F is for Fidgeting

The kid who squirms in his seat during class.

The teen who jiggles her leg under her desk while writing a test.

The young adult whose post-secondary lecture notes are covered in doodles.

The working adult who clicks pens during meetings.

The stay-at-home mom whose feet twitch constantly while she’s reading a picture book to her preschooler.

It’s annoying to other people. Sometimes it’s annoying to us. It makes people think we’re nervous. It makes them think we want to be doing something else.

It’s fidgeting.

Fidgeting is the common word for the little things people do to help ground themselves and maintain their focus. Neurotypical people don’t do it as often as neurodiverse people do, but they do it all the same. Sometimes our stuff is more obvious than the neurotypical stuff, is all.

It’s all a type of stimming.

“Stimming” is short for “sensory stimulation” and it refers to the things we do to positively impact our sensory systems. You’ll usually see it used in conjunction with autism, because autistic people do it the most, but all people who have developmental disorders stim, and that means ADHDers stim, too.

Stimming can calm us if we’re feeling overwhelmed.

It can help us focus if we’re struggling.

It can keep our bodies in motion so that our ears and eyes can do their jobs better.

Sometimes a stim or fidget is disruptive, and that’s when we have to find other ways to get the same sensory input. It makes no sense to replace pacing with tapping your knee if what you need is the gross motor vestibular input. Rocking on an inflated rubber seat cushion would probably work much better in such an instance.

The important thing to remember is that we often don’t do these things consciously, and if we do make the conscious decision it’s because we recognize how we’re feeling and have realized that doing this particular thing makes us feel better. So finding ways to accommodate fidgeting/stimming is vital to our success.

How do you fidget or stim, and in what situations?

E is for Executive Dysfunction

Executive functions include the ability to make and follow plans; to control our behaviour and emotional reactions (not our actual emotions, but how we express them); and to manage our time and keep ourselves organized.

If you look at the diagnostic criteria for ADHD in the DSM-5, you will see a list of things that indicate that we have poor executive functions:

  • Doesn’t follow through on instructions and doesn’t finish projects or tasks.
  • Struggles to organize tasks and activities.
  • Loses important/necessary materials.
  • Forgets things on a daily basis.
  • Fidgets a lot.
  • Gets up and moves around when expected to sit still.
  • Makes a lot of noise.
  • Talks a lot.
  • Says things without thinking.
  • Doesn’t wait turns very well.
  • Interrupts in conversations.

In addition to these things, Executive Dysfunction often includes difficulty in getting started (initiation) as well as in switching tasks (inertia).

Some things can be learned: for example, ADHDers benefit from learning to use a planner and lists to keep track of tasks and to break down larger tasks into smaller steps.

Some things can be adapted, such as using a timer to remind yourself that you need to switch tasks.

But many things either can’t be dealt with independently or can’t be adequately managed, even with outside help. And that just ends up being really frustrating, for everyone.

One thing that ADHDers need from the non-ADHDers in their lives is support.

We need support to learn those things we don’t know how to do (and to find a method that will work for us, because often the linear structure of non-ADHD functioning just doesn’t work with our brains), and sometimes we need support to be able to do accomplish the things we can’t accommodate in other ways.

That might mean someone to do things with us.

It might mean someone to encourage us and keep us on task while we work.

It might mean someone to help us work out the steps for a big project.

And it might well mean someone to actually do the work for us, because we cannot do it ourselves consistently enough.

What’s your biggest challenge with regard to Executive Dysfunction?