**Following my recent webinar focused (ironically) on understanding ADHD, an attendee sent me a message asking for some guidance on how to be an effective advocate. After I responded, I thought maybe I would share it with everyone. This isn’t an exhaustive list, they’re just the first things that came to mind.
Do Not Hide
The most important place to start is to be out in the open. Talk about your ADHD in a matter-of-fact way. Share your story. You don’t have to work it into your conversation because it is your actual life. The best way to advocate is to educate. What you are educating people about is what ADHD looks like in everyday situations. Once we’ve sown the seeds of awareness, sometimes attraction is more effective than promotion. If all we ever do is advocate and educate then people won’t want to hear from us anymore. There’s an ebb and flow in this process. Everything is a teaching opportunity but not everything is a teaching moment.
Find your People
Join organizations that promote awareness like CADDRA, CADDAC, CHADD, etc. Follow FB pages or IG accounts that are devoted to building a sense of community within the ADHD world, not just lamenting the current conditions. Not only will you feel connected to something larger than yourself, this connection will act as a root system that will allow you to bend in the breeze of resistance without breaking. When the world tells you that you’re being overly dramatic, making a big deal about nothing, or that it’s all in your head, it is incredibly helpful to have the backing of many who are not only on the same road but even those who have already travelled it successfully.
Don’t burn yourself out. One of my students once asked me how to avoid burnout. I told her that you can’t avoid it, you just have to learn from it so that you stave it off a bit longer the next time around. Maybe this is a pessimistic view, but I’m not known for pessimism, so I think it’s actually just realistic. Maybe you can’t change the entire world but you can change the world of a single person by being there, listening, teaching, or even just holding them as they walk through the tough stuff. I find that if I set my sights too high, I miss the obvious opportunities to help right in front of me in my daily life.
Learn From History
One of my favourite lines is from the philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, who said “All truth goes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed. In third it is accepted as self-evident”. When we arrive at the last of those stages, it is human nature to expect that everyone else should know what we have come to know. We need to pause a remember that there was a time, maybe not too long ago, when we ourselves were ignorant to what we now consider to be self-evident. While it is important to continue to move society and institutions forward, be patient with the world around you as you advocate and educate. Fire and brimstone usually only unite people to your cause who reduce the credibility of your message. Be gracious enough, even in opposition, that your approach does not serve as a barrier to the conversion you hope for in others.
If you have any other tips, please let us know!