AHEAD 2009I just got back from the Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) annual conference. This is the professional association for people who provide services to disabled college and graduate students. The people were friendly, the conference well planned and organized, and it was held at a great venue—the Gault House Hotel, right on the Ohio River in Louisville, KY. But best of all was the number of conference participants who were keenly interested in coaching.

This was the first AHEAD conference in which personal coaching for post-secondary students was highlighted. They had an all-day preconference institute featuring some of the best-known coaches in post-secondary education, including CTI-trained coaches Theresa Maitland from UNC-Chapel Hill and Karen Boutelle from Landmark College. Organizers and presenters alike were thrilled at how well attended the institute was.

The afternoon session was Basic Coaching Skills For Non-Coaches: Supporting Students in Managing Executive Function Challenges given by Karen Boutelle. I was excited by her take on coaching to executive functioning rather than to ADHD specifically. Karen was brilliant. I heard participants talking about her presentation for the rest of the conference.

The coaching skills presentation really was great. However, it was the morning session that captured my attention. That morning there were three different research presentations. All  of them spoke to how coaching helped students who experience chronic difficulties with time management, organization, and dealing with stress.  And all three showed that coaching supported the student’s emerging autonomy, helped them self-regulate, and promoted confidence about their future success.

The studies were:

  • A National Study on ADD Coaching: Promoting Autonomy, Widening Campus Access by David Parker at Washington University in St. Louis and Sharon Parker at Wayne State University. The results from this study will be available informally from the Edge Foundation in mid October.
  • Coaching: A Tool to Promote Successful College Transition for Students with LD/ADHD by Theresa Maitland and Kristen Rademacher, both at UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Research Findings: The Positive Impact of Coaching on College Students with ADHD/LD by Karen Boutelle at Landmark College and David Parker at Washington University in St. Louis. This research will be published in  Learning Disabilities Research & Practice in November.

I love this research stuff and I think it’s important. So I’ll continue to keep you apprised of these kinds of publications.

Why does this matter?

We know that our clients rarely care about the research or even about certification of their own coach. What they care about is whether we help them.

However, other professionals care. If we can go to our local prescribers and other specialists armed with research that demonstrates the positive effects of coaching, if we can get media attention that coaching is the thing to help people who struggle with time-, stuff -, and self-management, then ADHD coaching as a profession will gain stature and acceptance.

Once that happens, the additional recognition will make it ever so much easier for us to connect with the 10% of the population who could really use our help. And that will be a good thing for everyone.

Sarah WrightAll my best,
Sarah Wright
President, ADHD Coaches Organization, Inc.