had finished the year with a 89% average and completed training at ADDCA. I also managed to acquire 2 awards in school; one for the ADHD Empowerment hour and the other for professionalism in writing.
So what is in store for this year? Well, I am returning to NSCC to do the Disability Supports and Services Concentration (http://www.nscc.ca/learning_programs/programs/plandescr.aspx?prg=HUSV&pln=HS-DISABSP) and am looking at obtaining a Bachelor of Community Service (http://www.cbu.ca/academics/bacs/degrees) from Cape Breton University in 2014 (or a BSW from Dalhousie) more than likely through distance learning so I can continue with my Coaching practice. I will again be facilitating the ADHD EMPOWERMENT HOUR this year but will run it bi-weekly because on off weeks I will be assisting with a new pilot project called Peer Support. Twyla Wilband (Peer Support Specialist) along with myself and a few volunteers are starting a Peer Support Group which will cater to students who are experiencing any kind of mental health challenges. This ranges from depression (home sickness, overwhelm with school, new found accountability and independence, etc) to anxiety (tests, course load, money matters, etc) to life skills (everyday living, adult responsibilities, sleep, nutrition, exercise, etc) to any kind of mental health concern that may arise. We will facilitate this group to fit the needs of our students and the goal is to be able to provide 1-1 support for those students who really need it. We hope to be able to get to students before they start slipping through the cracks (failing, dropping out, giving up) and will work from empathy rather than a top down approach to ensure maximum comfort from the students perspective. I am really excited about this program! Peer Support, while not a new concept, is gaining a lot of recognition here in Nova Scotia as of late. In fact, students in the Mental Health and Recovery program (NSCC Yarmouth) as receiving this training as part of their curriculum now. Only those with lived Mental Health experience can officially call themselves a Peer Support Specialist, but the training can be beneficial for all.
So what’s happening with the ADHD Coaching? Well, that is the most exciting part of this story! I am in the process of being matched with incoming students at NSCC and ADHD Coaching is now a service that you can request at the Truro Campus (other Universities have expressed strong interest as well and I am projecting that by next year it will be available in all of Nova Scotia) if you have a diagnosis of ADHD and are approved for funding. The only way for this partnership to be effective is for the student to really want to embrace the process. My job is to empower students to develop structure, support and accountability on their own terms and take control of their own lives. Everyone possesses the ability to change but it must come from within (not from any other outside source or influence) if it is going to work for the duration. Up to this point, the only service that was somewhat relevant to coaching was tutoring. But, as we all know, tutoring is there to increase academics which is necessary for some but that is not where the majority of people with ADHD lack. In fact only 20-30% of those who have ADHD have a co-existing learning disability! Where as 50-70% will experience depression or anxiety primarily due to a lack of self awareness and self esteem. ADHD Coaching is a student driven partnership which encourages the following but is not limited to self management, time management and organization. The goal is that by the end of the school year (7 months) you will be equipped with the necessary skills to confidently be able to self advocate for yourself and your needs in the years to come. Coaching is not meant as a life long process (while some students may require extra time or ongoing maintenance sessions) but a short term, concentrated empowerment of skills that will last a life time. In your future scholastic, work and relationship endeavors, you will be able to accurately articulate which accommodations will help you excel. Lack of self awareness will be replaced with self confidence…imagine having control of your life the way you want to live it with purpose and passion!
So am I excited about this year? You bet! In addition to the Coaching, I have been asked to facilitate multiple workshops both at NSCC and Dalhousie University and constantly thinking up new workshops to put on (Please to post your ideas in a reply!). I am also available for coaching self motivated students 16 and up as well as adults around work, relationships, and life in general. Feel free to drop into my FREE monthly Adult focussed ADHD Empowerment Group on the first Tuesday of every month from 6:30-8:00pm at 25 Revere St. (CMHA Building) in Truro, NS.
ADHD does not have to hold you back! It’s actually a gift and I am dedicated to helping you unwrap it!