An ADHD Success Story and the Beginning of ADDCA
Getting educated about your ADHD can make all the difference in the world!
by Judy Brenis Originally published in the ADDA Newsletter
This year’s ADHD Awareness Month theme has been David Giwerc’s mission for the past 20 years. As a Master Certified Coach, founder of the ADD Coach Academy (ADDCA), former president of ADDA, and author of “Permission to Proceed,” Giwerc knows that education is key.
David designed ADDCA to teach the essential skills necessary to powerfully coach individuals with ADD. “Understanding your own ADHD, your own unique brain wiring is the first step. Understanding your ADHD allows you to access the strengths you already have. And focusing on your strengths and what you do well, leads to success.”
Giwerc continues, “Society as a whole tends to focus on weaknesses. When we talk about ADHD we begin by talking about the impairments, but it is that way of thinking that holds one back. If I stay focused on what I can’t do, my ADHD is going to get worse,” Giwerc points out. “When I focus on what I CAN do, I move forward.”
Wanting to change society’s way of thinking in this regard, and to create greater awareness of ADHD in general, Giwerc worked with former ADDA president Michele Novotny, and current ADDA Board President, Evelyn Green, to lead the charge to create a National Attention Deficit Disorder Awareness Day.
U.S. Senate resolution 370 was passed July 6, 2004 declaring Sept. 7, 2004 as the first National Attention Deficit Disorder Awareness Day.
The resolution recognizes ADHD as a major public health concern and encourages an honest discussion about ADHD, its impact on children and adults in schools, in the work place, and in relationships. Awareness Day encourages those with ADHD to seek help and promotes public awareness, education, and outreach
What started as an awareness day has now blossomed into an entire month with activities and events planned by all supporting organizations - ADDA; American Coaching Organization (ACO); Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD); ADDitude; and the National Resource Center on ADHD (NRC).
“What you pay attention to in any given moment has a tremendous impact on your ability to function effectively,” Giwerc says. “As a result, what we need is more positive language to use around ADHD.” Giwerc points to his book, “Permission to Proceed,” perhaps one of the first books to focus on the positive side of ADHD, he says with pride.
Giwerc believes that the emphasis needs to shift from looking at the impairments of ADHD, the executive function challenges, and the prominent negative language surrounding this disorder to considering how one can use their ADHD to better serve their strengths. “Positive emotions are fleeting,” Giwerc points out. “Negative emotions stay in the blood stream much longer.”
Giwerc emphasizes the importance of honoring the good in our lives:
“We live in a world that is so busy doing things that as soon as you get one thing done you’re onto the next. We fail to celebrate and pause when we do something well. We are so busy doing that we haven’t had a chance to acknowledge our successes.”
Giwerc also notes that, while the awareness of ADHD has increased, real understanding of ADHD has not. “Education has to be customized for the parent, the child, the physicians, the teachers – at the grassroots level. And there needs to be a unified language that is going to inspire people with ADHD.”
“Too many parents of ADHD kids, spouses, employers and family members all feel hopeless because they have no language or tools to describe ADHD nor do they have a grasp of what is really going on in the ADHD brain.”
Giwerc, who was not diagnosed with ADHD until age 38, faced many challenges growing up. However, he says, he was lucky. His parents and grandparents never made him feel like a failure, and always loved and supported him. “My grandmother never let me look at my weaknesses and feel sorry for myself. She emphasized my strengths and acknowledged me every day for the things I did well.”
Giwerc says that he was born physically and cognitively hyperactive – according to his mother, he kicked like crazy even in utero. As an infant and a young child, he went from climbing out of his crib, and later his bed, to being disruptive in school. “I was bored,” states Giwerc, who would often find himself in the principal’s office. “But I always had a smile on my face. I wasn’t acting out because I was mad; I just needed stimulation.”
School was a struggle for Giwerc, but he credits his parents for his strength and perseverance. “They were Holocaust survivors, and even though my struggle was painful, it was nothing compared to what they had been through.”
Giwerc graduated cum laude from Syracuse’s prestigious S.I.Newhouse School of Public Communications with a Bachelors’ Degree in Communications and landed his dream job as an advertising executive in sports marketing for the sales and promotion division of Young and Rubicam, one of the world’s largest ad agencies.
Giwerc says he truly loved his job. He got rave reviews from his clients and the company’s creative department, and while others spent hours preparing a pitch, he could invent a presentation on a dime and practice it in his head. He didn’t need a script, just his mind-map – connected circles linking a few key words together – that he would jot down on a napkin or an index card.
But as naturally as the creative side of his job came to him, Giwerc dreaded the administrative pressures of submitting expense accounts, writing reports, and sitting in one place long enough to process all the different things going on in his area of business. He intuitively knew that if he spent too much time in the administrative area of his profession, it was going to drain his energy and take him away from the areas of the business he was excelling in. So the paperwork piled up . . . until he reached out to his boss and asked for support.
An administrative assistant was hired who organized his files, took care of his expense reports and eliminated the angst and frustration he was feeling.
As time went on, however, despite his success and the support he received in the areas of his job that were difficult for him, Giwerc began to feel like something was missing. He eventually quit and began to work for his dad, a successful homebuilder for more than 30 years. Giwerc handled the marketing and sales for his Dad’s town home and duplex apartment projects.
But once again, despite his success, he began questioning whether or not this was the road for him. It was now 1994, Giwerc was 38 years old, and everyone who knew anything at all about ADHD was telling him to read a book called “Driven to Distraction,” by two Harvard psychiatrists with ADHD, Drs. John Ratey and Edward Hallowell. The day he finally picked up a copy and read it from cover to cover marked the start of his journey toward identifying his own ADHD and eventually creating the ADD Coach Academy.
It was his deep desire to help as many people as possible with ADHD that led Giwerc to his vision of creating a coaching school that would train coaches who wished to work specifically with ADHD clients.
“Today ADDCA is the largest and most successful ADHD coach training school in the world,” Giwerc proudly states. ADDCA has taught students from more than 25 countries and in 2009, became the only comprehensive ADHD coach training program accredited by the governing board of the coaching profession, the International Coach Federation (ICF),” the governing body for the entire coaching profession; the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE); and the Professional Association of ADHD Coaches (PAAC), the organization responsible for establishing and maintaining global standards of excellence for credentialing ADHD coaches and accrediting qualified ADHD coach training schools and programs.
Giwerc admits, however, that in the beginning, when he was first establishing ADDCA, he found himself back in the same situation he had been in as an advertising executive -- surrounded by paperwork! Giwerc says he was spending 80 percent of his time working in areas of his weakness, rather than focusing on his strengths.
He says he had never thought of himself as a leader before creating ADDCA, but in doing so, discovered that is where his strengths lie. As a result, what he needed to do was learn how to delegate the administrative work so that he could have the time and energy to pay attention to the things he does well.
Today Giwerc devotes most of his time to providing the knowledge, wisdom, and experience that empowers people with ADHD to access their inner greatness and pursue their heart’s passion with a positive purpose.
“You have to know yourself,” Giwerc says. “You have to acknowledge what you are good at. I had to go back to the basics, remind myself what motivates me, where my passion lies.” He does not believe in letting the notion of having a deficit take over:
“ADHD in and of itself is not a strength, but understanding your ADHD and how you can use it to your advantage makes it a strength.”
Giwerc continues, “I have realized that when I’ve been interested in something and kept moving, I always found success, but the opposite came up whenever something was difficult or I was doing what I thought I should be doing rather than what I wanted to be doing. Then my ADHD showed up and the harder I tried, the more my brain shut down.”
Giwerc explains, “ADHD first and foremost is a challenge of brain stimulation. If you don’t understand what boredom does and you continue to engage in situations that are boring – that don’t stimulate your brain – you will not understand that the harder you try to pay attention the more your brain will shut down. This is validated scientifically and yet the most of the world has yet to understand this.”
“We have to figure out who we are, what is important to us, what are our character strengths and then when we come from a place of alignment, when we are in integrity with who we are and what we want to do in life, success follows. My experience has consistently shown that people with ADHD have tremendous strengths that are buried and concealed. These hidden strengths need to be set free so that all of us may contribute to the world the gifts we were born to share.”
Judy Brenis is an ADHD coach in Santa Cruz, California, and the author of the book, ADHD Heroes. ADHD touched her life when her now-adult daughter was diagnosed with ADHD at age five. Judy is passionate about helping those with ADHD create successful, happy healthy lives. Reach her at www.judyadhdcoaching.com
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