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Traditional education has long served as a foundational pillar in societal progress. Yet, its inclination to prioritize academic success over the holistic development of children remains a predominant concern. As students invest countless hours in classroom learning, more than 90% of the students are struggling to reap its full benefits. This results in unmotivated learners and a sense of disillusionment among parents and educators. This podcast addresses that critical imbalance head-on.

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The show joins a diverse group of people who express their discontent with the current education system and offer their well-informed opinions on necessary changes. Listen to parents whose children deal with the challenges of a system that seems to be against them and how these families have successfully managed to navigate through standardized education to showcase their children's unique talents and abilities.

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ADHD As A Superpower: Transforming Challenges Into Strength With Lisa Ann Finley

February 25, 202443 min read

Children need to learn how to plan and prioritize. This can be especially challenging for students with ADHD or other struggles with executive function. Today, learning success coach Lisa Ann Finley joins Kohila Sivas for an enlightening discussion on how to make ADHD, or any disability for that matter, as a superpower. Lisa is a devoted mother to two neurodivergent children, a role that has given her a profoundly unique perspective on the world of education. Listen closely to her valuable insights and strategies on guiding your child's education and implementing effective systems to help them shine through, despite any disabilities they may have.

 

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ADHD As A Superpower: Transforming Challenges Into Strength With Lisa Ann Finley

It's an absolute delight to introduce our guest, Lisa Ann Finley. She is not just a middle school Math and Science teacher with fifteen years of experience but she's also a Certified Wholistic NeuroGrowth Learning Success Coach and the Founder of Pathways to Potential coaching practice. She has a Bachelor's degree in Middle Childhood Education and a dual Master's in Teacher Leadership and Curriculum Instruction and Design. Lisa Ann's educational background speaks volumes about her commitment to excellence.

Lisa Ann's journey is even more remarkable because she is a devoted mother of two neurodivergent children, a role that has given her a profoundly unique perspective on the world of education. As she navigates the challenges of ADHD in her own life, she transformed it into a strength that fuels her coaching approach. Now, Lisa Ann is on a mission that aligns perfectly with her passion, guiding capable students who may be facing struggles and ensuring that they unlock their full potential. It's a pleasure to have her on the show. Welcome, Lisa. Thank you for being here.

Thanks for having me.

You have been a teacher for over fifteen years. You taught Math and Science in your classrooms. Tell me about what made you want to leave that position.

I have loved being in the classroom and connecting with my students. Over the years of working with students, I realized that my superpower and what I'm good at is helping those students who don't understand why they're struggling. Students who have ADHD don't understand what their brain needs and what their individual needs are. I was getting the feedback that I was great with those kids and I dove into it. That's the part of my job that I enjoyed the most. It's also the part of my job as an educator that I think has the greatest impact on children and their future success.

Aligned Learning Revolution (Activate, Accelerate, Achieve) | Lisa Ann Finley  | ADHD

If I can help a student learn how to manage, how to advocate, and what they need to be successful, it doesn't matter what they go into. They can go into anything. They'll have choices. When I found out that there was a way that I could focus on that for more students, and truly focus and not be distracted by mandated curriculums, testing, and books to get through, I could focus on the part of teaching that I loved and that I was the best at.

You wanted to have a very customized and specialized program for your students, which is not possible in the classroom.

Exactly. I function from the perspective that everybody has the children's best interests in mind. Everybody wants to do these wonderful things. Teachers are working very hard in the classroom trying to teach a system to 30 kids at one time. The teachers now just can't. It's impossible. Each kid needs some little tweaks and something different. Even the best teachers, it's so hard to do that with those individual kids. By working with kids one-on-one, they create these great systems that they can keep up with. I've even had kids tell other kids some suggestions. I might be reaching more kids than I realize.

In the bio that I was reading, you have said that you have ADHD yourself. Tell me how you shared this with your students and this was not something the administrators liked.

After my boss and administrators had made some comments about how I'm pretty good with these kids and parents are noticing, I shared that it was because I had those same struggles and I was not diagnosed until I was an adult. What I used to do is I couldn't figure out why things were hard so I would make up what I would call mind games. I have to trick myself into doing something. I was pretty good at it, but it was so frustrating and I didn't realize what I was doing or why I had to be doing it. Now, I realize that those mind games are systems. I can intentionally teach a child a system that will work and modify it for them, but it's hard to get a kid on board.

They need to know why. They need to see the point and not just another adult telling them something that they should do. They've tried everything they've been told and it hasn't worked. I shared it with the students. I connected. I had great feedback and relationships with my students and their parents but my administrators were not happy about that. I was told that I had shared inappropriate information and put it on the kids to accommodate me.

I chose to view it as connecting with, relating, and helping those students learn what would be harder to learn and take longer to learn without that connection. Also, creating the world to be a better place. There are neurodivergent people everywhere. Learning how to appropriately react and advocate for yourself is not telling somebody to make an accommodation. Let's be good, understanding, and accepting of people.

There are neurodivergent people everywhere learning how to appropriately react. Advocating for yourself is not making somebody make an accommodation. It's about being good, understanding, and accepting of people.

Those are skills that every child should learn. For those parents who are tuning in to this right now, how much did you bring into that relationship with that child? When you said you were like this, they weren't accommodating you. You made them understand what they're going through is normal as well. “I have been through it but I created systems. If you can create these systems, you can be doing well too.” You can trick your brain or your mind to work for you. That must have been hard hearing that. That's not what you wanted to hear.

It was very challenging and very hard. That's when I ultimately made the decision to leave the classroom because I knew that what I was doing and how I was doing it was what was best for kids. The kids needed that. You can go to the best schools with the best teachers, but without those fundamental skills, if the best schools don't have the ability to customize, you're not going to reach your full potential.

Your kids were getting results. Isn’t that the ultimate goal that they were happy?

Yes, they were. I've even had parents tell me that I've restored peace in their house because the stress and the fighting over homework every day after school aren't there anymore. They get to have family moments after school. They get to be the parents and enjoy dinner and not have to fight and be their teacher. Parents are an extremely important part of their child's educational journey and that's making sure that there's someone who can equip them with these skills, be on them, and hold them accountable.

For parents listening now, what would be your tip? The word you used was boss. That's something that I want parents to understand. For a teacher, there are so many bosses at the school level. There are so many of them that you have to pass through. When you're doing something creative and it’s working, and because of some reason they feel like it's not appropriate, you have to stop. That's your creativity being crushed. You can see the results and it's being crushed and you have no control. I want parents to understand what some teachers go through in the system where their hands are tied to try new innovative ways.

That is very true. Much of knowing what I should do because it's what's right and what I'm allowed to do or what I have to do often don't align. I have sat in parent-teacher conference meetings with the parents think they're telling me things I don't know, and they have a problem with it. I agree with everything they're saying. I just can't do anything about it in that position.

However, in this position, I can do that. If a kid needs something, I can do that. This is why it can be difficult to share with others what I do because I do whatever is needed. I'm not a tutor. I don't just teach Math. Maybe the child needs help in math so we're going to learn these skills that are needed and we'll use math to do it and learn everything. Learn the skills that are needed.

Let me backtrack and let the audience know that Lisa decided one year ago now that she would leave the system. She decided to become a Wholistic NeuroGrowth Learning Success Coach. That's what she's explaining now, how she has the empowerment to do what is needed for each child on an individualized basis to their unique learning abilities. Tell me how this has changed your life and what are you enjoying most about being in this business that you own.

That's a hard question to answer for what I'm enjoying the most. I am more passionate about what I do than I've ever been. I went into education very passionate and the system took away a lot of that passion. However, I love it because of the text messages I get from a parent about how their kid is bragging and was so excited about how much math work they got done, or a parent thanking me because their kid is now passing their math class.

It's a sense of I'm doing what I went into teaching to do. I love to be creative and have new ideas. This allows me to live and thrive on that. Instead of having to prove and ask for approval and then have to modify and change, I get to be creative. I get to use my brain in creative ways and then teach children how to do that.

If I'm a parent right now watching or hearing this, I'm thinking, “What is the difference?” It sounds like tutoring. I'm sure you get that question a lot of times too. Tell us a little bit about how does it differentiate these two models.

Tutoring is all about helping with homework. Somebody's looking for a math tutor. They find somebody who knows how to tutor Algebra 1. The kid brings their homework. You help them step by step. They get their homework done. Maybe they get a decent grade on a test, but then they forget it. They don't remember it. What I do is look at all of the things that are needed to be successful in school. The last thing is the curriculum and the content. Students need to feel connected. They need to feel comfortable. They need to have those social and emotional skills. They need to have executive functioning skills. They need to know how to find what they need.

Students need to feel connected and comfortable. They need to have social and emotional skills. They need to have executive functioning skills. They need to know how to find what they need.

They need all of the foundational knowledge. Many times schools move so fast, pandemics, absences, or teacher shortages. There are so many reasons that kids miss those foundational skills and it doesn't matter how much homework help you give them in Algebra if they don't understand decimals, percent, and fraction. If a parent comes to me needing help with Algebra 1, I'm going to help with Algebra 1, but I'm going to find where those fundamental gaps are and fill those gaps so that they can continue and not need me.

That's very important, that independent part.

It’s very individualized and custom for each child. I have structures that work, but there are always differences. It's never exactly the same for every child because no two brains are alike.

They're unique. It's like the fingerprints. We all have our own prints. For a parent who is tuning in now, what would be a good tip you can give them when their child is struggling with Math, Science, or even learning to learn? We always teach kids what to learn but how to learn and how our brain works is hardly ever mentioned. We don't even talk about our brains. Maybe if you take Biology, you will learn some parts of the brain, otherwise, it's nothing. In your practice, the most important part is centering, learning to learn, and getting into the state. How do you also bring the parents into it? It's a wholistic model so let's talk about it and give me a tip.

The way I involve parents depends so much on the child and the situation. Oftentimes, what I end up telling parents is to learn your child's system. Don't give them a system

I love that. Learn your child's system and not give them a system because when you're giving a system, you're forcing it but if you learn your system, you can tweak it with them.

By learning your child's system, you're giving them autonomy. You can then make helpful suggestions. Follow up and help them recognize and use their system and then they'll be so much more willing to modify and change and find things. If you expect a system or a new strategy to work immediately or it's a failure, it's going to fail every time.

Part of it is seeing how if I had done this, then this wouldn't have happened. It's not, “If you don't do this, this will happen,” because the kids have to experience it. They have to believe it. One thing that is a very common reason that students struggle, especially with ADHD or executive functions or all kids is just the organization and making sure that they've done the work they need to do.

What teachers assign is intentional. There's an order to it. There's a reason. There's a method. To get the benefit of the education, the child needs to participate in that. To do that, they need to be able to visualize what they're doing, what they need to do, and how to manage their time. That is a skill that's hard to learn anyway and now, we're so reliant on online platforms that take away our ability to learn to visualize.

Students need to keep a planner or an agenda that they write, that they keep, and that they can go verify online but that has to be theirs because there's not an online portal for your life. What I suggest to parents who are just getting started, make it as simple as can be. Rip out any page in that planner you don't need that's a distraction. This is when I get a lot of pushback from parents. They're like, “They need to write more. They need the weak view.”

My suggestion is when you're starting, a lot of kids don't have a sense of time. If it's not right in front of them, they don't see it. They need to see that there is a method to the reasoning. You don't take the test and then go back and do all your makeup work. I suggest a simple month view planner when you're just getting started.

Also, getting that habit. It's the installation of that habit first because if you make it too much work, getting to a weekly view or even daily view, now I have to do a lot of work. I might push back and say, “I don't want to do this.” Getting them used to it and then maybe adding that step-by-step is great. You focus on ADHD and executive functioning because, in some ways, we all have some of it. It's a spectrum. It is not like you're ADHD or not. I have some things that I need help with too and you have too.

You've done lots of IEPs and seen lots of IEPs. It's a document that's very shocking. It's a new thing that you have to implement. What would be your suggestion for parents to understand and implement and keep it consistent? I find that over the years, there's a break between what happens at school and home. Now, we're putting the child in the middle clashing with two worlds. How would they need to take the IEP and the implementation if there's something that comes their way?

I say consistent communication with teachers. Make sure that the teachers understand your child's needs. There are a lot of things that schools should do or could do. There are a lot of things that you might think that your school i doing. Send an email to each of your child's teachers at the beginning of the year or semester and give them a little bit of information about your child. You can say, “I'm Lisa's mom. She does have an IEP. Here are some of the things that we have found have worked or that past teachers have tried that didn't work.”

You need to consistently communicate with the teachers and make sure they understand your child's needs.

Sometimes that's as useful. Get it on the teacher's radar, especially when a new semester is starting. They might have 160 kids, 20 of whom have IEPs, all of which are many pages long. Yes, they need the information in there. Is it more helpful if you can give them the bullet points to get started and pull out what you want them to know? It's very useful.

Send them an email. What if the teacher is not implementing the stuff? Do you go directly to the admin and complain? Would that be the right route? In your experience being a teacher, what would you have appreciated that parents did first before they went to the administrator? Is there a route that you can suggest?

It’s partnership and collaboration. Function from, and this can be very challenging. I am the mother of two special needs children, and I have been very unhappy and very upset at times and very tempted to send emails that I have received as a teacher and I don't. It's about collaborating with the teacher, coming from the place of we're all in it for the best interest. It took me many years to understand why certain things are in an IEP.

There were things that I was like, “This is not fair. I don't think that's right.” It doesn't matter what the teacher might think of an IEP and they may not have had experience. They may think what they're doing is the best. Reach out to the teacher. Come from a place of curiosity. “Why are you doing it this way? That's not going to work for my child because.” Now, if you've reached out to the teacher and nothing is happening, then it is very appropriate. You're your child's best advocate. Go up the ladder, but always start with the teacher and come from a place of good intention and collaboration.

It’s very important because at the end of the day and this is something I'm going to keep reminding the parents who are watching is that the pa the child has to still go back to that classroom. They are going to be with that teacher. Now, that you upset them or you are in a war, you're putting the child in between that war. It's not a good energy for them to be inside of either. As a mom of two kids, when we get mad, we might want to write an email with the furious hands rather than mind.

One of the other strategies we can learn is to put all of that in a document like Word doc or even write it in an email format, but don't send it. Leave some time. Walk away and then readjust that email with that good intention and remind yourself, “My son or daughter still has to be part of this classroom.” Unless you want to take them out and never be part of that, I would not recommend sending them with all that upset energy. It's not going to work because they're not going to be received well.

Those are all very great suggestions. I always put it in the perspective of I've received these emails and I've received some very disheartening emails for kids that I was losing sleep over. As I said, as a parent, I understand.

However, as a teacher, it's hard.

There are times when I'm on the parent side of this, I will write an email and ask for a phone call. It’s because when you're having a conversation face to face or just over the phone, you remember that you are dealing with a person and it is hard to convey partnership and genuine good with a difficult topic in an email.

It’s because you're missing the body language. You can be a mom in tears, but the teacher doesn't see that. They see all these words that are being written without any body language. That's why in person is very important. Let's move on to the way you teach Math. You're doing some Science. We were earlier talking a little bit about installing new operating systems because you're all about systems because that's what you were doing when you were young and creating systems. Tell me about some of the pillars that you use that make positive results for the students. They get it fast and they see results. They're confident. Tell us a little bit about that.

I have three main systems that I focus on. One of my systems is the barrier breaker pillar. It is helping students identify barriers that are preventing them from learning or getting what they need. It’s because if they can't identify future barriers, they can't break them down. Sometimes you need to learn your multiplication facts. Sometimes you don't have a dedicated study space at home so you can't get into your mind's best work. You can't get into the best zone to do work or you're where you are seated in the classroom or the way you organize.

There are so many different barriers that we don't realize are preventing us. Helping students identify what those barriers are and then make a plan to overcome them. This allows students to become more confident and empowered. They're developing resilience and problem-solving skills that are going to benefit them not only in the classroom but almost more importantly in their life.

There are so many different barriers that we don't realize are preventing us. Helping students identify those barriers and then make a plan to overcome them allows them to become more confident and empowered.

What else do you use with kids? The organization is huge and we are all distracted, not just the kids but as the parents. We're distracted. Teachers are distracted because it's a distracted world right now. Tell me how you get them to that level of focus and then that accountability part to learn.

It's about having students set their intentions and then create a plan to get to those intentions. Sometimes it might be like, “We have figured out that it is best for you to come home and do your work right away,” or sometimes you need a break. We need to find that zone or that time that's best for students to get into that flow state. Also, to have some kind of ritual when it becomes time to settle, work, and focus.

There are different mindfulness activities like breathing, types of music, and the priority that you do things. Some students check off a few things at the beginning. You feel like you're getting on a roll. Others, let's work on that hardest thing first. It’s about trying different things and then where you feel the success expanding on those.

As a Wholistic NeuroGrowth Learning Success Coach, how are you bringing in the parents. A lot of the time, parents do need help if they have a learner who learns differently at home. Also, if there's homeschooling, especially. You've taken the job on, but then you realize that there are things that you need to modify because every child is different. How do you bring them into your coaching practice so you have a team effort?

I bring them in at the beginning before we even start. Everybody needs to have clear established goals for what we're doing. We're doing whatever is needed, but we need to know what we've decided that is and make sure we are all working toward that. If I'm working with a student, we're starting to coach, and I realize something is not working and the right thing to do is change, which I wouldn't be able to do in a classroom, I would reach out to the parents. I'd have a conversation with them.

We would learn about why and how we're going to try it and make sure that everybody's on board and that it is still working toward the common goal. Sometimes, it's me telling a parent, “I've got this. I don't want you to sit down and do your Math homework with your child. I've got this. This is my thing. You get to be the parent at dinnertime.”

Other times it might be, “Your kid needs a little bit more support from you. Here's what they're telling me.” It's making sure that I have shared goals with the parents. Also, communication. They know what's happening. They know that they can ask me for something if they think their child needs something. It’s constant open communication.

If you are talking to one of your students, what would you tell them if they're struggling and they have a label? A lot of the time, labels help in the school system, but they also sometimes become some kids' identities. That's where the label can go both right and the wrong way in the system. If you don't have a label, you don't have a system so you are left to be on your own. You do need a label but then when you become associated with the label, “I have ADHD. I have autism. I have this. I have that.” You have ADHD. How does this child balance that and how can they balance?

It’s helping the child understand what the label does in the real world. You're right. In school, it is important to have assistance and to get the IEP to ensure that of the 160 students, your child is still getting what they need. In the world, it is helping you find the path faster. I know that I struggle with ADHD.

I have learned about what ADHD is so that when I need a new system, I'm probably going to pick the one that works faster because it gives me a guide of what to try first. It makes no difference. Every single person's brain is different. What works for every single person is different. It doesn't change the way I work with kids. It changes the guide we follow but in the world, there could be a label for everyone.

Every single person's brain is different. What works for every single person is different.

With our personality, we can have labels too. What about parents? Let's give parents a tip. I had students come into my office and they would tell me, “I have a learning disability. Sorry.” It was like a badge. I'm like, “That's great. Let's see what systems and what things we can work on. The way you learn, let's look at how you learn.” What about parents? It's hard because if the child starts using it as a badge to get out of things because they learn that this is working, how can they help the child get out of that?

I think it's important that the parents check their feelings about the label and that it might be hard. It was very hard for me as a parent to get a 60-page report about all the things that my child struggles with. I felt very defeated. I had to check my feelings and my emotions before communicating them with my child. It needs to be framed in a positive way. If your kid is newly diagnosed with dyslexia, the kid already knows. They know that they struggle. It's not a bad thing that they can now come to understand it.

It might be hard for you to hear as a parent. Accept it, check your emotions, and let your child know. Don't make it a big deal because it oftentimes comes with a sense of relief. It's like, “There's a reason why this is hard.” You can use that relief to build that confidence, find those strategies, and empower them instead of, “You have a disability. This is going to be hard. This is bad.” Use it as a time of empowerment.

If a teacher is tuning in to this now, they're trying everything. I'm not saying every teacher is equal, but there are some teachers who are trying their best, but they're trapped in a system where their hands are tied to help many of our students. What can they tell themselves in that situation? You were one of those teachers feeling that frustration as well.

As I said about parents, check your emotions and what you can be portraying to your kids, it’s the same thing with teachers. Teachers are doing the best that they can, given the circumstances. I think teachers need to give themselves grace so that they're able to do what they can in the classroom. If one of your students has a learning success coach, view us as a partner because I know how challenging it is.

I am excited to take something off of your plate, have a child in your room with systems that are working, or with that foundational knowledge so you can help another child fill in some of those gaps. Also, you can see a system that works and start implementing it in your classroom. I want to take something off of your plate so work with us. We are not there to make your job harder. We are here to make your job easier and to help with the success of all of your students by helping some of your students.

Let's go to now the administrators. I know you didn't have a good time with some of them. They didn't give you that respect for what you were doing. A lot of the time, as you said the word boss, it is what it is at the end of the day. Parents need to understand that teachers and their bosses are the administrators, and the bosses are the policymakers. It doesn't matter whatever curriculum gets changed. You have to implement it in the time given.

If your child is weak and has fallen behind, it doesn't matter. We have to keep going and we have to test at the end of the day because that's what we're there for. What can you tell the administrator to understand about the teachers and the situation in the classroom? They don't see it every day. They come in once in a while and drop in and make decisions.

One of the things that I often think about is how long it has been since an administrator has been in the classroom. In the fifteen years that I've been in the classroom, the classroom has completely changed.

Can I ask you as a parent? What changed? I'm curious now as a parent. What change did you see in those fifteen years?

The teacher's freedom and ability to modify what needs to be done. Also, constant changes in the curriculum where as soon as teachers start getting good at something or something starts working or we don't even know if it's working yet, but we're given something else new. I think teachers' autonomy in their classrooms has gone away, as well and behaviors are increasing.

I think behaviors are increasing for many reasons. One of them is that teachers aren't able to adapt to what needs to be done early on so then there are learning gaps that are then going to add to behaviors. It’s a snowball effect. I would like for administrators to trust your teachers and set guidelines, but allow flexibility within the guidelines. Allow teachers to be creative. Allow them to try something.

Behavior challenges are increasing for many reasons, one of them being that teachers aren't able to adapt to what needs to be done early on.

I say that also knowing that administrators also have a boss. That is such a huge part of education. I think it's important for teachers as well to give that grace that we want from our parents to our administrators because just like our hands are tied by our administrator, a lot of times their hands are tied too.

There's a lot of burnout too in the administrators' world as well. Their hands are tied in many situations.

As I said, I function from a place where everybody has the children's best interests in mind. It's very frustrating when you can't act on that no matter what level you're at.

Let's talk a little bit about the behaviors. We have all these kids in one classroom. There are varying abilities and learning needs. We're delivering to one mass one way. Where does this behavior stem from? What is the reason behaviors are escalating in the classroom?

The individual needs of kids are changing. They're more diverse. There are more needs. When kids' needs aren't being met, there's going to be increases in behavior. If you're going to Math class every day and you are so bored and you have no idea what's going on, you're not going to sit there the whole time. Many students would not sit there and be quiet the whole time. They're bored. They're going to act.

“I want to move. I want to look at my phone because I'm bored.”

That then takes the attention of the teacher and then more needs aren't being met. Again, it's one of those snowball effects. It wasn't created by the pandemic, but it was magnified greatly by the pandemic. Now, I'm working with kids at the middle school level who missed, by no fault of the teachers, a lot of those basic foundational things.

Especially in subjects like Math and Reading. It has fallen a lot. Let's give some tips to parents if they do have kids who have fallen behind or they're not at the level of their classmates because if you're in the traditional school, you have to get them up to that level. Otherwise, they're falling day by day. Their motivation is struggling as a student internally. Who wants to sit and get badly graded papers? It doesn't do anything for your mindset. How can parents help their kids move them forward if there are 2 or 3-year gap?

Parents need to recognize that schools aren't able to do it all. Parents need to invest in finding what those gaps are and filling them. Sometimes they might be equipped for it, other times they're not. It's finding somebody who is equipped to identify those foundational things so that your child can have choices later in their life. They've got to have those foundations or it just crumbles and choices are taken away from them.

Parents need to recognize that schools aren't able to do it all. They need to teach it or invest in finding what those gaps are.

What do you mean by investing? Is it invest in time to sit?

Sometimes it might be investing in that time. It might be investing in somebody else. I know that my child has her own learning success coach. For me and many children and many families, my child is going to receive this information and this support better from somebody else with that coaching relationship instead of the mother-child relationship. I also know that I work better with other people's kids because I have that mother-daughter relationship with my child. It's harder. It takes more time than it would. I think oftentimes the best option is to find that person that is going to connect and fill those gaps with your child so that you can foster your parent-child relationship.

As a mom with two kids who have different needs in your family, how do you balance it all? That's something parents struggle with as well. There are too many things going on. How do you self-care for yourself? As a parent, moms, or dads, we need to care for ourselves.

I implement the same things I tell them to do with my students. I have worked hard to develop and I'm always modifying different systems in my household. There needs to be specific times for parents to take care of themselves. You're a better parent if you take that time either away from your child or take that time with your child not just being with your child. Not time spent doing homework, not time spent doing chores but do what rejuvenates you because it makes the time that you do have with your children and the decisions you make regarding your children better.

You can't serve from empty cups. You have to feel your soul as a mom and a dad.

Your kids feel the energy. You might think you're good at hiding it, but if you are burning out, your kids know it. If you have that positive energy, your kids feel it.

Energy is everything. How important it is for parents to share if they have some disability themselves or ability? It's not disability. In the real world, it's a disability, but actually, ADHD is an ability because you have different ways of thinking that nobody else does. It's a superpower in my mind. Should a parent share that like you did at the school system?

I say definitely. That's the best way to create a culture of acceptance and willingness to learn, connection, and credibility. I think it's beautiful when students and parents learn to advocate and own who they are. We are all proud of who we are and the way our brain works is part of who we are. I think it's a beautiful thing to share and be able to have that empathy and that connection with your child and with others. It's amazing.

It's beautiful when students and parents learn to advocate for and own who they are.

Would you use the label or do you just say it as, “My brain works this way.”

I do it both ways. For my child with ADHD, I name it because she's going to school hearing that label and she needs to know what that means and, “Okay. Mommy too, and mommy talks about it this way.” ADHD means it's the way our brain works. Our brains work sometimes differently. Focusing on the label is not necessary but if they're hearing it at school, they need to see the connection there.

Also, normalizing it. The more you talk about it, it becomes like, “I have ADHD, but I think differently. In the same breath, we can say that I have great systems I've implemented because I have ADHD because my brain works differently.

Amazing things have happened in my life because I have ADHD. My daughter is adopted and sometimes it takes families. They say it’s a minimum of six months to do a home study and sometimes it takes two years to get everything in place. My ADHD allowed me to hyperfocus and do it in one week. There are amazing things about it. What you said made me think of what I've been learning. I am not an autistic person so I do not speak from the autistic point of view but once my son was diagnosed with autism, I did a lot of research.

I think the best way I can support my child whose brain works in a way that I don't understand because my brain is different is I listening to people who live with the lived experience. It is becoming more and more of a trend within the autistic community to name yourself as an autistic person because that's who you are. It's a part of your identity. It's the same as you are Kohila and that is interesting because we've often heard a child's first language, but so much of how our brain works can be viewed as an identity.

That's why we name our brains in our programs. It has its own name because that brain works.

Our brain tells us so many things. We need to train it to tell us nice things.

Also, be in control of it because you have to control it and not allow it to control you so it's very important. Do you want to add anything, Lisa now that we're coming to the end? Is there anything that you want to leave?

I want to thank you for having me here. I want to remind parents, administrators, and students that we're all on this difficult journey together. There are lots of disagreements. There are a lot of problems in education but let's all continue to come from a place of what can we do best for kids.

I always say we have all these groups of people working around this child and the child is in the middle of it. How we act, behave, and talk to each other, they're always watching. We can teach them so many things during that time of conflicts that we have with each other as well. They're watching and ultimately, they're the ones who will be hurt.

As you said, they are the most precious people that we have to take care of because if that young mind finds out that people are against me, people don't like me, and people don't care about me, then our brain will start making stories and that's not good for any children. That's why a lot of children go on different paths. They choose paths that are not healthy for them too.

It's very important, as you said. Everyone is involved. That's the most important person in this whole equation. Thank you, Lisa. Thank you so much for sharing everything you did in this episode. Thank you for being authentic and open, sharing about yourself and your kids because that's what this world needs to hear.

We don't need to hide it. That's the old world where we all hide and we all pretend like everything is fabulous. We come on pretending like we have a fabulous life and everything is fine. When we suffer, we suffer in our private world, and it's not healthy. We got to help each other. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you so much for having me and allowing me to share. Also, giving a platform for that and a way to help more students to reach more.

We have our goal of reaching 1.5 million students before 2035. That's our holistic view or mission for all of our coaches. Thank you parents for tuning in to this and all of the other people. I forgot to ask. What would you tell your students? Give them something before you go.

Believe in yourself. You are fully capable and believe in yourself. You deserve to get what you need.

Believe in yourself. You are fully capable, and you deserve to get what you need.

Also, ask and stand up for it. Thank you so much, Lisa.

Thank you.

---

There you have it with Lisa. That was a powerful conversation I had. Hopefully, you found some great tips that Lisa has shared. I want to make sure that I touch on some of the things she said. She said that your child learns through systems. She had ADHD. What she did was when things didn't make sense for her when she was part of the system where she wasn't getting the help she needed because she got the understanding that she had ADHD later. What she did is she decided on her own and I've seen many children that I worked with as well where they start forming their own way of learning and systems to help them to make sense of what is being presented to them even in the classroom, at home, and the playground.

It’s important that as parents, instead of looking at anything as a label, as she said, to make it and normalize it. It's important because they're going to hear it. We don't want to be like, “I can't say ADHD because my child is going to get upset because if somebody else says it and they get upset, they don't know how to handle it. Make ADHD a superpower that you have a unique way of learning. You have a unique way of understanding this world. Let's see what systems we can put into place so you can do better than everyone else. You can do your best as yourself.

Also, understanding that you can also share your own struggles with your children. It's important for them to feel that as parents, we're not perfect because we don't want a household where parents are growing up thinking, “My parents are perfect. I need to be perfect.” If they get diagnosed later in life and they're like, “I'm no longer perfect,” we don't want any children, any child feeling like they're not perfect. They are perfect the way they are.

Even if they have autism, even if they have ADHD, it doesn't matter what they have. They are perfect. We have to find out what systems they came up with and what systems can they learn to help them with anything that's happening in the classroom. Another thing that I want to touch on from a teacher's point of view is how she said that having open communication with your son or daughter's teacher is so critical. Sending that email and having a face-to-face conversation because when emails are written, if we're so upset or mad, we can say things that we would never say in person.

That's why taking that conversation in person will help you in the situation to get your child the help they need. In the school system, it is suffering. It is going through chaos and it is going through an adjustment. Until it fixes itself and comes to a place, as parents, we all need to do what can help our kids in the school system and bring everyone together. I always say and this is my biggest thing that all of us, it doesn't matter if we are teachers, educators, administrators, or politicians, we have to know that the child is in the middle of this equation. In this equation, you have to protect the child. You must understand that everything you do must get in alignment to help the child and not against it.

Instead of finger-pointing, as my message always is, let's work together as much as possible even in situations that are bad because there are some. I understand it's not possible and you heard Lisa say she had 60 pages that explained her child's disability. In order to read that and take all that in how much is wrong with your child is not easy at all. Also, not getting the help they need in the classroom is not easy at all. It is a system that's trying, but unfortunately, it's also failing.

Having that understanding will help you combat the situation and give you the strategies to move forward with your kids' school, the teachers, and the administrators. What systems can you implement for your child if they have a label of some sort? What do they have that is the superpower that you can enhance and help them become who they are and shine through even their disability, which is what the world calls it, but I love to call it their ability. They came with their own ability, but we need to understand how to enhance and help their ability and implement systems that are going to work for them. Until next time, thank you so much for joining and I'll see you on another episode.

Important Links

About the Guest

Lisa Ann Finley

Aligned Learning Revolution (Activate, Accelerate, Achieve) | Lisa Ann Finley  | ADHD

Lisa Ann Finley is a passionate middle school math and science teacher with 15 years of dedicated experience. Armed with a Bachelor's degree in Middle Childhood Education and dual Masters in Teacher Leadership and Curriculum Instruction and Design, she has been shaping young minds with enthusiasm and expertise. Lisa Ann is a devoted mother of two neurodivergent children, an experience that has given her a unique perspective on education. She herself navigates the challenges of ADHD, turning it into a strength that fuels her coaching approach. Now, Lisa Ann is thrilled to focus on her true passion – guiding capable students who may be struggling, and ensuring they unlock their full potential.

It’s an absolute delight to introduce our guest today, Lisa Ann Finley. Lisa Ann is not just a middle school math and science teacher with 15 year’s experience but also a Certified Wholistic NeuroGrowth Learning Success Coach and the founder of Pathways to Potential coaching practice.

She has a Bachelor's degree in Middle Childhood Education and dual Masters in Teacher Leadership and Curriculum Instruction and Design, Lisa Ann's educational background speaks volumes about her commitment to excellence. She has been shaping young minds with boundless enthusiasm and expertise throughout her career.

But Lisa Ann's journey is even more remarkable. She is a devoted mother to two neurodivergent children, a role that has given her a profoundly unique perspective on the world of education. As she navigates the challenges of ADHD in her own life, she's transformed it into a strength that fuels her coaching approach.

Today, Lisa Ann is on a mission that aligns perfectly with her passion – guiding capable students who may be facing struggles and ensuring that they unlock their full potential. It's a pleasure to have her today, welcome to Lisa Ann Finley."


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Kohila Sivas

Kohila Sivas is a parent and a lifelong learner. She has been a classroom teacher at all levels and a Special Needs Instructor and is a Professional Math Interventionist, a Master NLP coach, and a #1 Best selling author.

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