11-year-old Asher Talks about What ADHD Feels Like

gender nonconformity kids

This episode is the first of a new regular feature of the TiLT Parenting Podcast—a special kid’s POV edition. Every few weeks, I’ll be sharing a conversation with my 11-year-old child Asher, in which we discuss an issue that’s particularly relevant to families with differently-wired kids. Asher hopes that by sharing his perspective on the kinds of things we as parents can struggle to navigate, moms and dads everywhere will better understand what’s happening with their child, as well as gain new inspiration for moving through tough situations in a way that best serves everyone involved.

In this episode, we tackle what ADHD feels like, and specifically the issue of DISTRACTION, something that has been a significant challenge for us as a family, and more recently, has become frustrating for Asher himself. In our short conversation, Asher shares what the experience of getting distracted actually feels like for him, as well as how frustrating getting distracted can actually be. We also discuss some of the strategies we’re using to help Asher stay on-task as we work to develop his focusing muscles.


About Debbie and Asher

Debbie Ash MiniDebbie Reber, MA, is a parenting activist, New York Times bestselling author, podcast host, and speaker who moved her career in a more personal direction in 2016 when she founded TiLT Parenting, a top resource for parents like her who are raising differently wired children. The TiLT Parenting Podcast has grown to be a top podcast in Kids & Family, with more than 3 million downloads and a slate of guests that includes high-profile thought leaders across the parenting and education space. A certified Positive Discipline trainer and a regular contributor to Psychology Today and ADDitude Magazine, Debbie’s newest book is Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World. In November 2018, she spoke at TEDxAmsterdam, delivering a talk entitled Why the Future Will Be Differently Wired. In the summer of 2020, she co-created the Parenting in Place Masterclass series.

Prior to launching TiLT, Debbie spent more than fifteen years writing inspiring books for women and teens. In doing so, she built a successful brand as a teen authority, was frequently interviewed and spoke about issues like media literacy, self-esteem, and confidence, and consulted for clients including the Girl Scouts, the Disney Channel, McGraw Hill, and Kaplan. Since 1999, Debbie has authored many books, including Doable: The Girls’ Guide to Accomplishing Just About Anything, Language of Love, Chill: Stress-Reducing Techniques for a More Balanced, Peaceful You, In Their Shoes: Extraordinary Women Describe Their Amazing Careers, and more than a dozen preschool books based on the series Blue’s Clues. In 2008, she had the privilege of creating and editing the first-ever series of teen-authored memoirs, Louder Than Words.

Before embarking on her own path as a solopreneur, Debbie worked in TV and video production, producing documentaries and PSAs for CARE and UNICEF, working on Blue’s Clues for Nickelodeon in New York, and developing original series for Cartoon Network in Los Angeles. She has an MA in Media Studies from the New School for Social Research and a BA in Communications from Pennsylvania State University.

Asher is Debbie’s child, and recorded this episode when they were 11 years old.


Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • Asher’s thoughts on what ADHD actually feels like, including what it’s like to always be distracted
  • Why it’s frustrating for the kids themselves to get distracted
  • What might motivate a child to work on staying focused
  • The strategy we’re using to help Asher stay focused and on-task while using his screen time


Resources mentioned for Asher’s perspective on what ADHD feels like


Episode Transcript

Asher  00:24

When I’m not thinking about losing focus and getting distracted, I don’t think about things that are distracting. So if I don’t think about that, and then I end up not losing focus, then I end up getting focused work done.

Debbie Reber  00:40

Welcome to the Tilt Parenting Podcast, a weekly podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring and forming and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host, Debbie Reber and today’s episode features a conversation with my 11 year old son Asher about focus, what it feels like to struggle with it and what strategies we’re using to help make it less of an issue in his day to day life. To learn more about this podcast and Tilt the revolution for parents raising atypical kids visit tiltparenting.com. I wanted to bring Asher into the conversation here on this podcast because he has a lot of thoughts and insights about all the stuff that we parents are trying to figure out. And for everyone out there who’s raising a neat kid, my hope is that our short conversations will in some way be interesting or helpful or thought provoking. My plan is to talk with Asher about all kinds of topics, things he’s working on current event strategies that fail or succeed, and really anything else that comes up in our world that feels like it would resonate with other families. For our first conversation, we talked about the issue of focus, which for a kid with pretty severe ADHD who is both inattentive and hyper focuses, and comes up a lot in the course of him doing schoolwork and creative projects. So Asher, this is our first recording that we’re doing for our podcast. Why? Yes, it is. And before we start, I wondered if you wanted to introduce yourself, so people know how old you are. And anything else you think is important for them to know.

Asher  02:18

Okay, well, I’m Asher, I am moving away from the microphone. And then I’m moving back. I’m 11 years old, and I live in Amsterdam and etc, etc, etc.

Debbie Reber  02:35

Something you need to know about Asher is that he likes to move. So sitting still, like for a podcast interview, for example, it’s not so easy. You may notice some variations in his audio levels, as his position with a mic is pretty fluid. So Asher, the reason that I thought it was so interesting to invite you to participate in this podcast is because I think that a lot of parents would find your insight really interesting and potentially useful in their own lives, if they have children who are going through things, and the parents may not understand how to best help them or maybe not even really understand what it feels like for their child to be in certain situations or to be dealing with certain challenges. And I feel like your insight could be really helpful. So I thought …

Asher  03:23

Or maybe have kids who are way too awesome. Like what if they had a kid who was way too awesome, and they didn’t know how to act?

Debbie Reber  03:30

That’s a good point. Well, what I was curious about what we could talk about today is that you and I have been having conversations lately about the idea of staying focused, and how you get distracted pretty easily. And you know what I know? That’s a huge problem for lots of kids. And I know there are lots of parents who really don’t really know how to best help their kid and they don’t understand why they’re getting distracted. And as I’m telling you this, you’re blinking your eyes.

Asher  04:05

You started it.

Debbie Reber  04:09

Which makes me feel like you’re getting distracted. 

Debbie Reber  04:13

So distraction. Obviously this is a huge problem for kids who have trouble staying on task, whether it’s doing schoolwork or tying their shoes to get out the door or really doing just about anything. And while kids being distracted can be uber frustrating for teachers and parents. It took me a while to realize it’s not something that distracted kids themselves necessarily feel good about either. In our house distraction seems to be taking center stage these days when it comes to present challenges. And in the past year specifically, I’ve noticed Asha getting more and more upset with himself and his own distraction tendencies. Screw up his plans for what he wanted to accomplish. Like say he’s got a goal of completing a bunch of models in Photoshop before dinner for a mod he and his dad are making. But then he fell down the old YouTube rabbit hole. And by the time he came to the table for dinner, he realized he squandered all of his time and didn’t get any textures done. And this kind of thing happens a lot. And it’s a situation he finds incredibly frustrating. And I totally get it. I asked her if he could explain to me if he knows what the getting distracted process actually entails for him.

Asher  05:25

Well, normally I’m like, Hey, I think I’ll do this. And, and then, and then I’m like, Oh, cool. I had this open too, and then I go over to that. And then, and then I’m like, oh, no, but I also had this and I got hurt. And then I never get anything done.

Debbie Reber  05:41

Are you aware that it’s happening in the moment?

Asher  05:45

Sometimes, like, sometimes I’ll just be like, Oh, crap. I, ah. And then I’ll feel too embarrassed to write that I just spent all my time and I didn’t get anything done.

Debbie Reber  06:05

So you kind of noticed that afterwards? And then, yes, yeah. I feel like I’ve seen that happen. And I can tell you’re really, truly frustrated about that.

Asher  06:17

It’s because I’ve used all my time, and I haven’t accomplished what I meant to do with that time,

Debbie Reber  06:23

And how does that feel?

Asher  06:25

Wow, that feels very, very, very annoyed. Yeah, no, annoying. I’m not sure how to say that. I know. We can’t say it feels annoyed.

Debbie Reber  06:35

No. Feels annoying.

Asher  06:38

Yes, it does.

Debbie Reber  06:40

I asked Asher if feeling annoyed was enough of a motivator to help him try something different next time, or work on not getting distracted in the future. You have the chin in your hand pondering pose at the moment? Are you considering your response?

Asher  06:55

Yes. What was the question again? I lost focus in imitating the thinker.

Debbie Reber  07:04

Hmm. My question was, what do you do with that frustration? Is it motivating for you to make a change?

Asher  07:14

Partially? Right? Why? Because you don’t want to be frustrated, and then do the exact same thing next time. Right, like, I want to make a change, but I don’t actually do it but I still lose focus. I’m like, I’m planning to do that. And then I lose focus. And I’m like, it’s only one I’m, it’s only when I don’t think about losing focus. And when I don’t lose focus, then I actually get focused work done.

Debbie Reber  07:45

Say that again?

Asher  07:46

When I’m not thinking about losing focus and getting distracted. I don’t think about things that are distracting. So if I don’t think about that, and then I end up not losing focus, then I end up getting focused work done.

Debbie Reber  08:02

That’s very interesting. Is that something you consciously choose to do? Or does it just happen? 

Asher  08:08

Sometimes, yeah, happens like, I’d say, like four, six of the time, otherwise known as two thirds of the time, otherwise known as zero have what 666666666666666.

Debbie Reber  08:29

Right now we’re spending a lot of time addressing this issue of focus, like, it’s one of our major scales we’re trying to build. Last year, we made these little planning sheets, where Asher would write down his primary personal goal that he wanted to accomplish that day, and then he would check in on it as the day progressed. That worked for a while, didn’t it? Yeah.

Asher  08:50

Yeah, totally did.

Debbie Reber  08:51

Why are you shaking your head? No, it didn’t work. It worked for a while, but it seems like it stopped working. Yeah. So what we’re doing now, is we have created screentime planning worksheets, right? Yes, we have, do you think you could just explain what a screentime planner worksheet is and how you’re using it,

Asher  09:17

there are like, there are six bubbles one one for each half hour, though. If you have more or less you can add more or less. Right. And then in the afternoon, I get to write my primary goal and my secondary goals, right. And basically, I work on the primary goal when I’ve done that, or if I can’t, can’t like to say I was, I was doing something and I needed inspiration that I would go do the second goal, right.

Debbie Reber  09:54

What about the concept of time like, how are…

Asher  09:58

Yeah, I have a timer that goes off every 30 minutes. And every time I do that, I’m like, Hmm, can I spend another? Can I spend another bubble? Oh, good. I can. Well, then I’ll reset this timer and I’ll fill that out.

Debbie Reber  10:13

So do you feel like that strategy’s working for now? Yes.

Asher  10:17

Except for the fill that out part. I’m filling it out in my head.

Debbie Reber  10:21

Mm hmm. Do you feel like it’s not as effective when you do it in your head?

Asher  10:26

Yes. Because I have lost, like 15 minutes on a number of occasions. Because I was just like, oh, yeah, I have another one, then I’m like, No, I went 10 minutes extra.

Debbie Reber  10:40

Definitely feels like a work in progress. 

Debbie Reber  10:43

So in case you didn’t get that, the screentime planning worksheet basically breaks down his allotted screen time for the day into 30 minute blocks of time. Before he begins a block of time. His job is to consciously decide how he wants to spend that time, what he wants to accomplish during it and then set a 30 minute timer. Then once the timer goes off, he has to fill in the corresponding bubble for that time block and determine if he has time for another 30 minute block. If so, he needs to consciously plan how he wants to use that time, and so on. By the way, I’m including a downloadable PDF for this iteration of the screen time planner in the show notes in case you want to see what it looks like and adapt it for your own needs. But yes, to reiterate, figuring out how to help Asher develop the neuro muscles to stay focused and reach his goals is definitely still a work in progress. With Asher I know enough by now to embrace a strategy when it’s working, use the heck out of it. And then when it stops working, which it nearly always does, tweak it or adapt it or in some cases, just toss it out and start from scratch with a new approach. The screentime planning worksheets seem to be working for now. But I’ll check back in with Asher in a few weeks to reassess and make sure it’s still helping him stay focused. 

Debbie Reber  11:56

Well, I want to thank you for chatting with me today. You’re welcome. Is there anything else you want to add about this idea of staying focused or getting distracted easily?

Asher  12:08

It’s very annoying when you get distracted.

Debbie Reber  12:13

Yeah. Do you feel like you’re going to be able to figure out a strategy that will help us stay more focused?

Asher  12:21

Yes, eventually.

Debbie Reber  12:24

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of The Tilt Parenting Podcast. Visit tiltparenting.com/podcast for a list of all the podcast episodes. And for the show notes for this episode, including PDFs of the two different iterations of our screentime planning worksheets. You can go to tilt parenting.com/session3. And if you liked what you heard today, I’d be so grateful if you could visit iTunes and leave a review for this podcast and subscribe. As a new podcast, getting reviews and subscribers is so important to help us find your audience and also to help parents raising differently wired kids find us. Thanks again for tuning in. And for more information on the Tilt revolution and to sign up for our community, visit www dot tiltparenting.com


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