Q&A with ADHD coach and therapist: Rudy Rodriguez

Local therapist and ADHD coach Rudy Rodriguez will give a free presentation about mindfulness practices for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at Malaprop’s Bookstore this Wednesday, June 27, at 7 p.m. Xpress spoke with him to dispel some myths about this disorder that affects an estimated 3 to 7 percent of school-aged children nationwide.

Mountain Xpress: What does it mean to be an ADHD coach and therapist?
Rudy Rodriguez: As a therapist, I specialize in working with ADHD preteens, teens, college students and adults, but the coaching methodology is different than therapy. Coaching is partly skill-building, and partly about asking questions that elicit their better thinking. It’s about teaching important and basic skills so that people with ADHD can learn to self-manage regardless of their medication.

Can you give us an example?
Sure. We have deadlines and things to do and putting it off or this or that, but we have to look at what’s the payoff. In children and teens, you often ask a question their first answer they will say is, “I don’t know.” So I’ll ask them, “What if you did know?”  It’s amazing how they tap into a different part of their thinking.

Some people believe that ADHD is over-diagnosed. What are your thoughts on this?
There is over-diagnosis in pediatrics in ADHD, yes. In adults, however, the statistic I came across a year ago is that 85 percent of adult ADHD are unrecognized, untreated and undiagnosed.

Why do you think there is an inverse relationship in pediatric and adult ADHD diagnosis?
I think it has to do with the history. I began working with ADHD in 1981 at state-run clinic in town. At the time, we thought it was a developmental disorder that only affected children. It wasn’t until 1991 that the first evidence of adult ADHD showed up in the literature then diagnosed in 1993 and 1994. One of the problems is that the adult presentation is still new to people. Often, it’s not so much the attention but the hyperactivity that shows up much differently in adults.

You mentioned medication. What are your thoughts on ADHD medication. Do you think mindfulness practice is enough?
I believe that medications in most cases are safe and reliable. There’s a lot of misinformation about medication and if it’s not working, it’s usually how the person’s using it. Secondly, mindfulness can work for everyone and anyone. But depending on the level of [ADHD] severity and of the challenges that the child or adult faces, medication may help to frame or tighten up that level of focus, allowing the mindfulness to come into place.

How would you describe what mindfulness means?
There’s the external environment, and then there’s the internal. Often, the mind just wakes up and activates, and people with ADHD just can’t turn it off. This is why a number of people with ADHD will have trouble falling asleep. The overall mindfulness concept is about present moment awareness. It’s about being in the present. I tell people that we emphasize “being” with a capital-B, capital-E.

How can people practice mindfulness?
There are some simple and daily practices that people can practice mindfulness, like eating or walking. For the person or adult ADD and ADHD, when you come in the house we have what I call “drive by moments,” where we drive by the present moment because we’re always in the action thinking about something ahead of time.

You talk about this with passion, but also with empathy. Do you have ADHD?
I do. I was diagnosed in 1993. I had tried meditation a number of times, and I had to go to meditation retreat. For me, I had to be in an environment in absolute silence. It was only then that I could find that mindfulness in an environment without an abundance of distractions.

What would you tell people who aren’t sure if they could benefit from your presentation this week?
What I’d like to get across, this seminar is really directed toward adults or individuals with ADD or ADHD, and [aims] to bring daily mindfulness practice into their daily life. But anybody and everybody will benefit from mindfulness.


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