Beyond the Diagnosis: Empowering ADHD Families - SE4EP4 - Leanne Tran

Beyond the Diagnosis: Empowering ADHD Families - SE4EP4 - Leanne Tran

Today, we're thrilled to have Leanne Tran with us, a registered psychologist specializing in helping families of children who develop differently, particularly those with ADHD. With over two decades of experience, Leanne's approach combines deep psychological expertise with practical strategies, empowering parents to foster a supportive and understanding home environment.

Connect with Leanne Tran

Sponsored by Skill Samurai - Coding, Maths and STEM Academy | |

AI-generated transcription


Jamie (00:00.38)

Hello parents and welcome to Parenting in the Digital Age. Today I'm delighted to have with us Leanne Tran. She's a registered psychologist specializing in helping families of children who develop differently, particularly those with ADHD. With over two decades of experience, Leanne's approach combines a deep psychological expertise with practical strategies empowering parents to foster a supportive and understanding home environment.


Leanne, welcome to the show today. Could you maybe just start by sharing with our listeners a bit about what you do and what you're passionate about? Yeah, sure. I am a psychologist. I've just finished a master's in educational and developmental psychology. And I think that's really my jam. It's the educational side of things I enjoy. And so I have a private practice in Brisbane where I work with my husband. So that's our business together.

And I see kids one -on -one for support for a range of things. It's usually autism, ADHD, or learning difficulties. But I always wanted to be a teacher until I finished high school. So I'm enjoying in this later part of my career, bringing in a bit of education. And that's for psychologists who are more junior to me working in my practice, but also offering

education programs for parents as well because I think I guess my philosophy is that parents really can do what they need to do for their children. It's just having the right information that's important. Yeah. Yeah, very true. Having access to knowledge is one of the important things. Let's talk about a bit about ADHD for a minute. Let's start with I know it's fairly commonly known, but maybe there are some parents who might not understand what ADHD is. So maybe just

Give us a bit of a definition if you like as to what it is and maybe some of the misconceptions about ADHD that parents might have. Yeah, that's a good question. And that's immediately where my mind went to because I think so the name ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And so it's commonly thought of as a so it's a neurodevelopmental condition or difference, which means it's just part of how kids are.

Skill Samurai (05:14.67)

made. It's highly genetic, so chances are if kids have ADHD, one or both of their parents do as well. But it's not just about attention, which is probably the biggest misconception. So we can think about attention in terms of inattention, so trouble, you know, focusing on details, or also the other side of it is hyperactivity.

as well. So being, you know, perhaps impulsive, unable to control those impulses that make kids move and, and hawk and not sit still and all of that kind of stuff. But ADHD really is more broadly a difficulty with self -regulation. And so what that means is it's difficulty regulating attention, but it's also difficulty with regulating

emotions and with self -awareness and executive functioning as well. So that's the ability to be able to, you know, filter, use our attention as a filter for all the information coming to us in order to work out what's important in order to start things, finish things, prioritise, manage time and all of that kind of stuff. Yeah, incredible. Thanks for sharing that.

So how do you address the concerns of parents who might worry? And in some of the work that I do and in some of the podcasts that I've hosted, some parents appear to be worried about getting a diagnosis of ADHD for a fear of a stigma or labeling their child. So how do you address those concerns? I think the landscape's really shifting in that way. And that was definitely true of when I was young.

And I think even back in my parents' generation, when they were young, they didn't talk about ADHD much. They might've just talked about difficult kids or naughty kids or kids that just weren't suited to school. And then in my day, there was that stigma about ADHD, but I think it's really becoming less so now. It's far more accepted to be an adult with ADHD. And I think that's...

Skill Samurai (07:39.598)

positivity is flowing down to kids as well. My view, I guess, is that I think there's a lot of positivity that comes for children from understanding themselves. And to me, identifying ADHD in a child helps them understand how they do things, what their strengths are and what the challenges are for them.

that can kind of help them understand themselves in context of everybody else in the class or in their lives. So while I do hear parents' concerns about the stigma, I think the benefit to the child of being able to understand themselves and put things in place to help themselves at school. So I should say it's not just up to kids to do that when they're little, but for kids to get help at home and at school, and then be able to do it for themselves as they're teenagers.

outweighs any of that risk? Yeah, definitely agree with that. It's not just even understanding themselves, but in terms of getting that educational and social support, especially if they do have that diagnosis. I mean, how can understanding and addressing ADHD early on in a child's life change their developmental trajectory and their quality of life? That's such a great question as well. I think...

What I notice is a common trajectory of kids who perhaps don't understand or know that they have ADHD or understand about it is that they compare themselves to kids around them and don't understand why they don't seem to fit in perhaps because they might be, you know, they have trouble having conversations because of the attention difficulties.

they might be impulsive and do kind of strange odd things or get into trouble. And then that feeling of being different causes a little bit of isolation socially. And if that continues on into teenage years, it just becomes more difficult. And it has impact on kids learning as well. So if they are having trouble concentrating in class, then they might begin to view themselves as just not being

Skill Samurai (10:03.406)

very bright or they don't get it or they're not good at school, they can't do it. And then that may cause learning difficulties or, you know, other challenges with achievement, but it certainly forms a part of how kids see themselves. And what we notice is that then kids with ADHD are kind of at more risk of having some negative experiences like friendship issues and learning.

difficulties and they tend to as they get older fall into this risk of, you know, perhaps self -medicating on some of those things, whether it's through drinking or disengaging from school because they don't like the negative experiences and that kind of thing. So I think identifying it early for kids and having it be, having, you know, encouraging a healthy acceptance of who they are as people.

working with their strengths and interests can kind of provide them an alternative path where maybe they have support for things that they don't find easy, but they have opportunities to do things they really enjoy and excel in, which creates success and that positive self -identity and that sets kids on a different path through the teenage years into adulthood.

There's a number of people around me, adults who are being diagnosed with ADHD. And, you know, for whatever reason that might be, maybe it was our parents inability to spot the signs or maybe that fear of that stigma, whatever it is. But I was talking to one gentleman recently, he's 40 years old, just been diagnosed and it's been transformative for him, like understanding how he thinks and how to get around some of those executive functioning challenges. So maybe.

For those parents listening, what are some of the initial signs of ADHD that a parent might notice, but even maybe misunderstand? Yeah, that's your story is interesting because I've had a similar conversation with somebody in my life as well at that similar kind of age who found himself diagnosed and it was transformative. And one thing he noticed was the just that.

Skill Samurai (12:26.35)

by understanding and doing things that helped the reduction in fatigue that he was feeling every day. And I think that's a really important thing to think about for kids who are young in school as well is that to expect them to be able to do what the rest of the class can do means that they're working way harder mentally to try to filter their attention way more than everybody else. And so it can be really, really fatiguing.

So that's something that parents might be able to look out for. I think it's the common things when kids are little, I guess, that parents tell me are that their child might not be able to follow instructions. So whether they can't, you know, they have the ability to hear, but they can't keep it in their mind to follow instructions. That's a really common one. The other thing is being really forgetful.

perhaps being quite messy because it's just difficult to organise belongings and the room and all of that kind of stuff. I think that's in terms of, you know, inattention, which is presents in a way that kids just have not quite as much attention capacity as others.

In terms of hyperactivity, I think that generally presents as a child who really has this inability to sit still as if they're kind of driven by a motor. And I would say it's if they are much more active than other kids of the same age. That's how I would, you know, describe that to watch out for for parents. Then how can parents distinguish maybe between like typical boundary pushing behaviors?

and those may be related to their child's developmental challenges.

Skill Samurai (14:22.542)

Or can you? Or you... I don't know. Yeah, it's interesting. I'm just... I'm presenting a webinar on that later today because I think it's really challenging for parents to tell the difference. That's where the bit perhaps comes into play of comparing two peers. And it's easier perhaps once kids are in formal...

education like kinder or school because you can see how all of the other kids do things and what things they can cope with. And you might get a sense by talking to other parents or your child's teacher about whether your child's difficulties are within that normal range or whether it's beyond that. And so that it is an area that's quite difficult for parents of, you know, particularly when.

the child we're talking about is their oldest child in the family. And so that's when I think it's worth, you know, talking to a psychologist or perhaps even a GP is a great person to start with, to get some ideas about the frequency and intensity of some of those boundary pushing behaviors. But when I talk about the hyperactivity though, I think it's...

you might notice it even at regular settings. So for example, at the dinner table is a really common one where it's not really boundary pushing or anything, but they may just, they have difficulty staying in their seat, not fidgeting, sitting still and all of that kind of stuff. Whereas boundary pushing, I think usually is in response to some kind of rule or limit you're trying to put in place. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Great advice by the way.

From your experience, what are some effective ways to reduce the noise that maybe interferes with a child's attention? I think, like, I go by a book by Russell Barkley, and he is a researcher and has spent decades in working in and researching ADHD. And one of the mantras he has is to talk less and to touch more.

Skill Samurai (16:42.67)

So I think for our kids who have so much noise, noise is a great word for it, lots of attentional noise going on. We tend to use too much talking as parents. So it's really important to move in and touch your child and then use really simple sentences to try to convey your message and what you'd like them to do.

probably one step at a time. That's the most brilliant thing I've heard all day actually. It's something I'm dealing with myself at home and in order to capture their attention and that one instruction at a time I found is working really well. So thank you for sharing that. And I know that'll definitely help many parents listening. And one of the things I love about these podcast episodes is that,

You know, there's some, someone listening right now or someone will pick this episode up in six months from now and it'll make them think it might help them, you know, take that step to get that diagnosis that will transform someone's life. So it really is about the ripple effects. So thanks again for sharing that with us. Okay. So I've got a question here about your program. You mentioned stop or the stop system in your program. Can you explain a bit about what that is and how it helps with executive functioning?

Yeah. So, um, the, the stop system is a way of understanding how ADHD is a challenge with self -regulation. Um, and so the, the stop system is another name for, uh, an executive function we call inhibition, which is stopping something that we have started doing. Um, or, you know,

preventing ourselves from taking an action that we shouldn't take. And that is all that mental control that feeds into executive functioning. And so when we think about it for attention, it's that it's not that kids can't pay attention, but like you mentioned, there's lots of noise. So there's kids have to stop paying attention to every single thing so that they can focus on just that one salient thing they're meant to be.

Skill Samurai (19:07.406)

focusing on. And that's, it's also, I guess, true of emotion. So sometimes kids will have that emotional reaction and they'll act before they've kind of been able to stop that and think it through. So it's really that ability to stop ourselves from responding to something straight away is what the stop system refers to.

And so when we talk about executive functioning, I think it's things like starting a task, paying attention long enough to finish a task and that kind of thing. So if you have difficulty stopping your brain from focusing on all the stuff around you, you probably can understand why it's so difficult to get anything done. Now that I'm thinking about it, a great way to think about it might be, you know,

I work from home sometimes as you might as well. And my kids interrupt me constantly. And I experience this like, just, you know, difficulty to get it done, but then it's a frustration as well, and almost this sense of wanting to give up. And if that's what it's like for kids who can't stop themselves paying attention to all those little interruptions that come in as they're trying to execute a task.

Yeah, and also in your program, you emphasize these practical strategies. Perhaps could you give us an example of an effective strategy for helping children manage their emotions? Yeah, sure. There's lots of practical strategies in there, and I think they're designed to, I guess they're evidence -based strategies, and they work because they're designed to...

address those underlying challenges that are there in ADHD. And so with emotional regulation, particularly, it's usually down to that difficulty with self -awareness that comes along with ADHD that might lead kids to be unaware or less aware of what they're feeling and what they're thinking in terms of what drives their behaviour.

Skill Samurai (21:27.342)

So one of the things I teach parents is mindfulness, which I think has a funny rep these days and lots of people imagine it's just sitting down and doing not much, but for kids, I think that mindfulness, so the definition of mindfulness is to be just focusing on one thing at a time and paying attention to it and doing mindfulness with.

kids with ADHD gives them that opportunity to tune into their body and notice their thoughts and their feelings. And that is an essential skill for them widening that gap between experiencing something that causes emotion and having the reaction. Because the more aware kids are of their feelings, the more capacity they have to put in place.

some strategies. And I think, so for me, that's the most important one, because there's lots of strategies out there. But if you teach them to a kid who doesn't have much gap between, you know, something happening in their response, the effect is going to be pretty limited. So it's one classic example of the case where working on the underlying skills is something that's going to help, but on the face of it, it doesn't look like it's actually.

connected to the behavior that you want to change. Yeah, and I think also mindfulness techniques can also help to manage or even prevent meltdowns as well if kids are more aware and using those sorts of techniques. So quite a powerful suggestion there. Thank you. How about rewards? You know, can parents or how can parents use rewards effectively without maybe losing their impact over time? Yeah, that's...

it's so powerful for kids with ADHD because they do really, you know, their brains are wired to be focused on the immediate reward rather than what's going to happen later. And so that is a perfect way to understand why rewards work better than punishments do because they happen later. And kids are always likely to go for what's going to give that initial positive reward. And so,

Skill Samurai (23:53.198)

Why... I'm trying to think how to put it. Sometimes working towards a big reward is just too far removed for kids who want that immediate instant gratification. So usually putting rewards in place immediately after tasks are done is great.

but you can then use that to build up to a bigger reward later on if you're really wanting those rewards to not lose their power. And so for little kids, it might be things like a token system and for teenagers, it could be points or something. So there's that initial reward straight away, but then the kids can use that as a later date to exchange it for something bigger. Yeah, that's a...

Go ahead. Oh, I was just going to say, I think in ADHD too, that what you mentioned about it, not losing its effectiveness is important because kids really want stuff that's, you know, highly motivating and exciting and interesting. So you may have to keep that reward system changing and evolving a little bit so that it doesn't become routine or commonplace because then it's boring and kids with ADHD hate stuff that's boring.

Very, very true. In my pre -show research, I came across this concept of partnering with your teenager. Can you tell us what that is and what it involves and maybe how or does it shift the parent -child dynamic? Yeah, I think it does because teenagers are just different creatures to young children. It's a time of development where they are preparing to become more independent.

and that means listening to their parents less. That's a normal, natural kind of part of their development because they're getting ready to be adults. And so as parents, we need to kind of shift away from that, I can't think of a better word for it, but it's kind of almost like that boss approach when they're little kids into being more of a coach kind of role. So,

Skill Samurai (26:12.206)

you're not necessarily telling them what to do, but you may be giving advice. And then I think moving into being partnering with them. And so as part of that, I talked to parents about how to solve problems together rather than impose our own ideas of solutions. It's about going through a process of talking with teenagers to understand their points of view about the problem, having...

you know, joint brainstorming about what the solutions might be. And then, you know, giving it a go from there. And that for me is an important way that you as a parent can start having more of that coaching role and let go of a bit of the control so that your teenagers are involved in making their own decisions. Because that is what will help them advocate for themselves and what they need, particularly ADHD is so they can

tell their teachers what they need by themselves in high school. And then that kind of flows over into then further study or work or whatever they choose to do. And your program, and I should have asked you about your program first to set the stage. I've been asking sort of questions around it, but it seems quite accessible. But being an online thing, it's particularly accessible for those people maybe who are in regional rural communities, which I think is a great thing.

Yeah. Is it, have you had to make many modifications to the traditional in -person process? Is it kind of the same? Like just walk us through what that might look like? Yeah. So the, it's been a bit of a natural evolution, I think, over the last few years since COVID, because lots of...

us psychologists have become more used to working on telehealth and parents have been as well. And I think it's been a really helpful thing, like you mentioned for families who live in rural and remote areas. So can't, you know, they're to travel to see somebody is actually a really big impact. But also in those areas, the wait lists are a lot.

Skill Samurai (28:30.766)

more blown out than even they are in a town like Brisbane where I am. So it helps parents who can't, you know, and who live remotely or who can't access a psychologist, but also it means that kids, I guess, parents aren't having to attend in work hours as well, which is another tricky thing. I think I...

Because it's working with parents, not a lot has to be adapted to be delivered online because when I work with parents, a lot of it is about providing education at the beginning of our psychology journey. And so that is often me talking and people listening. So it's not that different. And I've encouraged parents to reflect and

pick out what resonates for them about their own child because all children are different. So in that way, I think it's got all of the education, but still that reflection that might be happening for parents at home anyway, rather than in the session with me. So it's not that different. Yeah, go on. Excellent. Can you maybe now let's go back to the beginning where I probably should have started to tell us a bit more about the actual program.

maybe who it's for, you know, the duration and how it's delivered. Yeah. So this program is called Supporting Your ADHD Teenager. And that's exactly, you know, it's what it says on the tin, pretty much. It's designed to give parents the information, psychology information about ADHD, particularly in teenagers, because that period of development is a bit different to little kids.

And so I, we go over lots of parts of ADHD so that parents can understand what's going on. And then that's where then the strategies kind of fit into that understanding that parents have. And so there's lots of strategies about working with your child's brain and how it operates in their strengths. Then I talk about parents.

Skill Samurai (30:49.422)

strategies. So things you could put in place like visual supports or how you give instructions at home. And then it's problem solving with your teenagers to fix any of those blow ups because they will happen from time to time. And then also trying to the last part is about partnering with your team to then be sorry, understand their

support needs at school so that they can advocate for themselves for that stuff.

And another one of those strategies is the parent reflection workbook. So what role does that play in the program? Like how does that help parents? It's interesting. I don't know whether it's a very much a psychology thing that we do reflection. And so we do supervision every year throughout our whole career and lots of it's about reflective practice. And that's...

That's the approach I'm taking into the working with parents as well, because there's no right way to do it, parenting. And so it's really just about the reflection is thinking about what you've been doing, whether it's been working or not. And then whether there are any perspective shifts you might have given what you learn, new information, and then.

from there, that's when you might decide to try a new strategy. So it's very much about a way of partnering together. So it's not just the information you need, it's reflecting as a parent as to where you think the challenge is and working out a strategy to kind of try for that particular area. And if parents want to reach out to you or connect with you or learn more about your program, how can we do that?

Skill Samurai (32:50.414)

Um, the best way is probably, I guess, um, on Instagram, I'm there, lian trans psychology, um, or on my website as well, which is lian trans .com .au. It's got lots of information about, um, supporting your ADHD teenager. I'm also really, um, open to people sending an email as well, because lots of times parents just want reassurance to know if they're on the right.

track. So is this a program for me or would I be better off seeing somebody? And so you can contact me through the website and I'm really happy to point you in the right direction. Very generous of you. Thank you, Leanne. One fun question we like to sort of round off our podcast with for each guest and that is if we had a time machine and you were able to go back to your 10 or 12 year old younger self,

What would you say to the young Leanne? What's one piece of advice you'd give yourself? That's such a fun question. I think I would go back and tell myself that it is okay to be who you are. You don't have to be like everybody else and that there's a lot of value and excitement and opportunity and being different sometimes. And I think...

I feel like I've worked that out now in my forties, but if I had known it then when I was 10 or 12, life might have really taken a different path. Indeed. It's a wide advice. And I think it's, I think it's something that can only come with age though, don't you think? Yeah. It's great advice though. It's almost like when I say, you know, with parents that once you've had a couple of kids, if some are off doing something and you've just got one, it seems really easy.

there's no way you could ever get to that point without having had the other kids as well. So yeah.

Skill Samurai (34:56.942)

Very true. Well, it was great to catch up with the local. Many of our guests in our podcast tend to be from all over the world. So thanks for joining us from sunny Brisbane. You're welcome. Thanks for your generosity. Some wonderful takeaways, even for myself from the podcast, which is always great. Thanks for your generosity and look forward to catching up again soon. Yeah, you're welcome. Thanks so much for having me. It was a great conversation. Thanks, Leanne. Bye for now. Bye.