Dr. Claire Sira & Tom Hudock
Living better with ADHD
Welcome to this week’s edition of Sifting, shifting, and lifting . . . a (mostly) weekly column in which I ask clever, curious, compassionate people my three favourite questions. (It is a 5 minute read. I hope you enjoy it.)
Today, I am introducing you to Dr. Claire Sira and Tom Hudock, the people behind a set of practical, science-based courses and resources for adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Dr. Claire Sira is an expert in neuropsychology who also lives with ADHD. She has a unique perspective on how ADHD can get in the way of performing to our highest potential. As a practicing psychologist, she also appreciates how difficult it is for adults with ADHD traits to access accurate information about their symptoms.
Tom Hudock is a business coach and the founder of Be The Boss Of Your Brain, an organization that helps adults manage their lives better by teaching them how to take meaningful steps in all areas of life. Earlier in his career, he started an inquiry-based middle school where student ideas and passions were translated into educational curriculum.
Dr. Claire and Tom believe mental health and wellbeing is a right, and they are committed to reducing barriers to getting high quality help and information. I am going to share our conversation with you in just a moment. First, you may want to check out this video about the three biggest ADHD challenges.
What is engaging your head, heart, and hands? Why?
Tom: I see more people identifying with ADHD or self-diagnosing with it. I have friends and family who I see struggle with aspects of ADHD. I also identify with many aspects of ADHD, although I am undiagnosed. I am looking at stuff online and having conversations with people who have ADHD or think they may have ADHD.
Dr. Claire: I am very much about ensuring people have access to good quality information. The scientist in me is offended by a lot of what is out there. I’ve been sifting through a lot of information that is not research-based but it is what our clients are reading. For example, there is a lot of talk about using marijuana or psilocybin for ADHD.
I want to increase access to good quality information and help people do better. I do this one-on-one with clients, but I also want to help educate the larger public and other members of the helping professions, including people in rural communities or who live in places where they have less access to professionals like me.
Our hands have been physically working to create our book, documents, courses, videos . . . I am taking what I am reading, distilling it . . .
It is amazing work.
Dr. Claire: Thanks. We’re really tired. (Laughs.)
What or who has had a profound impact on the way you see the world and your place in it?
Tom: I always look to visionaries, people who are changing systems and making positive changes in the world. I am done with status quo, and I am done with talking about making things better. It inspires me to see people moving things forward.
I am in awe of Elon Musk and his work to make better use of technology. Locally, I have been impacted by Jeff Hopkins, who founded the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry. He was a high school teacher who wanted to do more to help students learn. He became a principal and then a superintendent before quitting and starting his own school. He saw how education could change and was willing to take a chance.
Dr. Claire: When I decided to do meditation, I got onto Sam Harris. As a neuroscientist and a philosopher he brings a unique perspective. He is changing the world in my opinion by getting more people to meditate. I like what he has to say and how he does it. I also like Jordan Peterson. (Laughs.) I don’t agree with everything he says, but I like how principled he is in terms of the science.
Locally, the psychologist Lesley Lutes is literally trying to change the way psychology is being provided in British Columbia. She inspires me to keep my eye on the prize and think longer term.
Tom didn’t say this but he also loves Tony Robbins. I do, too. He takes real psychology and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) principles and translates them for a mass audience.
Tom: I really appreciate how he takes what you [Dr. Claire] do one-to-one and is able to reach out to thousands of people in one event.
Which is what you aim to do with Be the Boss of Your Brain.
Tom: People are looking for information, especially online. A lot of what people share is irrelevant. Be the Boss of Your Brain provides information for educational purposes. It isn’t therapy, though. We spend a lot of time talking about the difference between therapy and education.
Can you tell us a bit about Be the Boss of Your Brain and the book Getting it Done with ADHD?
Tom: Whether you identify with ADHD or not, our resources are designed to help people feel better so they can do better in their lives. When we start to feel better about ourselves and how we interact in the world, we can do better.
Dr. Claire: We are advocates for “bosses.” That is what we call the people we work with. We help them address shame and self-stigmatization. We also have a vision of working with larger employers to help them understand how to provide accommodations. Supporting them so they don’t have to go to a professional for a letter with recommendations on a one-to-one basis, for example. Small things like that would be valuable at a population level for employers and for insurance providers.
That will require cultural and systemic change. I’ve noticed that there is more support for children and youth with ADHD, especially in the school system [compared to the world of work]. Is that why you are focused on helping adults with ADHD?
Dr. Claire: I am an adult neuropsychologist. I don’t work with children or youth. Initially, I didn’t plan to focus on ADHD. It didn’t feel serious enough to choose as a specialty. I had a story around it that I had to unpack. Now that I am in it, it is not easy at all! [Laughs.] It is totally complicated. Our understanding of ADHD is growing.
One of my benefits as a coach is my own ADHD diagnosis. I am able to build my own experience with my executive function weaknesses into the work that I do with my clients. I know what I would have needed and I feel that I am able to explain that to a physician or a university or the person themselves. I am able to explain it in a way that makes sense to them because I have the expertise and the lived experience.
Tom: Going back to the discussion about kids with ADHD. There is a lot of process around supporting them. Systems have been defined. They are baked in. One of the questions we had to ask was: where can we have the most effect? And, that is with adults.
Dr. Claire: We are finding that it is not uncommon for adults to be diagnosed with ADHD when their children are diagnosed. In future, we could offer resources for parents. Tom is really interested in helping people, especially fathers, raise boys.
It all sounds exciting.
Tom: But daunting as well.
I am interested in the opportunity to bring the type of systemic supports available in schools to workplaces. That is a real gap I hadn’t considered before.
Tom: Schools get funding to help them accommodate students. When someone with ADHD goes into the workplace, it costs the employer. The HR department typically has to build it all themselves.
It is really important work you are doing. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Tom: Our book, Getting it Done with ADHD, is a practical tool. There are lots of books out there about ADHD but many are more conceptual. We wanted to cut to the chase.
Dr. Claire: Practical psychology is what we are trying to offer. Evidence-based, practical psychology resources that people all over the world can find to get good information.
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