The following overview is excerpted from ADHD Coaching Matters: The Definitive Guide by Sarah D. Wright, and published by ACO Books in 2014.

A Brief Overview of the Development of ADHD Coaching

ADHD Coaching grew out of the specialized needs of the ADHD population; developing along its own path at the same time that life coaching was taking off in the general population. Three notable events occurred in 1994, making that the year we can say ADHD Coaching was born.

First, it was in March of 1994 that Hallowell and Ratey’s seminal book, Driven to Distraction, was first published. It is in one of the final chapters of Driven to Distraction, in the chapter titled “What You Can Do About It,” that the concept of ADHD Coaching makes its first appearance in print. The ideas expressed in that book were based on the real-life experiences of Nancy Ratey and Sue Sussman, who were already beginning to develop these techniques.

That same year, Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, having developed a comprehensive curriculum specifically to train coaches to work with people affected by what was then called ADD, founded The Optimal Functioning Institute (OFI) and began training ADHD Coaches.

Subsequently, Sue Sussman and Nancy Ratey, who that same year founded the National Coaching Network (NCN) to be an ADHD Coach membership organization, began to formalize the skills they knew were working for their clients into a second ADHD Coach training program.

Over the years, OFI proved to be of particular importance to the profession because it is where a significant number of former or current ADHD Coach trainers got their initial ADHD Coach training. These trainers include David Giwerc, Barbara Luther, Denslow Brown, Cameron Gott, Kate Kelly, Peggy Ramundo, and Lupita Volio.

In 1998, David Giwerc founded a third pivotal ADHD Coaching school, the ADD Coach Academy (ADDCA), which has since trained more ADHD Coaches than any other program. With its comprehensive approach, blending all the elements of ADHD Coaching into one integrated program, it is often considered to be the gold standard for ADHD Coach training. Also in 1998, Lisa Grossman and Karen Boutelle received their initial ADHD Coach training from Nancy Ratey. Grossman took ADHD Coaching to Israel, where there is now a thriving ADHD Coach training and coaching community, and Karen Boutelle went on to found the ADHD Coaching program at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont, the first such program in any post-secondary educational setting. That was also the year that the NCN became the American Coaching Association (ACA) under Sussman’s direction. The ACA continues to train ADHD Coaches, although Sussman now focuses on training life coaches through her FastTrack Academy program.

In 2002, with ADHD Coaching gaining in popularity, the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) formed a committee to develop a document that would clarify the principles of ADHD Coaching for both professionals and the general public. ADDA’s Subcommittee on ADHD Coaching was chaired by Nancy Ratey and comprised by Linda Anderson, Victoria Ball, Ed Barniskis, Linda Barniskis, Sue Coleman, David Giwerc, Hope Langner, Mary Jane Johnson, Barbara Luther, Theresa Maitland, Jane Massengill, Sandy Maynard, Harold Meyer, Cynthia Runberg, Linda Sepe, Terrence Sole, and Sue Sussman. The result of the committee’s efforts was The ADDA Guiding Principles for Coaching Individuals with Attention Deficit Disorder. This was the first attempt to codify ADHD Coaching and it reflects our earliest understanding of what ADHD Coaching is. You can still find that document online at NancyRatey.com.

In 2003, the organization Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), posted a similar document, based largely on The ADDA Guiding Principles for Coaching Individuals with Attention Deficit Disorder, and posted it on their website. You can still find it there in their What We Know series of monographs (WWK18).

In 2004, Jodi Sleeper-Triplett founded a fourth pivotal ADHD Coach training program, focused on training life coaches to work with ADHD youth. This had not been done before, and now, ten years later, working with youth has become a significant segment of the profession.

In 2005, with a growing number of coaches specializing in working with people affected by ADHD, there was still no true consensus as to what it meant to be an ADHD Coach. Some felt it to be an adjunct to the medical profession. Others felt it to be more about human potential. That year, two organizations with complementary missions—the ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO) and the Institute for the Advancement of ADHD Coaching (IAAC)— were formed to support the growing and specialized field of ADHD Coaching. Both defined ADHD Coaches to be trained life coaches first, with additional training and expertise in working with people affected by ADHD, finally clarifying for the profession and the public what it means to be an ADHD Coach.

The ACO was formed as a membership association to promote community, excellence, education, and advocacy for the profession. The organization grew from a grassroots committee formed after the ADDA conference in May of 2005, and although many people were temporarily involved, the people who ultimately founded the organization were Glen Hogard and Ken Zaretzky, assisted by Cathy Jantzen. These three, along with Kerch McConlogue, Jan DeLaura, Laurie Dupar, and Sarah D. Wright, became the founding board members of the organization.

The IAAC was created to provide certification and ethical standards for the profession. The founders of this organization were Jodi Sleeper-Triplett, Sandy Maynard, Sue Sussman, Carol Gignoux, Linda Sepe, and Madelyn Griffith-Haynie. The IAAC developed the first industry standard certification for ADHD Coaches and began certifying coaches in 2009, certifying dozens of coaches before closing its doors in 2013. You will still see these certifications—Associate Certified ADHD Coach (ACAC), Certified ADHD Coach (CAC), and Senior Certified ADHD Coach (SCAC)—listed after many of their names.

In 2009, the Professional Association of ADHD Coaches (PAAC) was formed by Barbara Luther and Chana Klein to offer an ADHD Coaching Specialty certification more closely aligned with the International Coach Federation model. PAAC, which has strong connections to both ICF and ADDCA, began certifying ADHD Coaches in 2012 and is now the sole organization offering ADHD Coach certification.

In April of 2013, the ACO hosted a Thought Leader Summit, bringing together many of the most experienced coaches in the business. The purpose was, after almost 20 years of development and research, to identify the key elements of ADHD Coaching as it is now practiced. The goal of the summit was to develop a concise, empirically based, and research-supported definition of ADHD Coaching that could be used as a standard. The result of that crucial summit, and its broad consensus, can be found here.