ADHD and Executive Functioning Coach Brooke Schnittman discusses how to harness abilities.
(22 minutes) Brooke is a certified coach who works with children, students, teens, adults, and parents with or without ADHD. She has been nominated for multiple awards including “Best In Show Community” and”Advocating For Another.” She is the creator of What’s Next and ADHDEdCamp. Brooke discusses her own diagnosis with ADHD, how she helps her clients, and the role parents can play in setting up a neurodivergent child for success.
For more about Brooke: coachingwithbrooke.com
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Welcoming Brooke Schnittman
HACKIE REITMAN (HR): Hi, I’m Dr. Hackie Reitman. Welcome to another episode of Exploring Different Brains. Today, we’re excited to have right here in our Different Brains, little green screen studio, the wonderful expert of ADHD and executive function, Brooke Schnittman. Welcome!
BROOKE SCHNITTMAN (BS): Thank you for having me, I appreciate being here!
HR: Now why don’t you introduce yourself properly unlike the way I just did?
BS: You pronounced my name right so that was properly. My name is Brooke Schnittman, I am an ADHD and executive function coach. I have been working with individuals with ADHD since 2006. I currently coach individuals from children all the way through adults, and parents of children with ADHD. I started my company Coaching with Brooke a little over a year ago. But before that, I was a special education teacher on Long Island, and then an assistant director of special education. And I just really enjoy seeing people succeed and having them have a growth mindset and achieving their goals.
HR: How did you get into this?
BS: So I wanted to make a greater difference in the lives of individuals with ADHD. And when I was in school administration, I felt too far removed. So I moved to Florida to be closer to family and wanted to start my own business and help individuals. And along the way, I met a great woman, Lynn Miner-Rosen. I know she’s been on the show before. And she introduced me to the concept of ADHD coaching and I’ve been in love with it ever since.
HR: Well, Lynn is amazing too. But she’s your biggest fan.
Understanding executive functioning
HR: You know, I think that executive functioning is underrated.
BS: It is.
HR: And why don’t you explain to our audience what it is and why that is? And what part of the brain is going on and how it hooks up?
BS: Sure, so executive functioning, one, and it’s the prefrontal cortex of the brain right in front. And it helps in many different areas; activation, multitasking, going from task to task, prioritization. And people with ADHD have deficits in one or more of those areas. Now people who don’t have ADHD can also have a deficit in executive functions as well.
Brooke’s ADHD diagnosis
HR: Tell us about ADHD from your point of view?
BS: Sure, so I am an adult who actually has ADHD. And I was diagnosed in May when I was working from home and realized that some of the symptoms I was struggling with were similar to some of my clients. So ADHD can show up at any age. You can recognize it at any age, you are born with it. However, adults have could be compensating throughout their life and not realizing that they have it like me. So it presents differently in everyone. There’s three different types of ADHD. There’s the impulsivity-hyperactivity, there is the inattentive, and combined. So the combined is symptoms of both and I have the combined type. So you can be a little impulsive and also lose some focus, so there’s many different symptoms that show up.
Overlap between diagnoses
HR: And what are some of the common comorbidities?
BS: Well, that’s a good question. I’m glad you asked because a lot of people who have ADHD, or people know another individual who has ADHD, just know them for ADHD. However, there’s a huge iceberg. So two-thirds of people who have ADHD have a comorbidity as well, like a learning disability, anxiety, depression, OCD, ODD, and the list goes on. So sometimes when individuals are not diagnosed with ADHD, yes, they could be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or depression.
HR: You know, that’s one of the reasons we started differentbrains.org, was to get everything under one roof. Because I think it’s a great misconception that any of these entities exist in isolation. You can’t have autism without some anxiety. Autism and ADHD overlap quite a bit. And the list goes on and on and on and on. And so the neurological silo and the developmental and learning disability silo and the mental health silo all go together.
BS: Absolutely, and the more people are educated about it. The more they can understand the symptoms and what it can correlate to and know how to take care of it and speak about it.
HR: And we were trying all together. Now, I know you do a lot of this and Lynn Miner-Rosen too as well as differentbrains.org, to get rid of the stigma so that people can kind of come out of the closet and let people know, and you know, help me out a little bit too.
BS: Absolutely. And to that point, I have developed the ADHD Ed Camp so parents and adults and children can understand what ADHD is as a community together in Boca Raton. And everyone is just going to be learning from each other, have support from each other. But yes, it’s really important that people feel supported so this way, they can come out of their shell and know when to come out of their shell, especially in the work world to let individuals know that they have ADHD and how to explain it.
HR: You know, I think the ADHD Ed Camp is great, great idea.
BS: Thank you!
HR: You will be helping lots and lots of people.
BS: Thank you!
Employment and ADHD
HR: What advice would you have for an employer who’s got, he’s enlightened, she is enlightened, wants to be helpful, and one of the employees has ADHD? What can the employer in the work setting do to be of help?
BS: Absolutely, well first, they can meet with the employee and understand more of how the brain works, understand what tools work for them, and if they possibly need things written down on notes, so this way meetings can be reiterated on writing. Understand when the best time for them is to focus, check in with them. There’s many different ways, it just depends on how the employee works, but I think it’s important that the employer understands the employee. Just like, even if they didn’t have ADHD, understand how the brain works, maybe take a test to understand how they worked best.
HR: And again, that comes into the genesis is differentbrains.org, which is then if we just tune in on everybody, we have anything to do with. The same way a good salesman does, they tuned in on how your brain works and they go that way. And if an employer and a teacher and law enforcement officer, if we all do that then you’re going to see a lot of things, but you have to know some of the–
BS: The strengths, the weaknesses. Absolutely, and build on those strengths and understand what they can bring to the team.
HR: Now, you mentioned this wonderful book that you mention by your friend Dr. Thomas E. Brown. And is this for professionals? It’s called Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults by Dr. Thomas E. Brown. Is this for professionals or for families or for lay people? Who is this book for?
BS: It’s for anyone who has ADHD, or an executive function challenge. It, basically for me, is a resource guide, and I refer to it very often. As you can see I have clips in many different sections, but it starts off talking about the brain and where executive functions are, and what they are in his mind. So there are six different quadrants in his mind and it talks about what they are, what they do, and strengths, weaknesses, myths, facts, all of that. So children, young children probably, wouldn’t want to read it themselves but an adult can read it. A teen can read it, a young adult and then understand how their child’s brain works.
Becoming a certified coach
HR: Now you’re a certified coach, amongst other things and accomplishments. How is for our audience, for some people who might be wanting to go into your field, wow do you become a certified coach?
BS: Sure. So there’s many different pathways that you can take. I personally ended up going through the International Coaching Federation, which is the gold standard of coaching. And I took many different courses. One of the courses I took was on ADHD, that was the first one and it talked about ADHD in teens and college students, learning more about ADHD and how to coach students with ADHD. Then from there I did a traditional coaching course, and then also took a parent coaching course. So if you go on to the International Coaching Federation site, if you are not a mental health specialist, I believe that you need 60 credits in order to apply for certification. So you need 60 credits, over a hundred hours, you need individual mentor coaching, and then on top of that, you need to pass an exam.
HR: Sounds tough.
BS: And I left one thing out. They record one of your sessions, so they have to go through the recording and the transcript and make sure that you are ready to be a coach.
Teachers and ADHD
HR: Tell us about the advice you might have for teachers, because you yourself were a special ed teacher. Give some advice for teachers in general, because I’m sure if the general teachers look around their class there are going to be a couple of people with ADHD.
BS: So fortunately enough, I used to work in Jericho, Long Island. And I was in a co-teaching class with a general education teacher, and I was a special education teacher. In the majority of special education students today, were high functioning ADHD and learning disabled. So what we did was we differentiated in many different ways, so we started off the school year with many different types of surveys. How did they learn based on what are their interests, what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses? And basically every unit, we would differentiate the assignment based off of that. So it applied to kinesthetic learners, auditory, visual also where the readiness level was, so that’s educationally, also flexible seating. So we kept it interesting. We kept it different, we didn’t lecture, we walked around, we got down to eye level with the students, we gave them fidget toys if they needed it. We were able to give them breaks so they can move around. If we saw them getting tired, we would have them get up and do some jumping jacks or open up the window. They were able to stand if they wanted to, so it was really flexible. So basically just getting to know the children on an intellectual level, on an emotional level, on a social level and showing them that you care.
HR: When you coach the kids or adults themselves with ADHD, take us through some of the tools that you give them. Because I’m big on tools, like what do we do that can really help? I wrote my book Aspertools. It was tools that can help Asperger’s.
BS: So I actually have a complimentary ebook on my website, Coaching With Brooke for Productivity and Time Management, and there’s 13 ways to manage your time on there for adults and young adults as well. So if we’re talking about adults first, I would say, and children, everyone needs a schedule. And that’s the biggest thing I found with individuals with ADHD. That they’re going through life haphazardly and even people without ADHD. When something comes up, they do it because it’s last-minute and they need to get it done and it’s an emergency. So planning out your week on a Sunday, on a Monday, figuring out what’s coming up, breaking it down day by day and highlighting your top priorities. So get one, two, three things done that are priorities for the day and circle your number one so you got that done, like “Eat the Frog” by Brian Tracy. Make sure you get that done first and then worry about the rest. But what I find is that when people are planned out and are proactive, their executive functions works more properly because their brains are not as chaotic. So planning out your week, planning out your days and being intentional with them.
HR: Those are good tips, I’m gonna try that.
BS: I have more but that’s the best one I would say.
HR: I’m gonna try that because I’m all over the place. You know the comedian Steven Wright was one saying that he had “ADHDHD”, which meant–
BS: He was super hyperactive?
HR: No, he couldn’t really focus on anything but if you did it was in high definition,
BS: It’s that hyper-focus right?
BS: So people with ADHD are either it’s now or not now. So if it’s now, they’re laser focused. And what I teach clients is to use that to your advantage and know when you’re hyper focused and get things done, but make sure it’s not in the way of something else. So we have Super-Man capabilities, right? Superpower capabilities as individuals with ADHD, but we just have to build on those strengths.
Anxiety and ADHD
HR: Well said. We had one intern here who’s now doing great, he’s employed and he’s getting promoted and other companies trying to steal him away. And he had severe ADHD and severe OCD. And they kind of fight with each other. I used to kid him, I’d say “will you tell your OCD to beat up your ADHD so you can finish this project?” And again it brings up the the comorbidities. What would you say, and people that you coach who have ADHD, what the most common comorbidities are?
BS: Anxiety, learning disabilities, depression that comes from the anxiety.
HR: So I made anxiety the first chapter in my book. It rules all of us.
BS: It really does, and it shows up in different ways throughout your life. So just because at one time of your life, you have generalized anxiety disorder, doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. It could change to social anxiety, which so many people with ADHD have, or can be anticipatory anxiety, depends on the time of your life.
HR: So, the advice you give the families, is it’s pretty much similar to what you give the actual you know, person with ADHD?
BS: So the parent coaching you mean?
BS: No, it’s not.
HR: Ok, tell us what it is?
BS: So, when I’m working with an individual, I am helping them achieve their goals, manage their time, become more organized, meet their academics, whatever it is, professional goals. But when I talk to my parents, and I coach the parents, it’s actually working and they wouldn’t think this, but it’s starting with them and changing the way that they communicate with her kids. And then creating a calm household so this way they can communicate in a more productive way with their children. And then from there, having connections and curiosity. It takes time, but it’s actually starting with them as the leaders and role models of the house.
HR: And what would you say that some of the labels are in some of the parents? I think labels are a lousy way to describe a human being, but I find that sometimes parents are an issue.
BS: Look, I’m not a parent myself so I’ll admit that. But I’ve worked with many thousands of parents throughout my time starting in special education. And they can become anxious themselves because they don’t know how to deal with their children, and they often compare their children to other children around the block or in school or what other parents are saying about their kids. And I just tell the parents to start where they are and you have to parent the child that you have. You don’t know what’s going on with the other kids on the block. You really don’t know. So a lot of parents have anxiety about their children even if they don’t have a disability. They want them to grow up to be the best version of themselves. And a lot of parents also have ADHD themselves if their child has ADHD because it is seen to be biological. So when you have a parent with ADHD and a child with ADHD it can become even more complicated because they can’t organize themselves sometimes to organize their child and then they get anxious.
HR: So when you have your ADHD Ed camp, you have programs for the parents.
BS: Absolutely, there’s over a hundred people coming and the majority of individuals who are coming are adults or parents. And there’s going to be a lot of courses from different types of ADHD experts like psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, coaches, schools, even physical therapists. And they’re going to be talking about parent tips, and also what to recognize in your child, how their brain works so they can start to understand what they’re child is going through and give them ideas I’ve had a help that moving forward.
Ending stigma around ADHD
HR: Is there anything else we haven’t covered that you’d like to cover today?
BS: I would just like to go back to what you had said about stigma. And it’s so important, especially as a parent, to educate your child. And every parent has the right to tell their child when they feel it’s right that they have ADHD. Some parents wait a little bit longer than others. But you don’t want to wait too long because children understand that they’re different. So you don’t want to manifest some anxieties and differences in them for too long because that can go with them later in life. So you want to help them understand that they’re different but different is not bad. Everyone’s different and that they should use their differences to their advantages but they need to know what they are in order to do that.
HR: Well on that note, Brooke, let me say it’s been a pleasure to have you here. How can our audience learn more about you?
BS: Sure, so they can go on my website. It’s “Coaching With Brooke,” so coachingwithbrooke.com, or you can email me at Brooke with an E at coachingwithbrooke.com, and learn more about the services I have to offer. There’s a ton of videos on my website about things that I’ve done in the past with a neuroscientist, with employer-employee relationships with ADHD. So if they’re going through something, it’s likely to be on my website under Events & Presentations. And then on social media, I do Facebook Live monthly and I put tips on my Instagram and Facebook page everyday
HR: That’s great. You mentioned before that free resource on your website.
BS: Sure. There’s an ebook, it’ 13 Ways to Manage Your Time: How to Focus by Focusing Your Time.
HR: I can use that, I can use it. Well Brooke Schnittman, coachingwithbrooke.com. Thank you so much for spending time with us and we hope you’ll have time to come back again.
BS: I would love that. Thank you hackie, I appreciate it.