Resources for the ADHD Brain (and its FriendsMentorsParents )

By Alexis Colvin

Resources for the ADHD Brain

ADHD is incredibly common and on the rise. In America, more than 1 in 11 children and nearly 1 in 22 adults have ADHD. It’s not clear why ADHD is so common; theories range from increased screen time and internet use to decreased stigma and a better understanding of the disorder. 

Whatever the cause, one thing is clear:

Having ADHD is hard, and so is finding the resources we need for it.

Because ADHD is an attention-deficit disorder, it can be difficult to process and pay attention long enough to find the help we are looking for. For those with ADHD, even these last two paragraphs were probably hard to stick with and process. 

For those with ADHD and their loved ones, the dilemma with finding tools is probably not a lack of resources but that there are too many to choose from and you don’t know where to start. Imagine standing in front of a car with a giant toolbox, and being told you have everything you need to get the car running. Having every tool in the world is not very helpful if the tools are unlabeled and you have never been taught how to use them.

That’s why we’ve put together (just a few!) tools that are simple, accessible, and easy to use. 

Just like a toolbox, these resources are not meant to be used all at once! We can pick the ones that we feel we need right now. Understanding what we need in the moment is the first step to growth! 

Remember, having ADHD doesn’t make us bad, wrong, or stupid; we just have a different brain that needs different tools in its toolbox. We hope these tools become a great resource for thriving with ADHD.

To get started, pick the section below that applies to you:

  • I have ADHD: Start in this section if you have ADHD and are looking for tools or resources for specific areas of your life. 
  • I’m a friend, parent, or mentor of someone with ADHD: Start in this section if you are looking for ways to support someone in your life with ADHD.

I have ADHD

Start in this section if you have ADHD and are looking for tools or resources for specific areas of your life. 

Pick the question that best relates to the needs you are feeling right now to find helpful tools.

Like a team, our brain has different parts that have different roles in making sure our body runs smoothly. One part is in charge of speech and language, another is in charge of telling us when we’re hungry or need to sleep, and another is in charge of storing memory. 

If our brain is a team, then our prefrontal cortex is the captain – it’s the part of the brain that makes decisions, thinks ahead to the bigger picture, and makes sure all the other parts work well together. This role is also called executive functioning.

It has been shown that people with ADHD have a smaller prefrontal cortex than their neurotypical peers. Because the rest of your team depends on your captain to tell them what to do, the other parts of your brain get affected by the prefrontal cortex, especially parts like:

  • Memory
  • Managing emotions
  • Impulse control

This means that your brain is not broken; your captain just needs some help.

Another way to put it is that your brain is like a fast and powerful racecar, but you’re using bicycle brakes. This video explains it well:

The first step to getting help for your “captain” is understanding what your captain does. Then you can get it the help it needs (without judging yourself for needing it). 

Use the tool below to understand yourself and your “captain” better.

Tools for your “Understanding Toolbox”🛠 

Because ADHD affects executive functioning—the part of the brain that tells the other parts of your brain when to turn on and off—your ability to handle and manage your emotions is limited. It will be harder to have self-control if you get angry, sad, afraid, or even excited. If there’s too much going on at once, you might explode, break down, or run away from what’s causing you distress. It might also be hard to come down from these big emotions that are hard to control.

Having emotions isn’t bad. The brain just needs some tools to help it understand and manage them!

Tools for your “Emotions Toolbox” 🛠

Motivation is like a bridge that takes us from “intending to do something” to “actually doing something.” ADHD is a motivation deficit disorder, which means our motivation bridge will have bigger gaps than other people.

Watch this video from How to ADHD to learn more about your motivation bridge:

These types of tasks do not keep an ADHD brain motivated:

  • Lengthy tasks
  • Repetitive tasks, and 
  • Boring tasks. 

Some “planks” do help people with ADHD stay motivated:

  • Placing urgency on the task,
  • Incorporating “newness” or novelty to the task, and
  • Applying a personal interest to what you’re doing.

So if you want to stay motivated, make the lengthy, repetitive, boring things urgent, new, and interesting to you.

Tools for your “Motivation Toolbox” 🛠

  • Making it urgent: Use a Pomodoro Timer. Set this timer and try to get as much done as you can in that time. Don’t check your phone, computer, or anything else until that timer is done. Then take a break and check all you want!
  • Making it new: Use The Hero’s Journalto turn your goal into an “epic quest.” 
  • Making it personally interesting
    • Owaves – use this visual calendar to keep your tasks interesting and motivating!
    • Finch – use this app to “feed your bird” when you complete a task. Its growth and development is a good reward system to keep you motivated.

It’s hard to stick to a schedule or habit for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for people with ADHD. Sticking with things is important because change is not something that happens right away, but over time. Think of a rubber band – if you try to stretch it all the way out, it will snap back the moment you let it go. But if you stretch it one degree at a time, the change is more likely to stick. 

When it’s hard to stick with something, use these tools to help you stay on track.


Tools for your “Goal-setting Toolbox” 🛠

I’m a friend, parent, mentor of someone with ADHD

Tools to help those we care about.

Start in this section if you know someone with ADHD and are looking for tools or resources to understand and help them better. 

How does ADHD work?

What’s the science behind ADHD?

What are some tools I can use to understand my person with ADHD (and help them understand themselves) better?

How do I help my person with ADHD get unstuck?

Use this table as a quick reference for the “to dos and not to dos” of helping someone with ADHD from this video.

What you think might help What would actually help
Organize or clean for them Organize or clean with them
Encourage them to finish a task before taking a break. Break tasks into chunks with breaks in between (use timers!). And let them have a say in how things are broken up.
If they’re late on a project or task, say “It’s okay, no worries, give it to me whenever.” If they’re late on a project or task, say “Okay, when can you get this done?” 
Insist they use a system that works for you. Meet them where they are at. See what they’re currently using as tools and work with them from there.
Tell them “Everyone struggles with this.” Listen to and understand their unique experience.
“Eat the frog” – tell them to do the hard tasks first. Encourage them to do easy tasks and then build up to the big stuff.