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ADD Is A Language Of Its Own

My husband and son were diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder about eight years ago. We knew that our personal and professional lives seemed to be in constant CHAOS. We thought most of our problems were due to lack of good organizational procedures. We tried a myriad of organizational techniques. Then we tended to focus on those TECHNIQUES rather than to the demands of our businesses.

The following example shows how CHAOTIC our business day could become. My husband would put a phone customer on hold, start a different conversation with me, turn and start talking to an employee and without completing any of these conversations, walk out into the shop and within seconds be in a car with another customer on a test drive. All the while the phone customer, the employee and I were all waiting for him to FINISH our conversations. By this time, my husband had forgotten us all! He was focused on the car he was test driving. When any of us called the shop and he answered, we knew if he put us on hold, we would probably soon be FORGOTTEN. It left us all frustrated, including him. He knew he had poor communication skills, but nothing he did seemed to stop the constant commotion that engulfed him.

When my husband was diagnosed, we learned why Attention Deficit Disorder causes havoc in interpersonal COMMUNICATIONS -- at work and at home. Many marriages and families are split apart by this malady. We were determined not to let that happen to us. Our goal was to find a better way to communicate.

From studies we know that Attention Deficit Disorder has to do with the CHEMICAL make-up of the brain impulses and how they process information. These individuals have a brain processing speed that runs much faster than the rest of us. It would be like having a super computer with high speed access, always on and always processing information and data. This person processes all incoming information (conversation, colors, shapes, noises, temperature, etc.) with the same IMPACT. It's comparable to a computer processing information from multiple data sources simultaneously. The computer lacks an emotional component and simply processes the data. Those of us without this condition often fail to jump from topic to topic as quickly as they do. Frustration builds up, and communication breakdown is always the result.

We have discovered a set of communication tools to help. To effectively communicate, we must first understand and respect how we are different. By using these simple tools, the Attention Deficit Disorder person's feelings of being emotionally ATTACKED and needing to fight back are virtually eliminated. Productive communication as well as emotional bonding is now possible. When chaos starts to take over, the non-Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder person has a greater influence in a shorter time to restore order and harmony. This allows the other individual to become more productive and calmer.

I have people visualize a COMMITTEE MEETING. Committees follow Robert's Rules of Order. They have an agenda that covers the issues to be discussed and voted on at the meeting. The Committee Chairperson is responsible for following the agenda and keeping ORDER during the meeting. Each committee member can "take the floor", when recognized by the Chairperson, to give their opinions on the various issues. This is done in an orderly way so that all may hear and consider each position. Then a vote on each issue is taken. A person with Attention Deficit Disorder often feels they have an entire committee functioning in their brain at all times. I believe we all have similar committees inside our brains. The difference is in the RULES of behavior that our committee functions under.

To an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder person there is no such thing as Robert's Rules of Order. Their committee flat-out refuses to follow a planned agenda. Each committee member constantly tries to shout down the others for CONTROL. The Chairperson often gets up and leaves, which, of course, results in PANDEMONIUM. When this happens, the individual appears to be like a pinball bouncing from one topic to another at lightening speed. To go back to our computer analogy: A computer can run one program in the foreground and several others in the background. The person has trouble running programs in the background. Everything wants to run in the forefront at all times.

This committee member is responsible for overseeing the rest of the family's NEEDS -- handling everything from financial support to laundry and shopping. They give counsel, teach and encourage family members to function in a stable manner with the world around them. All information is processed through this parental lens. They have rules and behavior GUIDELINES they expect all family members to obey. 

This committee member has compassion, understanding and acceptance for all people everywhere. He/She often stays in the background and only speaks up on issues of CONSCIENCE. During Christmas holidays this is the committee member who tries to remind the rest of the committee of their need to love their fellow man. They provide the spiritual BALANCE on all issues. 

This member fights for truth, justice, the American way. Their general attitude is to let the world know unacceptable behavior will not be tolerated without a RESPONSE. If He/She is provoked by anyone honking their horn, flinging gestures or insults, the Superhero will demand justice and try to force the body of the person into physical altercation. This committee member yells a lot as He/She tries to FORCE their opinion upon the rest of the committee. They can easily be filled with anger, rage and/or justification. 

These are only three examples of an entire "committee". It is crucial for those of us not afflicted to understand the constant TURMOIL going on inside the head of an Attention Deficit Disorder person. Each member is constantly yelling louder and they each want to debate and vote on every issue as soon as it comes into the brain. With lots of work and fine tuning, and in many cases medication, the person can learn to CONTROL their "committee" much of the time, and keep the Chairperson in charge of the meeting. Understanding this new "communication" tool allows others to move a conversation, that is headed for impasse, to a successful conclusion.

The following is an example of such a conversation my husband and I recently had: I said, "I do not like the attitude of whoever is conducting as chairperson today. I cannot communicate with that person." Saying "this person" takes the personal attack off him and makes him feel as if I am referring to a THIRD PARTY. "Is there anyone on your committee today who has some compassion for how I feel on this issue? I want that person to be chair." My husband paused, agreed that there was such a committee member. What this allowed him to do was listen from a DIFFERENT point of view (a point of view that was more compassionate towards my feelings). The shift was slight, the communication tool worked, an argument was avoided.

There is a great deal that is POSITIVE about Attention Deficit Disorder. You cannot ask for a better problem solver, if you can gain control of the communication issues. The challenge is to implement communication tools that allow for their unique talents to be shared with the rest of us.


Cherlyn Curtis has been a partner with her ADD/ADHD husband in two successful businesses. She has raised four boys, one who has been diagnosed with ADHD. With both a husband and son affected by this malady, Cherlyn set out to find a way to communicate more effectively with her family members. She is an enthusiastic and dynamite speaker and has conducted mini seminars and workshops. You can contact her at (510) 357-8430 or .

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