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‘There is a huge lack of understanding about ADHD in Ireland’


ADHD coach Claire Twomey pictured at her home in Ashbourne

ADHD coach Claire Twomey pictured at her home in Ashbourne

ADHD coach Claire Twomey pictured at her home in Ashbourne

An increasing number of women and girls are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dispelling the myth that it is a condition primarily associated with “hyperactive” young boys.

October marks ADHD month and a series of events are taking place nationwide to raise awareness and understanding about the condition.

Claire Twomey, from Ashbourne in Co Meath, is a certified ADHD coach and tries to help people with the neurodevelopmental disorder achieve their potential.

Ms Twomey, who herself was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 28, said she is now “on a mission, to find and try and help all the women and girls out there with ADHD”.

She is only the second person in Ireland to become a qualified ADHD coach after completing US accreditation courses. She believes there is still a real lack of understanding about the condition in Ireland, but that awareness is increasing.

“I’m only the second qualified ADHD coach in this country, but there are others who are now undertaking the qualifications and will be coming down the line. We are only beginning to understand ADHD in this country.

“It is not something that only impacts young boys, who end up being put down the back of the class for being bold. It presents differently in men and women. When I went to school, there was shame and stigma attached to it. But I now know personally that it isn’t something that needs to hold you back. As a coach, I want to help others who don’t have a neurotypical brain achieve everything they are capable of,” she said.

The Meath woman established her private ADHD practice, Internal Connections, during the pandemic.

She suffered from long-Covid, meaning she found it difficult to return to work in the social care setting.

“I started my training before Covid hit, then when I tried to return to work, I found it too difficult. So something positive came out of my long-Covid experience, because I got my new business up and running.

“What I am trying to do is show people with ADHD that they are not broken. They can still achieve all the things they are capable of, they just need different tools in order to do so. We have different ways of learning to neurotypical people, but there is nothing wrong with that. Stigma surrounding ADHD needs to be eradicated.”

Ms Twomey believes the pandemic led to a lot of adults realising that they might have undiagnosed ADHD. Being thrust into a work-from-home lifestyle brought some issues to the fore, she added. “Covid catapulted many of us into working from home. That led to stress and anxiety for everyone. It also led to realisations for some people in Ireland that they might have ADHD. They had developed coping mechanisms in their working and personal lives to live with their undiagnosed ADHD. But the pandemic stripped away a lot of these support systems and some people found it hard to focus and achieve what they needed to in their day-to-day lives.

“Not being able to pay attention, concentrate, switching from one task to the next without completing anything, these are characteristics. But it is a lot more complex than that. People with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, which is a neurotransmitter. These differences mean we learn and process things differently to neurotypical people.”

Ms Twomey struggled through school and college, but her ADHD was not identified until much later in her life. “I was 28 years of age when I received my ADHD diagnosis. My 20s were an incredibly chaotic phase of my life, having experienced trauma and suffering with my mental health.

“I had been in and out of therapy to work through different incidents and while I felt I had gotten a handle on things, there was still something not sitting right. I spoke to my mam about what was still challenging for me, and she mentioned that from a young age, she had always wondered about ADHD. So I turned to google, began exploring and had uncovered enough evidence that I could identify with to suggest that I could possibly have ADHD.

 “I decided to embark on the journey in search of getting an assessment. It has helped me learn so much about myself, why I struggled with learning my entire life, and ultimately it has led me to this point in my life right now. When I realised I had ADHD and got a coach to help me, my whole life and lifestyle changed and I was able to achieve so much more, as well as understand myself better.”

She believes there are many people in Ireland who are undiagnosed, particularly women and girls. “ADHD Awareness Month is so important because we have a long way to go in this country still. We need to challenge people on their beliefs about ADHD. A 12-year-old with ADHD has had 20,000 more negative comments directed at them compared to a neurotypical person. It is important for anyone with ADHD to know, there is nothing wrong with them.”

In her practice Ms Twomey hosts youth groups, college students and adult groups, as well as one-on-one consultations. “The children, they are blowing me away in terms of the strides they are making. The coaching is client-led. It is not about me being a guru. I’m very busy and I feel very lucky. I love what I do.”

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