ADD Tip: What Doesn’t Work for Those with ADD

By Jeff Copper, MBA, PCC, PCAC, CPCC, ACG – December 12, 2022

Knowing what works for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is just as important as knowing what does not work. Some of the tactics you use might not be helping. In fact, they might even exacerbate your symptoms. For example, pressure to perform based on other people’s ideas of how you should perform almost always leads to failure because it doesn’t work and it’s detrimental. For those with ADHD, doing things that do not fit their natural way of doing things can often paralyze them at most and at least inhibit their performance.

What’s important is that those with ADHD must understand themselves, who they are, and how their brains work. It’s also important to consider the environment. Is it boring or is lively and stimulating? Being in the company of another person can also invigorate brain stimulation. Sometimes, part of moving forward is not always knowing what to do but knowing what not to do is key.

In an interview on Attention Talk Video, I spoke with David Giwerc, founder and president of the ADD Coach Academy, who talked about some key things that simply do not work for those with ADHD and identifies a few strategies that always work. Check out the video here:


Jeff Copper:    Welcome everybody to this edition of Attention Talk Video. I’m your host, Attention Coach Jeff Copper and we’re here today with David Giwerc, founder of the ADD Coach Academy. Welcome to the show, David.

David Giwerc:    Thanks, Jeff. Glad to be here as always.

Jeff Copper:    Now David, he heads up the ADD Coach Academy, which is the only accredited ADHD coaching school by the International Coaches Federation. Correct?

David Giwerc:    And the professional association of ADD coaches now.

Jeff Copper:    That’s right. That’s right. And today our topic is… People are always trying what works for those with ADHD, but the question here today is what doesn’t work?

David Giwerc:    Hmm. Wow. Well, there’s three things that come to mind. First of all, is pressure to perform, and pressure to perform based on other people’s ideas of how you should perform, whether it’s in the workplace or school. So the kid that has to sit in his chair and sit still when they’re not engaged, because there’s a boring situation and the teacher doesn’t engage them. And then they’re called upon, their brain will shut down. Or pressure to do an exam or a paper because they haven’t been able to learn it in they’re learning style. So pressure to perform and deadlines without understanding of how a person’s brain works, is really detrimental. And then there’s this perfectionism thing.

Jeff Copper:    Right, but hold on. Before we get to perfection, but there’s also pressure for performance to do it the way that you’re not… If you’re naturally do it one way and you’re having pressure to do it another way, that also can paralyze. I know when I coach, one of the first thing, the first thing, that we talk about is pressure, because as I say, the job of the defense is to put pressure on the offense because it inhibits performance.

David Giwerc:    Yeah. Absolutely.

Jeff Copper:    And where do you put the pressure? The weakest link. And so if you’re coaching somebody with ADD or you have ADD, the pressure the, I just should, or I just have to, by the way, those strategies, if they would have worked, they would have worked by now. I like to use the sports metaphor because, again, the defense puts pressure on the offense to hinder performance and putting pressure on those with ADD just doesn’t work.

David Giwerc:    Well, and also if the brain is working too fast, you just have to pause. That self-reflection is so important, because the pausing is what ignites all the executive function.

Jeff Copper:    Exactly.

David Giwerc:    If you can’t pause, you can’t pay attention. If you can’t pay attention, you can’t regulate your emotions and your energy. So, when you put pressure on yourself, your brain is shutting down. And when you know that you’re under that pressure, it’s so important to pause and pay attention to your body and just take some breaths, just take some breaths.

Jeff Copper:    Now, the other one you were starting to talk about was perfectionist.

David Giwerc:    Yes. A lot of people with ADHD, I’ve seen this, the desire to perform perfectly. They’re so worried about the outcome of a performance based action, any action, a project, anything at work, that they become so focused on the result that it’ll actually cause procrastination because they’re waiting for all these things to be aligned, all these situations, to be aligned, to create the perfect result. And what happens is they’re so worried about doing things right, they don’t do anything. They don’t get anything done.

David Giwerc:    So we try to come up with standards of excellence because perfectionism doesn’t exist, Jeff. It’s this mindset that I have to do it perfectly, and then I’ll be considered a success. And you just have to do it to the best of your ability using your unique brain wiring.

Jeff Copper:    Well, there’s that old saying, done is better than perfect.

David Giwerc:    That’s right. Something is better than nothing. That’s right.

Jeff Copper:    And the other thing I like, is learning is a process that almost never ends. And if you’re in business or you’re writing a book, you’re doing something you can always learn to do something better. So you have to stop at some point in time and just say, “Hey, I got to get this thing out.” Because if you wait for you to have learned it all, you’re likely going to be publishing the book from your grave or whatever you’re trying to do. So there’s perfectionism, any other things that you can think of that-

David Giwerc:    Yeah. I think Jeff, you do a lot of work in this and I think it’s processing styles are so important. I mean, if you know you’re a kinesthetic learner and you need movement and you’re going into a boardroom, you know you just can’t get up and walk around. You have to develop strategies like a squeeze ball or writing. You have to use those strategies in all the situations. And you have to use a little executive function, which means you have to think about the situation before. So a lot of times people with ADHD don’t identify the situations that get them in trouble and they do things spontaneously. They got to prepare for it.

Jeff Copper:    Well, that’s interesting, because so often when I’m coaching people, I can’t change you, but if we understand who you are, it’s about managing your environment. And for me, what doesn’t work is forcing those with ADD to try to perform in an environment that’s not conducive to how they work.

David Giwerc:    Environment is so, so important, even to the point of, too many people, claustrophobic. It’s too hot. You don’t have enough leg room. You can’t move around. You need that space and everybody’s different and you have to understand your physical environment, but also even in the physical environment, how does your brain work? So if you’ve got somebody who’s monotone and they’re giving a class, you’ve got to figure out a way to make it engaging and creative, drawing mind maps, using colored pens, whatever it is. And a lot of people don’t with ADHD and then they find out, oh boy, I’m in trouble. I can’t pay attention. They conk out or they leave.

Jeff Copper:    Another area that I think that doesn’t work is trying to force somebody with ADD just to live in a boring environment.

David Giwerc:    Oh my God, yes.

Jeff Copper:    Just saying that you need to learn to do this just because you have to, if it’s boring, it’s like nails on a chalkboard.

David Giwerc:    It is. It is exactly what it is. I mean, you put somebody in a boring environment and you ask them to pay attention, it’s just like that. You can actually see people physically suffer, they suffer. And that’s why a kid or an adult, when they’re in a boring situation, they will do something impulsive or oppositional to stimulate their brain, because they can’t get their brains going, and it’s horrible. So one of the most important things is engagement and Nora Volkow has done research, interest, interest, interest. You have to engage people with ADHD or else their brains are going to shut down.

Jeff Copper:    Yep. I want to clarify one thing. I’ve been working on, as we talk about interest so importantly, and interest is a piece of it, but to me there’s a little bit more.

David Giwerc:    Oh, there is.

Jeff Copper:    There’s a little bit of instincts and environment. I know those with ADHD, sometimes they can’t clean their closet or whatever, but they could do it in the company of another person. So the issue is, are they interested or they stimulated by the other person being there and this brain stimulation. I just make that difference because we talk about interest sometimes, but sometimes maybe brain stimulation is a better word, because interest stimulates your brain and then environmental things can, too.

David Giwerc:    Well, that’s right. And you know, Jeff, anything that’s interesting stimulates your brain. Doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you.

Jeff Copper:    That’s right.

David Giwerc:    So intention is so important.

Jeff Copper:    Absolutely. Absolutely.

David Giwerc:    Very important.

Jeff Copper:    So David, thank you very much for coming on. I think those are the key things don’t do, or focus on, because they can really paralyze those with ADHD. Part of sometimes moving forward is not always knowing what to do, but what not to do is key.

David Giwerc:    That’s right.

Jeff Copper:    So, David, thanks again for coming on my show.

David Giwerc:    Thanks for having me, Jeff.

Jeff Copper:    All right. Thanks again, everybody.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *