LDA support groups for ADHD

Support groups help local adults cope with ADHD.

It was mid-April 2012 when Sandra* realized she had to take action. Although there had been signs she suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) throughout her childhood and into her adult years, it wasn’t until she reached her late 60s that she was formally diagnosed. She had just returned to her home in St. Louis Park from an extended trip and was suddenly overwhelmed by the long list of tasks ahead of her and a tower of boxes stacked in her living room. Luckily, a quick Internet search revealed that help was right around the corner.In 1967, LDA (Learning Disabilities Association) was founded by a group of tutors interested in helping kids struggling with reading and various academic subjects. Soon after, LDA added tutoring for adults as well and was able to diagnose for learning disabilities right on-site. In 2003, the organization became the state affiliate of LDA America, and now holds the official title of LDA Minnesota. Approximately seven years ago, when they merged with another nonprofit that specialized in ADHD education and services, the organization began implementing new offerings for their ADHD clients, many of whom were adults. In 2009, LDA Minnesota relocated to Golden Valley. Martha Moriarty, resource development director at LDA Minnesota, explains that it’s difficult for adults to work through ADHD challenges because there’s a stigma associated with it. But as she points out, “the average person with a learning disability has an average to above-average IQ—their achievement is just lower because they process information differently.” So LDA Minnesota started offering weekly ADHD support groups for participants to talk through their experiences, share insights and learn about coping mechanisms. The Thursday-morning support group is now a regular part of Sandra’s week. “My world pretty much revolves around this meeting … it’s very grounding,” she says. The first time she attended more than a year ago, she didn’t know what to expect. “I was in tears listening to everyone talk, and realizing my whole life had been like this and I hadn’t known. I was just surviving,” Sandra says. Moriarty points out that the group, which averages about 12 participants, is filled with adults who, like Sandra, “knew they were struggling with something their whole life, but also innately knew that they were intelligent.” Comfort Belbas, the support group facilitator, is always happy to see this epiphany occur when the group members bond over that shared experience. “There’s this chemistry that happens around being together,” she says. Belbas begins every meeting with a poem or short reading from a meditation book, then delves into a topic for the day. Over the years they’ve covered everything from finances, depression and self-esteem to relationships, procrastination and how to organize the fridge. “The topic is mostly a springboard so people can interact,” says Belbas. “Before you know it, the group process is in full swing, and that is this magical thing where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” Discussion sessions let members work on communication skills and focus on topics like offering advice, reaching out to others and telling their own stories. “I love to watch it happen, to see how much people can grow in ways they didn’t think were possible; being in that group is home,” says Belbas.LDA Minnesota offers Thursday-morning and Thursday-evening adult support groups. There are also workshops available for spouses of individuals with LD (learning disabilities) or ADHD to help them better understand the challenges their husband or wife may be experiencing. Workshops are also available for parents of children with LD or ADHD, and there are also monthly support groups for parents of teens/tweens.*Editor’s note: Due to the personal nature of the topic, we honored Sandra’s request not to use her last name in the story.There are several ways to help at LDA Minnesota, including volunteering, contributing personal stories or specialized knowledge about LD or ADHD to the organization’s new online “learning bank” or by financially supporting programs or services. 6100 Golden Valley Road, Golden Valley; 952.582.6000