A while back…
our family was in a place many ADHD families are in right now. We had extraordinary kids that also had trouble focusing on mundane things. Their minds seemed to be constantly on “other things” and they struggled to focus on anything that they were not captivated by. Unsurprisingly, official diagnosis of ADHD soon followed.
As they went off to school, we watched our previously enthusiastic and happy kids come home stressed out, frustrated and unhappy. Everyday, their self-esteem was battered by the expectations of an ordinary world that expected them to be merely, well… ordinary.
So we set out to “fix” our kids.
Going Old School
We started like many parents and went “old school” – teaching responsibility, work ethic and independence the way we were taught. We established a set of chores for our kids to do in return for an allowance. The results weren’t awesome. Because their minds were elsewhere, they consistently forgot to do things or did not complete the tasks on time (if at all). So we ended up standing over them, nagging them to do their chores and then constantly correcting and cajoling them until it was done right. Instead of teaching responsibility and building their self-esteem, our good intentions were having the exact opposite effect. Our micromanaging was eroding their self-confidence and making them feel resentful.
We did, however, realize that our kids really did want to be successful – they just needed more than a list of chores and an allowance.
The Great “Playbook” Experiment
We saw that what they needed were detailed instructions and a set of concrete rewards they could see real progress towards. So we created what became a simple and somewhat effective solution: an individualized “playbook” for each kid. These playbooks were detailed, ordered checklists of instructions printed out and put into a plastic sleeve with a whiteboard marker. Each kid had several different checklists (school mornings, before bed, housework, etc). The kids got points for doing the jobs that could be applied to a menu of rewards, like getting a new video game or choosing what’s for dinner. It certainly helped, and we were encouraged with the success, but it didn’t do nearly everything we wanted. Sometimes the kids forgot to use their checklists or they forgot to bring them to us to get their points. And they still took way too long to complete each task because they got distracted along the way. So, we started looking for a solution that could get us to the next level.
There’s an app for that? Nope!
As a career technologist, I was sure there was “an app for that”, but we found there were only partial solutions and those were designed for “typical” adults, not ADHD kids and their families. We knew that if we needed a better solution for our Extraordinary Family, lots of other people needed one too, and we were amazed that there was nothing out there. We saw an opportunity to build something amazing that could be life changing for both our family and so many others.
And so it began – I started working on designing and planning a solution – and quickly realized it would take a tremendous effort to build something that was comprehensive and high quality. Good was not good enough – if it was worth doing, it was worth making it awesome. However, at that time I was working long hours and traveling internationally for my day job and I realized I just couldn’t dedicate the time to do it right. So I shelved the idea for “some day” and we, as a family, muddled along with what we had.
But we kept researching.
And it dawned on us…
And then “someday” arrived.
I unexpectedly found myself out of work when the chairman of our group pulled the plug on the internal startup I was running. I had some severance and savings to hold us over for a bit, but as the only source of income for my family of five, I had some decisions to make.
Should I take the safer and more traveled path of finding a new job, or should I take the far riskier, up-hill “path less traveled” to create something amazing that could benefit so many ADHD families – including my own? The answer was both clear and terrifying. I had to do it – and if I didn’t do it now, then I probably never would.
And so I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and took a leap of faith. I pulled the project to the front burner and turned the flame to high. I founded iGotThis as a real entity and set to work creating a solution I knew in my heart would make a huge, positive difference to ADHD families everywhere.
Sleepless in Cincinnati
And it was every bit as hard as I thought it would be. And more. Over the next long and terrifying year, I worked harder than I ever had in my life. Working 16 hour days, 6 days a week was not uncommon as I tried to support myself as an independent consultant while learning the art of writing business plans, operating agreements, soliciting investors, doing in-depth design and architecture of the solution, building out the right team, and trying to stay afloat financially. Unexpected project delays and late paying clients pushed us to our last dollar. I spent many a sleepless night staring at the ceiling and wondering what I’d been thinking in trying to do this, how we would pay our upcoming bills and questioning both my ability and my sanity (as did several other well-meaning family members and friends).
What has been truly amazing and humbling however, is how things turned out. Each time we reached the end of the rope – the rope got just a little bit longer, just when we needed it. We had breakthroughs in the technology at just the right time. Checks arrived in the mail from past-due clients. Most importantly, the right people came into our lives just when we needed them to. Every. Single. Time.
Into the World
And now, we’re almost ready to show the world what we’ve done. As of April 2017, after the longest year of my life, we’re seeking families who are willing to be testers of the pre-release (beta) version of our tool to provide feedback and suggestions. There are a limited number of testing accounts available for Android and iOS (Apple) users, so please reserve your slot early. Sign up here.
Join us in making the world a better place for your family – and every Extraordinary Family, everywhere.
Rich, Denise and family