The Opportunity to Create a “New Normal”

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A couple of days ago I live-tweeted an Additude webinar called “ADHD Life: Reassessing Goals and Priorities after a Pandemic.” Since then I’ve continued to ponder what I learned from it and how the principles shared can help us as we continue to work through this life-altering shutdown. It’s well worth your time to listen to the whole thing.

Since a statewide shutdown due to Covid-19 was enacted in mid-March, my daily routine has completely changed. This includes the way I live, work, socialize, eat, play…you get the idea. Working as a school principal, I was used to commuting an hour each way. Because of the drive, I was getting up much earlier than I naturally do (5:30am- blech!). Having two hours of total drive time per day also allowed me ample time to listen to audiobooks. I probably went through 20 audiobooks during the first two-thirds of the school year. In the evenings I would return home, sometimes making it to family dinner, and sometimes not.

I now work out of our upstairs guest bedroom. I get to sleep in longer than I used to, and my truck has been sitting idle for nearly two months. I haven’t listened to an audiobook in that time, and I haven’t been face-to-face with any of my teachers or students, though I am still working with them every day. Work now consists of a series of daily Zoom meetings. And where I used to leave my office and walk through classrooms or run to help with a situation…all is now accomplished from my chair. So there are many days where I spend 7 or more hours simply sitting in the same chair in that upstairs bedroom staring at a screen while I do my work online.

Home and family are different too of course. My children no longer attend school. They are completing learning activities, some online, some not. But mostly they’re doing a splendid re-creation of Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat. Though we are surrounded by wonderful parks and beaches, nearly all are completely closed to the public. Restaurants and theaters are also closed, along with most stores. Life has basically become one long episode of Groundhog Day as we live and repeat the same, sad, quarantine routine every single day.

It’s time to reframe

I’ll admit that I’m grieving for the way life used to be, and I’ve spent many of these shutdown days sitting around wishing I could go do things I’m used to doing. This week my state governor extended our “stay home, stay safe” plan for yet another month and that hit me pretty hard. But then I was able to think back on this webinar that I’d watched just one day earlier, and I’ve got a much better outlook on things now. It all starts with reframing our situation.

Yes, this situation has dramatically altered our lives. And it’s not likely to get anywhere close to “normal” soon. So it’s time to accept that this is the “new normal” and figure out what’s next.

With work, we are no longer constrained by school buildings, traditional schedules, or even student groupings. It has opened up many new possibilities for tailoring instruction to students and giving teachers and students new opportunities to interact through technology that many had only heard about before. We are being encouraged to try new things, experiment with new ways of teaching and learning and connecting, and students and teachers alike have become more excited and engaged as they’ve begun to let go of how we used to do things.

At home the change has been slower. But I’ve come to the realization that being cut off from most of my regular routine means that I can literally create a new one. How many projects have I put off for years, and how many old hobbies did I give up simply because I didn’t have the time? Well time is something I happen to have a lot of right now!

So how do you start?

You’ve had virtually everything in your life cleared from the deck, and now you get to decide what goes back in, and what stays out. Start by dividing up your life into categories like these:

  • Health
  • Family
  • Finances
  • Social relationships
  • Fun
  • Career
  • _____

Once you’ve got what feels like a pretty comprehensive list, rate how you feel about your current status with each area. You could do this with numbers (1-5 as an example) or even with coloring a chart or graph where fuller and bigger mean better.

After rating each area, you can decide what to do about it. Feeling great about family? Perfect. Leave it as-is and focus on the other areas. Concerned about health? Perhaps you used to go to the gym but now it’s been closed for two months and you haven’t walked farther than from the couch to the refrigerator in that time? Why not start by talking short walks around the block? Do you miss connecting with friends and socializing as you used to? You could set up a video chat or a virtual game night.

Whatever you decide to do, remember that it’s not about setting and achieving goals. It’s about feeling better and finding peace and greater happiness in a pandemic. So whether you call it a goal or not, add in to your life things that will make you happy and let go of things that won’t. Find new ways to connect with friends and family members who you no longer get to visit. Work on a project that is fun and meaningful to you. Make plans to do things that you love that maybe you haven’t had time for in a while.

If you take stock of your situation you will find hidden opportunities that you’ve been missing. If all else fails, just try something new. And don’t worry about doing it perfectly. There’s power in simply doing. Jessica (@HowToADHD) put it best in song:

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Who to Tell About Your ADHD

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Whenever I’m struggling to come up with a topic to write about I invariably am led to a problem I’m currently dealing with. So first off, thanks for being my sounding board, and in return you’re welcome to any knowledge I find as I continue on this ADHD journey of mine. Today’s topic is about your circle of trust when it comes to your ADHD.

I’m coming up on four months since the day my therapist suggested that I had ADHD and I can confidently say that fewer than 10 people who know me know I have ADHD. About half are family, others are my therapist, doctor, and perhaps one or two folks online.

I’ve actually got a list of 15 more people that I intend to tell, including more family members, current and former employers, and others who are or were close friends. But I haven’t shared this with anyone new since I made a series of calls to a few family members a month or two ago. I seem to be stuck. I don’t know that it’s necessarily a bad thing. My circle is small and I trust it. If it were to expand, I may quickly hit that critical mass of people who have “the knowledge,” at which point I might as well be “out,” though I am not ready for that stage yet.

I ran a Twitter poll a couple of months ago asking who others had told, and the results varied pretty greatly:

What this says to me is that who you tell is entirely up to you and the circumstances you are in. There is no right answer here except what is right for you. So let’s look together at things to consider regarding sharing or not sharing.

Why shouldn’t you increase your circle of trust?

My quick answer to that is it’s not necessarily necessary. No one has a “right” to know you have ADHD. As of this moment I’ve mostly reserved sharing it on a “need to know” basis, and it turns out there are very few people who legitimately need to know. The people I have included so far are the ones I trust implicitly to 1) be supportive, and 2) not share with others.

Work is my other big reason for not sharing. Everyone’s situation is different. And you might think that working in education a lot of folks would understand ADHD and be more accepting of it. But there is plenty of ignorance to go around, even in public education, and I have worked for some employers who might screen you out of the application process because your name came up associated with ADHD on a Google search. It’s not ethical, but I know it happens.

The last reason I can think of is just a lack of preparedness on my own part. This whole thing is so new to me still and I’m working on figuring out so much still. When I do start sharing more broadly, I want to be able to do so with knowledge and confidence.

Why should you increase your circle of trust?

The first and easiest reason to share is if there’s a real need. When I first started taking meds, I was worried about what side effects might start showing up, and more specifically, that I might not notice some changes in myself. So I found one person at work who I trust and shared with them that I have ADHD and was beginning medication for it. They have been a valuable resource to me as I began meds and have had meds adjustments. Also in this group of “others who need to know” I would typically include adults who live with you and medical professionals who treat you.

You may find that you have a real need to disclose that you have ADHD to your employer or to your school or university. This would be if you require workplace or educational accommodations because ADHD significantly impacts your work or academic performance. Though I have clearly seen an impact of ADHD in my work, I am trying to gauge what accommodations might be needed after I have made improvements through therapy and medication. Trying to decide if workplace accommodations are right for you? This article from CHADD is a great place to start.

The last reason to share that you have ADHD with someone is simply so that you can be truly known and hopefully understood by those around you. I don’t like feeling that I have to “hide” part of myself and I honestly look forward to the day when I can call up old friends and even old employers and share what I’ve discovered. I want to shout, “See? I found out there’s a really good reason for everything! I have ADHD!!” When I think about that day, I get goosebumps.

So why don’t I share now?

As I said, my own diagnosis is relatively new and I’m not quite ready. But beyond that, creating ADHDsurprise has given me a powerful gift. I can speak freely, honestly, and candidly about my problems. I can tell you about how my ADHD has hurt me and others in my life. How it has impacted work and home. I can share embarrassing stories and real, unfiltered examples of struggles from my life because they are not tied to me right now.

Ironically, if I put my real name on this blog, it would mean the content would become less real, or at least more guarded. I’d have to be constantly looking over my shoulder and wondering what employer, friend, or family member is reading along and takes offense or has some other problem with what I’ve posted.

So for now, I feel that I’m providing something to the ADHD community that is real and also keeps me safe. I hope one day I can simply “be” and not have to worry about it. But for now, I’m happy to share what I’m learning as I’m learning it, and I hope it helps you too.

What about you? Who have you told? Who would you like to tell? If everyone knows you have ADHD already, how does that feel? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on Twitter.

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Intellivision Amico: An ADHD-friendly game system

Photo courtesy of Tommy Tallarico, Intellivision Entertainment

First off, you may be asking, what the hell is Intellivision? Especially for the younger readers out there, it may be a valid question. Intellivision was the primary competitor for Atari. Released in 1979 by Mattel, it boasted significantly better graphics than Atari, but at a higher price point. At its peak, Intellivision held 22% of the video game market.

Intellivision had a diverse catalog of games ranging from educational titles to sports, action, adventure, arcade, etc. It was billed as a machine that would entertain the whole family. And I can say it did that well, as I grew up with one in my house, and we all had a lot of fun playing that machine. To this day there are ‘differing accounts’ as to who is the best at Intellivision baseball.

What is Amico?

Amico is a new console being released by Intellivision Entertainment later this year. The goal behind the console is to “pick up where the Wii left off,” says CEO Tommy Tallarico. He also pointed to a slogan that’s part of Amico’s branding, “Together Again.” The modern image of gaming is one person sitting alone in front of a screen with a headset on. Tommy’s vision is to bring the family back together around video games.

So how does he propose to do this? Amico is the video game console that isn’t targeting hardcore gamers. It’s meant for the billions of people who play casual games every day. Much like the Nintendo Wii did over a decade ago, Amico’s goal is to reach friends and family, bringing together generations from kids to grandparents who can sit and play casual games in the same room together.

ADHD and gaming

In one of my first posts, I shared how I had become addicted to a mobile game. It started out as simply a bit of fun to let off some steam, but the game was designed to keep you coming back and spending more and more time and money on it. Eventually I was spending over half of my waking time each day either playing the game or participating in chats about the game. And there was constant pressure to engage in microtransactions in order to compete at the highest levels. Meanwhile, I ignored work, family, and friends. Back then I didn’t know I had ADHD, but I knew I had a problem.

This wasn’t the first time that a video game had combined with my undiagnosed ADHD to spin my life well out of balance. I’ve had many video game fixations over the years, and while I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the time—and obviously I am still passionate about gaming—I now know I have to guard myself against my life getting out of balance. And I am really looking for ways to connect with my kids around things we all love.

So how is Amico ADHD-friendly?

First, Amico helps to counter some of the isolating tendencies of video game fixations. It is offering casual style, couch co-op games that are designed to be played and enjoyed by the whole family. I remember when the Wii came out it seemed like everyone had it. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, schools and nursing homes alike had all bought the system and would play right along kids and adults. I hosted Wii parties for staff after work. Even today if you ask coworkers if they want to play Wii, you will likely find several who still have that old system and will happily bring it in and play after hours. Why? Because no video game console has duplicated that experience.

Amico’s games will all be couch co-op compatible for up to 8 players. It’s the first console since the SNES to ship with 2 complete controllers. But even better, folks can jump in and play through a free smartphone app if needed. So no needing to spend a ton of extra money on more controllers. What’s great about all of this is that you can get involved in video games that don’t isolate you from your family and friends.

Impulse buying is also kept in check by Amico. There will be no loot boxes, no DLC, and no microtransactions. And the best part? Every game will be priced between $2.99 and $9.99 (you know, instead of the $50-$60+ you see everywhere else). Bottom line? They’re not engaging in the predatory practices that most of the gaming industry uses to exploit folks with addictive tendencies and low-impulse control. You don’t even have to spring for a second controller.

While you will still be able to hyperfocus on games—nothing will quite stop that particular super power—there is no game on Amico that will require you to play for 20 hours to complete it. Many ADHDers also experience time-blindness, where they can’t tell how much time is passing. This can be quite the 1-2 punch when you’re hyperfocused on an immersive game that requires hours or days to complete. The casual style games being developed for Amico are easier to play in short bursts and are more easily walked away from when things come up. So play being interrupted isn’t as big a deal as with some of the more engrossing titles from the hardcore systems.

I showed this gameplay trailer to my kids and they were over the moon about it!

I realize that this post is basically a huge pitch for Amico, but I fully believe in supporting and promoting products that are ADHD-friendly, and companies that intentionally avoid engaging in predatory and exploitative practices. I own at least five gaming consoles and have been playing video games as long as I can remember. But this is the first time in a while that I’ve been so excited about a new console. Intellivision Entertainment is bringing old-school fun into our homes and taking the high road by putting family fun first.

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UPDATE: Since the publishing of this post, some of the content featured here has been shared in the following YouTube video from a great retro gaming channel called “The Atari Creep.”

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If you are interested in more information or would like to pre-order an Intellivision Amico, you can do so at the Intellivision Amico website.

I am not paid or sponsored in any way through this post or the links I share. They are provided solely for the benefit of my readers.

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