Insider View: How to Work with the ADHD Brain
with Alice Gendron
I have a special guest in this episode — Alice Gendron, also known as The Mini ADHD Coach. Alice shares her personal journey of being diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 29 and the challenges she faced afterward. She discusses the misconceptions surrounding ADHD, particularly in women and girls, and highlights the importance of understanding the different ways in which ADHD can manifest. Join us as we dive deep into this beautifully complex topic and gain valuable insights into working with the ADHD brain
3 key takeaways:
- ADHD is a complex condition and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It is important for individuals with ADHD to be self-aware and understand how their brain works.
- There are many misconceptions about ADHD, even among professionals. One common misconception is that individuals with ADHD always struggle in school. However, some may still perform well academically, making it harder for them to get diagnosed. Another misconception is that hyperactivity is only physical, when in reality it can be internal and manifest as mental hyperactivity.
- Finding community and support is crucial for individuals with ADHD. It can be isolating and lonely to navigate the challenges of ADHD, especially before a diagnosis. Connecting with others who can relate to their experiences can provide a sense of understanding and belonging.
The importance of self-awareness and understanding for individuals with ADHD.
The diversity among people with ADHD and the impact it has on their lives.
The power of community and connection in navigating ADHD.
Common misconceptions about ADHD, including the misconception that good grades exclude the possibility of having ADHD.
The different ways in which hyperactivity can manifest, including internal hyperactivity.
Strategies for better understanding and supporting individuals with ADHD.
Alice Gendron’s book: “The Mini ADHD Coach: Tools & Support to Make Life Easier”
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Alice Gendron was born in Paris in 1990. She always had a creative mind and spent almost all her childhood doodling in class. After her high school graduation, she was admitted to the Beaux Arts School of Angers, where she studied art and illustration for one year. She then tried different career paths, from cooking school to communication studies, but also teaching French in Melbourne for 6 months. From 2015 she worked as a freelance writer for many websites and marketing agencies. Alice’s difficulties managing her workload as a freelance writer caused her to wonder if she could have ADHD. After months of doubts and hesitation, she finally made the decision to get assessed and was officially diagnosed with ADHD during the summer of 2020.
That’s when she started her Instagram account, The Mini ADHD Coach. At first, the goal was simply to share her experience with simple and cute doodles. But as the account took off quite quickly, she decided to use her experience as a writer and a communication professional to create educational content in an accessible and friendly way. In late 2020 she launched a self-published workbook called COULD IT BE ADHD? that aims to provide support and guidance to the people who wonder if they could have ADHD. The workbook has helped hundreds of people around the world to this day and is available in 3 languages.
Alice Gendron [00:00:03]: There is no one fit all solution for ADHD brains. We really need to be self aware and to understand the way we work because people with ADHD can be so different from one another, and that's really something that I see every day with my community. I love to see the differences. We are not spined by ADHD. It's just something that impacts almost every second of our lives.
Penny Williams [00:00:31]: Welcome to the Beautifully Complex podcast Where I share insights and strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started. Welcome back to the Beautifully Complex podcast. I am really excited today to have Alice Gendron with me, who is online, The Mini ADHD Coach, and also has a book coming out from the same title. And we're gonna talk ADHD misconceptions, how the ADHD brain works, and get to know Alice's story as well. 1st, though, before we jump in, Alice, will you introduce yourself? Let everybody know who you are and what you do.
Alice Gendron [00:01:25]: Yeah. Thank you so much for inviting me. It's always very excited to talk about ADHD. And, yeah. So as you said, I am the mini ADHD coach online. I'm mainly on Instagram, but, I also have a website and YouTube channel now that, we are trying to set up. And, Yeah. I like to trying to make complex ideas about ADHD really simples and, really accessible through anyone so we can better understand ourself and also so that's, the people that knowers and don't have ADHD, get a better understanding of how our brain works too.
Penny Williams [00:02:08]: Mhmm. And it I think it's so misunderstood among the the general public, people who don't know someone with ADHD or don't study ADHD. There's a lot of misconceptions out there about that. And so I would love to talk about that too, but I wanna first start maybe just by telling a little bit about your story And your journey to diagnosis.
Alice Gendron [00:02:31]: Yeah. So I was diagnosed a bit more than 3 years ago, I think it's 4 already, when I was 29. And, before that, I lived with doubts about maybe I had ADHD or not, for months. So it was a really difficult time of my life. And then I finally found the strength to ask for, an assessment, and I waited for assessment because oftentimes, you know, you have to wait a bit. And I was diagnosed almost right away, and it was really a relief just on the moment I was diagnosed, but then I had to go through a lot of different emotions that I was definitely not prepared to faced Yeah. Sadness and anger and frustration and doubts again Yeah. Which was quite surprising because when you are just doubting everything before your diagnosis.
Alice Gendron [00:03:31]: You imagine that after the diagnosis, you will be so certain of everything, and you're still not really after the diagnosis, and there was a lot of imposter syndrome and and a lot of different things. And so When I was in this really dark place, I can say, after my diagnosis, I decided to simply share a few doodles about ADHD and not just out what I was going through on Instagram. I really wanted to connect with other people. I just felt so lonely, and something quite something amazing happened, and, I connected with a lot of people, and a lot of people relate to what I was sharing. And, yeah, almost 3 years later. We have a wonderful community, and I'm feel so blessed to experiencing this.
Penny Williams [00:04:19]: Yeah. Yeah. That community is so important because I think it can be so isolating when you're dealing with differences, especially before a diagnosis, and you don't understand What's going on? And you think somehow it's just you. I think so many of the parents listening can hear some of that within maybe their own story, because we know often it runs in families, but also understanding their kids a understanding their kids a little better and what they're really facing, those emotions that they're going through Yeah. Based on their experiences. You wanna talk a little bit first about some misconceptions around ADHD, things that have maybe come up for you or that you notice A lot of people struggle with?
Alice Gendron [00:05:03]: Yeah. So when you are diagnosed at 29 and, you know, I wasn't removed from the ability to be diagnosed because I was seeing psychiatrists and therapists. You know I saw a lot of them all my life because I was struggling with many thing. And you notice that there must be really strong misconception and even among people who are professionals because Mhmm. Why would they missed few, and they miss so many people, and especially women and especially young girls. And, yeah, it's quite sad to notice that, so many people just are that unnoticed by mental health professional, but I think we are getting better. Mhmm. So the really common misconception, I would say, the ones that I experienced were, for example, doing okay at school.
Alice Gendron [00:05:56]: Mhmm, you know, not struggling so much. I reread my school reports, when I was preparing for my assessment, and I I saw that a lot of teacher were mentioning that I had trouble to focus and stay focused on the class. But, at the same time, you know, my grades were okay. Some years, they were really good. Some years, they were just okay. And so I wasn't really attracting attention with this. Right. You know, because if you have good grades or almost good grades, and, you know, teachers.
Alice Gendron [00:06:31]: We're noticing also that I wasn't really making efforts, so they are not really concerned about me. Not not that much. So I would say that, yeah, there there is this big misconception. And when I talk about it on Instagram, a lot of people relate. A lot of people send me messages telling me, I relate to ADHD symptoms, and I talked to my psychiatrist about it. But, they say, oh, it's okay. No. You have a degree, for example.
Alice Gendron [00:07:00]: So you can't have ADHD if you have a degree. So Yeah. Yeah. Big misconception here, especially, I think girls are quite good at being good students even though they are struggling. So there is something to be aware of here, and also something very important to his whole hyperactivity can express itself. So we often have this idea of a few kids with ADHD who run around all day, really busy, really loud. And, of course, it's the case sometime. We won't say otherwise, but sometime ADHD is also just quiet girls hyper focusing on the book, just doing the things and daydreaming all day.
Alice Gendron [00:07:45]: So we have to be really mindful of different way it can, really express itself, and there are different types of ADHD too. So Mhmm. Yeah. So I would say those are 2 big misconceptions that hyperactivity is just physical where it can be internal and mental.
Alice Gendron [00:08:07]: And that, people with ADHD are always struggling with, academics and school. I think, yeah.
Penny Williams [00:08:14]: Yeah. I think that there's other forces too that sometimes help you to get by in school. Maybe anxiety and fear of Getting in trouble or getting bad grades can help to Yeah. Sort of get you to the point where you just kind of get by. Right? It sounds like what you're saying is You were getting by. Mhmm. Other kids were maybe having more outward struggles, and yours was more internal a little bit, at least the people around you. I love that you brought up that hyperactivity can be internal, because I think that that is another misconception.
Penny Williams [00:08:49]: I certainly had the little boy that was super hyper and running around and bouncing off the walls, so it was very clear, right, that something was going on there. But A lot of people with ADHD, their brain is moving really fast. Right? Things are maybe bouncing around in there, but maybe not on the outside. And, you know, my son is about to turn 21 now. He doesn't run around and jump around, and he's not that same hyperactive on the outside. Mhmm. His mind and his spirit are sort of still really Fast paced. Mhmm.
Penny Williams [00:09:28]: I think it's something that a lot of times the adults in kids' lives don't recognize. Like you said, they have good grades, they get by, or, you know, they're not outwardly causing trouble. And we don't tend to focus on that. But, Really, if a kid is showing any symptom of struggle, any sign of struggle, that should be something that we're asking questions and looking into. Right?
Alice Gendron [00:09:52]: Yeah. Definitely. You're completely right saying that, you know, anxiety can help in a way to get good grades. And, I remember, for example, when I was 10, my general practitioner for just, you know, a routine medical check, And he asked me if, you know, everything was okay with life and school. And I remember telling him that I was stressed. And he looked at me with a smile, and he told me, you cannot be stressed at 10 years old, you know? So okay. Thank you for that. But, yeah, it was really an expression of something was going on.
Alice Gendron [00:10:33]: I think I was masking a lot and hiding my struggles because, you know, you can still want to be a good kid for your parents and just seem like you can manage, and you don't want to maybe cause troubles. So and especially for girls, I think we need to be really aware of the way that sometime when they have ADHD, they can seem really mature, seem really
Alice Gendron [00:10:59]: You know, like, they are grown up already. And, I think we really need to be mindful, and, you know, it's not the case. They just seem like they are, and it's dangerous to maybe treat them like see if they are that mature and when they are not.
Penny Williams [00:11:18]: And there's a real difference between the way we expect boys to act and the way we expect girls to act, And girls are expected to be more mature. Yeah. And so I think when you're struggling, you're still putting on that mask of trying to meet that expectation, and then you fall through the cracks because on the surface, you seem to be doing okay. Yeah. And I think that that It's a major difference between recognizing and diagnosing ADHD in girls earlier. It's just that a lot of times, they're masking To meet that societal expectation of the way girls act. And we miss the fact that, like, you were stressed. You were telling your physician, I'm really stressed at age 10, and, unfortunately, they blew that off when really that was a signal, right, that You were working extra hard, and you were extra stressed to try to meet expectations because you had something else going on that was making it hard for you.
Penny Williams [00:12:20]: It's really sad that we're so dismissive, but I think that's part of ADHD and the fact that we still don't understand it in the general public. But we're all working on trying to change that.
Penny Williams [00:12:31]: And your book, I know, will go a long way. And your work on Instagram, you know, you're reaching a lot of people, and that's a really powerful thing to start to move the needle and Change these misconceptions. Do you wanna talk a little bit about How the ADHD brain works. Like, what you've learned about your own brain and the ways that maybe you've learned to Accommodate or shift how you do some things to take into account how your brain works And being able to use that maybe to your advantage sometimes.
Alice Gendron [00:13:10]: Yeah. So I think what's important what I really finally understood is that there is no one fit all solution for ADHD brains. We really need to be self aware and to understand the way we work because people with ADHD can be so different from one another, and that's really something that I I see everyday with my community. I love to see the differences because I think, you know, we are not defined by ADHD. It's just something that impacts almost every second of our life, so it's really important. But at the same time, we are also really complex individuals with personality and and likes and different goals in life. So, yeah, I think it's really important to learn to learn more about yourself, about your brain.
Alice Gendron [00:14:04]: And this is really an ongoing work, you know, because I've gave a lot of advices in the book that are, you know, really simple key concept that I think can work for a lot of people using music, for example, to help focus because I think it's a really powerful thing, or using checklist because, you know, you don't have to rewrite your to do list if you have a recurring task. And it's just simple things, but I find myself almost every day noticing that I'm failing at using the advice I recommend in the book, you know, and I'm I'm just trying super hard to do something, and I'm just you know, I'm noticing why don't I just use the advice I give in the book. And the 1st advice I give in the hack section of the book is work smarter, not harder. And I think it's really that mindset that we need to really embrace. Mhmm. And I'm still working on it, really hard because, yeah, if you spend 29 years of your life working hard and working against your brain. It it can be difficult to learn how to go with your flow and understand, you know, that You don't have to have this violent approach to work and productivity. You can learn to use the way your brain is working to your advantage.
Alice Gendron [00:15:25]: But for that, you need to understand. Oh, your brain is working. And ADHD brains are are still complex, and we still don't really understand everything. But We know that we are really interest based. Mhmm. We are really fun based. You know? We need to have fun and find pleasure in what we do enough curiosity. And so I think if we can manage to adapt everything that we need to do every day to function and to make everything just go easier and smoother.
Alice Gendron [00:15:59]: We can really have a much easier experience of life, and I think that's a goal. And we need to remind ourselves that We don't have to just try other and, you know, just do more and do things in the hard way. We need to really find a peaceful way to do things, I think. But yeah. So I think this mindset change is at the core of everything, and then you can give advices like music checklist and everything. But if you don't change this mindset, nothing will really stick. But at the same time, when you have a late diagnosis, it's hard to change this mindset. So if you have ADHD kids, The good news is that you can help them learn that from the young years.
Alice Gendron [00:16:49]: And if my parents were aware that I had ADHD, maybe they would have changed the way they had expectation of me or the way that they force me to do things sometimes. So Right. Right. Yeah. I think with the kids, the good thing is that If you understand how their brain works, you can really give them some peacefulness for that, and I think it's a beautiful thing.
Penny Williams [00:17:14]: Yeah. And what you're talking about, I think, is really open mindedness to the way that people do things and function and learn and Just being okay with your child doing things differently Yeah. Or you, yourself, being okay with doing things differently. We talk a lot here to parents and educators about being really creative and thinking outside of the box because You have a kid who doesn't fit in the box. Yeah. You must do things differently, and that mindset piece is The biggest piece of it, really, for parenting too, is changing your beliefs, but also just kind of saying, Okay. If we're not gonna do things in a traditional way, it's totally okay. It's okay to do it differently.
Penny Williams [00:17:59]: What works better? What struck me while you were talking, And I don't know which expert to attribute this to. I can't remember who originally said it, but they talk about ADHD. And you know what to do, but it's about execution and being able to do it. That is the hard part. So you know that a checklist might help you, but remembering to use the checklist, being organized enough to use the checklist, right, is hard, And that's part of the challenge. And that's always stuck with me for a long time, that idea that it's not that you don't know what to do when you have ADHD. It's that you just struggle to get it done. Yeah.
Penny Williams [00:18:38]: It's sort of this dysfunction of execution, almost, in a lot of ways, which is your executive functioning. Right? And we know that executive functioning skills are often lagging with ADHD, and so I just kind of tied a bow around that for me when you were talking about that, that that really makes a lot of sense, that As parents, we can give you checklists. We can give you a calendar in school. We can give you all these things. We can tell you how to use it, But that may still not be what you need. Right? And we make assumptions, I think, as adults about What kids with differences need, we don't ask. You know, I think part of what you're stressing here is that people need to ask what you need when you're struggling, whether you're a kid or an adult. What is it that might make this more doable for you is a big, big piece of the puzzle.
Penny Williams [00:19:38]: Would you agree with that?
Alice Gendron [00:19:40]: Yeah, completely. And we need also to help children to ask themself what could help them. Because if you ask just a kid about what could help, maybe they won't know. But if you make it a habit of self awareness and, you know, just having this habit of asking himself or herself, what could help me right now? And trying to have this view of themselves and trying to find the solutions. I think that will really help them when there are others too because that sometimes the things that we really miss. I think, you know, we are so used to do the thing the way people are telling us that we should do things, that it's hard sometimes to just find the strength to say, no. I I cannot do things this way. And if I try, it will be harder for me.
Alice Gendron [00:20:37]: So just let me do the thing my way. I know myself because I I've tried things, and so I think that's another part of it. It's allowing yourself or your kid to try try things, and it's okay if it's not working. If it's not working, you will learn from it. And that's something I say in the book again. I give a lot of tools and advice, but just try what you want. And if it doesn't stick, if it doesn't work for you, just let it go. Maybe try another time later in 6 months.
Alice Gendron [00:21:11]: But as you said, be creative. Think outside the box and just It's okay if something doesn't work for you. And it's okay also if something weird works for you. We don't have to be, the same. And I think, yeah, it can be difficult also for parents because you have, you know, this fear to be judged. And if your kid is doing something, but in a way that is unconventional, it can be a bit confusing for parents too because Mhmm. We sometimes just want to be this picture of perfect motherhood. But we really need to learn to get rid of this mental weight of expectations and, and break free.
Penny Williams [00:21:56]: Yeah. Changing those expectations based on the individual is so monumentally important. And think that's how we help kids and adults to feel seen and heard and understood. When we're trying to force people to be something they're not, it can cause a lot of damage. You know? It's not just that maybe they don't do so well in school. There's a lot of repercussions to that. There's a lot of internalization, I think, of Blame and shame and emotion Yeah. That can be really, really lifelong struggle When that starts in childhood.
Penny Williams [00:22:39]: So, you know, I think that so much of what you're talking about here is really important for parents to take on as early as possible, and educators as well, being just really open to doing things differently. I think it really boils down to that. Like, be open to allow kids to do things differently. And wouldn't that be great for every kid? Yeah. I guess not just for kids with ADHD or autism or anything else. Like, that should be great for every kid. We should be more open to Creativity and individuality. Mhmm.
Penny Williams [00:23:12]: Anything else you wanna add before we close? Of course, we wanna mention your book again, The Mini ADHD Coach. And by the time this episode airs, I believe it will be Available in the United States as well, and I will have a link for everyone in the show notes for that. Thank scared. And those show notes are at parentingADHDandautism.com/236 for episode 236. Anything else you wanted to add, Alice?
Alice Gendron [00:23:42]: Yeah. Just, I think what's really important is to try to understand how kids work and how people work, and give them these habits of understanding themself and be kind to themself as young kids, it's a great gift for their ADHD adult self of the future. Because, as you said, there is a lot of shame, and self esteem is really a big issue among the ADHD community. We see a lot of adults really struggling in, in really dark places sometimes. And, for me, it's it's a really important topic. And, as parents, we really have this responsibility to help them develop this habit and this culture of really make peace with our brain and with themself. And and then I hope that next generation of adults with ADHD will struggle less with self esteem. Mhmm.
Alice Gendron [00:24:45]: Yeah. I really wish that we get that for the future.
Penny Williams [00:24:48]: Make peace with your brain. I love that. Be okay with who you are. Yeah. Yeah. Alice, thank you so much for being here. It was such a pleasure
Alice Gendron [00:24:57]: Thank you.
Penny Williams [00:24:57]: To talk to you, and we really appreciate you sharing your story And the work that you're doing to help people understand ADHD is so powerful, and I appreciate you so much. Scared. And I will see everyone on the next episode. Take good care. Thanks for joining me on the Beautifully Complex podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don't forget to check out my online courses and parent coaching at parentingADHDandautism.com and at thebehaviorrevolution.com.
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