After living undiagnosed with ADHD for 39yrs, Martha explores the reasons girls and women are underdiagnosed and her lived experiences before and after her 2021 diagnosis. Martha Barnard-Rae writes clear, convincing words for exacting humans. As a copywriter and owner of Word Candy, she specialises in personality and values-driven SEO copywriting for outside-the-box brands. Martha’s words live on the websites, blogs, videos, and emails of businesses all over Australia.
As a card-carrying Millennial, her career has evolved. But English teaching, corporate training, and copywriting are rooted in clear, engaging communication. Martha is a communicator through and through — and has always had a deep respect for the power of words.
This Canadian transplant is a life-long sun chaser. A voracious reader. An extroverted-extrovert with a penchant for social justice chats. She’s wife to a darling husband, mum to two lovely boys — and a sore loser of board games.
When Martha’s not crafting delicious words, you’ll find her walking two giant pooches, obsessing over her latest hobby, or wrapped around a cup of tea, planning her next Instagram reel. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at
[Applause] A couple days ago i put a call out in a Facebook group and it said help I'm doing a tedx talk about adhd and i Have to memorize it but i have adhd So About 173 kind strangers reached out and Gave me tips and advice but the most Common thing that they said was Memorization is ableist and you have Adhd Take your notes woman So they're here Um i i'm also like overconfident so Watch this we're all in this together I've had an interesting life and by most Metrics a successful one I've got great relationships a loving Family i've traveled i've earned three Degrees I own a successful business I relate well to people and i know i Come across as an extremely confident Person And i am confident i know that there are Things in life that come easily to me A big part of this is privilege Another big part is that i was raised by Feminist parents who when i asked do you Think that i could do x invariably Answered Of course you can On the other hand there have always been Things easy things things that anybody
Can do that i can't this list includes But is not limited to Knowing what food items we need from the Grocery store and procuring those items Walking through doorways without Forgetting where i'm going and why Or sitting through a boring math class Or A staff meeting without the overwhelming Urge to rip out my eyeballs fling them At the speaker and run from the room So last year at the age of 39 i was Diagnosed with adhd And i've learned a lot since then Um the main thing that i've learned is That we're wrong about adhd and I was actually just told about 20 Minutes ago that it's not real so i'm Really happy that i'm here telling you About this today it's a really real Thing in my life so if i'm sounding a Bit emotional that's why So um Sorry The first problem with adhd is the name Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder People with adhd don't have a deficit of Attention we have too much attention and Less ability to control it Our minds are different we have Naturally lower levels of dopamine and Our brains are always on the hunt for More My favorite adhd related story and my
Favorite i mean most ridiculous happened Just near here My husband angel that he is Devised a plan in which we would color Code our family's lego He loves i know laugh he loves a plastic Tub And he found the perfect 35-liter tub to Execute his plan So when we were almost done the project We realized we were one short so i was Like i'll go get one we went to the shop I got the 35 liter tub My son and i came straight home right so Later that night my son henry i asked Him to go out into the trunk of the car And find the tub and i don't know if You've ever seen a 35 liter tub but it's Massive okay so you need two hands to Carry a 35 liter tub It's like if you took like a liter of Milk and multiplied it by 35 yeah so Henry comes back in and he's like There's no tub in the car Did i believe him No No i didn't i went to look and there was No 35 liter tub in the car That's fine i thought this kind of thing Happens to me all the time I'll just go back i've obviously just Forgotten it at the shop so the next day I drove back to the shop and as luck Would have it the same man was working
And i explained what happened and he's Like no problem i just have to check the Security footage So that i can give the time stamp to my Boss so that i can explain why i've Given you this tub and i'm like yeah Sure so he goes and he was gone for a While And he came back and he was really Looking embarrassed and he said I'm sorry We have footage of you leaving Carrying the tub So to be clear i lost a 35 liter tub Between the door of the shop and the car Okay So this is one of the ways that adhd Affects me and this is funny But living a life in which you are Trying so hard not to make mistakes and Mess up times And and get things wrong Is exhausting I've always been a reader and a writer I've got an honors degree in english and A master's degree in education these are Facts about me Another fact about me is that i cried Over my math homework almost every night As a kid I never learned my times tables and in Fact i failed math in grade 12. Um My mom was a principal and my parents
Were both very supportive and when i Needed to remember something they found My mom found a way to help me do it So multiple choice tests were an Exquisite nightmare but i've always been Able to see connections in literature Um another thing that that really helped Me is an ability to kind of look at a Job that needs to be done And decide exactly how much work i need To do to get the result that i want and Then i will do that much work and no More So in other words i had strategies that Allowed me to be successful particularly In postgraduate education When i finished university i went to Teachers college and i became an english Teacher i've taught lots of kids with Adhd and i was always really happy to Support them in whatever way they needed The problem is when i was teaching My understanding of adhd was So limited Right my teacher training taught me that Students with adhd might need to have Information chunked so that they can Understand it That they might be um It might take them longer to do things Or they might be hyper so to give them Breaks or let them go for walks or let Them play with a fidget toy right that If they took medication they'd be able
To focus like a normal student But the thing is adhd is not just about Focus It's about our ability to regulate our Brain so that we can get things done This is a skill called executive Function And and what i didn't realize is that Those kids that i was teaching Because of their adhd they may have been Overwhelmed and underwhelmed Over-stimulated and under-stimulated Their working memory might have been Affected they may have been super Sensitive to criticism and rejection They may have had trouble starting Finishing and organizing tasks all of These things Are things that we do with our executive Function We all have difficulties with executive Function but those difficulties are much More numerous and more severe in people With adhd The other thing i learned is about five To eight percent of the australian Population has adhd that's about 814 500 people we do not grow out of it And yet only about one in 10 adults with Adhd are getting treatment Doctors edward hallowell and john ratey Are adhd experts Their book adhd 2.0 contains all of the Most the latest and most cutting-edge
Research into adhd and here's how they Define it Adhd is a term that describes a way of Being in the world It's neither entirely an asset Nor a disorder It is an array of traits specific to a Unique kind of mind It can either become a distinct Advantage or an abiding curse depending On how it's managed It's an array of traits Specific to a unique kind of mind And it's a it's a real thing [Applause] My diagnosis Happened completely by accident and it Was momentous Um i had an appointment i made an Appointment with my brother's friend who Is a not my brother's friend my friend's Brother who's a gp So I had had stomach problems for the last 10 years in our first appointment i Explained my stomach problems i told him About the anxiety that i was diagnosed With after having kids And he said to me can you describe it Can you describe the anxiety and i said I get really overwhelmed and Overstimulated And so after a comprehensive assessment Which lasted a lot longer than 10
Minutes i finally blurted out do you Think i have adhd or something And he sent me um a diagnostic test Guys i got like a really high score Um So Thank you Uh so then he referred me to a Psychiatrist and in his report it said Martha got five out of six on part a And 10 out of 12 on part b and she Missed one question altogether I address privilege whenever i tell this Story i had access to a brilliant doctor Who looked at my health holistically and Understood me and listened to me and was Empathetic Then he referred me to a psychiatrist Who understood adhd in women And he made sure that i got in to see That psychiatrist in a timely manner And he still checks in on me to make Sure that i'm doing okay and i Acknowledge that this is not everyone's Experience with doctors The difficulty is a lot of the Misconceptions that a lot of us have About adhd doctors can have them too Right and adhd presents differently in Everyone And and then there's even bigger Differences in the way that adhd Presents in women and girls so just a Really quick primer there are three
Types of adhd adhd inattentive type adhd Hyperactive type and adhd combined type I have combined type which means that i Show lots of symptoms of traits sorry of Hyperactivity and inattention Add is not a thing it has been removed From the diagnostic manual so we're adhd Only zone right So the thing one of the things about Adhd in women and girls is that the Hyperactivity can present very Differently So it's much less likely to be in the Body and much more likely to be in the Mind our central nervous systems are More likely to be affected so this looks Like headaches and stomachaches and Sleeplessness and anxiety And young girls because of the Behavioral and societal standards that Are placed on them at such a young age They just Mask them They just mask these problems and hide Them We mask our symptoms out of shame and we Come up with strategies to work around Them And those strategies work Until they don't Right so A lot of women are diagnosed like i was With adhd after they have kids so after I had children the demands placed on me
Exceeded my ability to work around them And my doctor At the time said you know when your Strategies stop working and things fall Apart it's distressing But there are so many things we can do For you So Like i wasn't a bad adult Or a bad woman Or a bad mother It wasn't just a matter of trying harder This explained everything Under diagnosis of adhd in women is a Feminist issue for lots of reasons Outrageously Women were not even included in adhd Studies until the late 1990s And it was 2002 Before we had our own long-term study I tried to look up like celebrities that Were born in 2002 and i didn't even know Any of them so like this is what i'm Saying it was like yesterday basically So We're This this lack of diagnosis and this Lack of research affects families and Communities and businesses in a big way I'm lucky because i had A lovely childhood I always knew I was rad There were definitely things that i i
Wasn't rad at and there still are But Because of the support and the Love and understanding that i got from My parents those feelings that i still Feel every day Of shame Of feeling like i'm not good enough And of feeling like i'm a burden Could have become debilitating And they do for lots of people with adhd Having said all that This is a happy story I am thrilled Now that i know that i have adhd when my Son henry was diagnosed with adhd last Year we made a cake to celebrate Because those easy things that we Struggle with They're juxtaposed with magic And a unique ability To do hard things Those paradoxical tendencies are what Makes adhd so complex So my inability to focus is offset by Periods of intense hyper focus The fact that i have i lose interest in Things easily has transformed into Entrepreneurialism And i might struggle to start tasks Sometimes but i can also knock off a Week's worth of work in an afternoon So i'm not going to tell you all of the Famous geniuses that have adhd but given
The stats there are about 10 of us in The room right now Adhd brains and the humans attached to Them Can be frustrating for neurotypical People But if you have access to one of these Brains You have access to a special gift Ask them what they're good at Don't freak out when they lose a 35 Liter tub And if you have a hard thing that needs Doing Get them on board Thank [Applause] You you