Take-home strategies from Purple Ella’s talk on ADHD and Autism in Bristol
Last week I got to go to my old stomping ground (Bristol) to see my amazing friend talk about their experiences of having both Autism and ADHD.
I was amazed to hear that between 30-80% of autistic people would ALSO meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. What I found particularly staggering is that these were considered mutually exclusive diagnoses and so until 2013, you couldn’t actually be diagnosed with both!!
Ella shared some of their strategies they use to manage and balance their autistic needs with their ADHD needs.
- Mini routines: Ella has found success in setting up mini routines, to satisfy her autistic need for routine. However, she has a selection of mini routines she can choose from, to satisfy her ADHD need for spontaneity! These are triggered by the time of day, such as several different lunchtime routines they can choose from.
- Creating healthy dopamine-seeking activities: Research has indicated people with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine in the brain; ADHD medication raises these dopamine levels. For those who are unmedicated, they are likely to seek activities which will increase those dopamine levels and for many, these activities can be unhealthy, like over-spending, drinking or eating unhealthy foods for example. Ella shared with us how they have struggled with smoking and other unhealthy coping strategies.
Ella talked about how they use ‘doubling up’ to meet their need for dopamine, such as having a TV show on in the background, whilst also playing a game on their phone, or listening to a podcast whilst cooking (I LOVE podcasts and I’m always listening to one whilst cooking).
- Working on recognising and regulating emotions: It can be very hard to sit with your emotions and Ella spoke about their urge to fix the problem straight away and the discomfort we have in feeling bad. They talked about their previous tendency to catastrophise and how in that moment they forget they didn’t always feel like this and won’t always feel like this! They now remind themselves that the emotion is temporary and it WILL pass.
- Working on trauma: Many autistic people and those with ADHD have experienced trauma. Ella even said she hasn’t an autistic person/ADHDer who hasn’t experienced trauma. This was really heartbreaking to hear and to realise.
Having therapy and working through this trauma can be life-changing and Ella spoke so positively about the impact this has had on their life.
- Allowing for imperfection: Ella spoke about how they have always tended to be black and white in their thinking, which is something I think many autistic people would relate to. They said this led to feelings of failure, if they didn’t fully succeed with something or their strategies didn’t work and they had a meltdown for example. Ella advised people to try and have compassion for themselves and treat yourself as you would a good friend!
It was an incredibly helpful and informative talk and it was truly wonderful to hear Ella talk about how far they have come since their diagnoses. I thoroughly enjoyed going along and also meeting all the lovely people who attended.