For our 3rd Prompt, we were asked to choose a reading that addresses a contemporary issue that we would like to engage in discourse with, specifically responding through a making and design practice . We were urged to choose a reading that caused some sort of tension within us.
Once we chose the piece we wished to have dialogue around, our next step was to engage in discourse with it through a making practice, whether to challenge the piece, highlight elements of it, respond to it, reinterpret it, or deconstruct it.
Over the four weeks, we were encouraged to engage in discussions around our discourse and making practice with our studio mates. The results of this Prompt were presented at the MDes Open Studio event, where we introduced ourselves to faculty members.
Choosing a Contemporary Issue
Below is a quick mindmap depicting where my personal and ECUAD lives intersect. This intersection occurs around the topic of mental health awareness and my ADHD diagnosis. You then begin to see the eventual selection and progression of material and processes that I engaged with during this Prompt.
I had recently recieved an ADHD diagnosis and as one does with ADHD, my brain had decided to hyperfocus on learning everything I could about adult ADHD to understand my experience; why are women only being diagnosed now in adulthood? What is ADHD? What does ADHD effect? What is happening in my brain that is different to other people? Was there a gender bias around diagnosis when I was a child and is there still one now? What difficult areas and aspects of my life are due to my ADHD? What about positives? What are the main comorbid disorders to ADHD? How and in what areas are stigma and bias’s around ADHD improving and what areas do we still have work to do in?
When my brain hyperfocusses on a topic, it can be all consuming; I don’t eat, drink, listen to or watch anything that isn’t about the topic. Everything I do and learn and think about is through the lens of that topic. It took me until recently to understand that this is a common ADHD symptom. Since I am hyperfocussing, I decided this would be a perfect opportunity to lean in, and engage with the topic in a creative way.
Choosing a “reading”
There are a few points I want to keep in mind when choosing a reading to engage with;
- To learn how to lessen my symptoms that were impacting me in Grad school.
- For greater understanding and self-compassion.
- To learn how my ADHD presents itself.
- To learn how to advocate for myself and begin seeking support for my ADHD.
I searched and searched for readings that I could engage with. Over and over again, I would select a reading and not be able to read past the first paragraph for hours. Unfortunately, this wasn’t something new to me, but my new awareness around it was. This was my ADHD; my issues with reading comprehension, executive functioning, working memory, and distractibility.
I came across a TED talk where the speaker brought up the importance of self advocacy through her request to be able to bring cue-cards on stage, which is usually discouraged. Knowing that she had difficulty memorizing long texts due to her ADHD, she figured out what she needed, and she asked for the accommodation.
This was eye opening to me, as I had struggled with reading comprehension since I learnt how to read. Taking steps to educate myself on my ADHD diagnosis, recognizing my areas of weakness due to my ADHD, and advocating for myself was something I now felt justified in doing after my diagnosis. I then searched through the library website resources and settled on an “reading” alternative to have discourse with.
After consulting the University’s Accessibility Services department, I was able to receive support and approval from my professor to continue engaging with the “reading” alternative that I presented; an accredited documentary.
The documentary I chose through the ECUAD Library website was The Disruptors, 2022. The Disruptors, a documentary about ADHD, was narrated by various Doctors, published authors, researchers, and other professionals studying and treating ADHD through many lenses such as Neuroscience, Psychology, Coaching, etc. Throughout the documentary, we follow multiple families with children diagnosed with ADHD, witnessing the struggles and support that they experience both within and outside of their family systems. In the documentary, they cover a wide overview of topics around ADHD, including the history of ADHD diagnosing practices, a critique of the ADHD name, gender and age bias, stigma in the system of education, ADHD medication myths, and many other destructive ADHD misinformation and stigma in society.
About 5 minutes into this documentary, I felt a wave of validation wash over me. My experience is common and I am not alone. I am not lazy, I am not crazy, I am not slow or unintelligent. I have a brain dissorder.
With my recent ADHD diagnosis, I was feeling frustrated and disappointed by the lack of awareness around ADHD and how it presented differently in female-identifying ADHD’ers. I myself believed that my husband, with his toe tapping, all-or-nothing thinking, pacing, impulsivity, and larger than life personality was the picture perfect definition of ADHD. How could I have ADHD? With my new awareness around ADHD symptomology and why I was misdiagnosed as a child, I am beginning to have more compassion for my experiences. With this new awareness, I am also experiencing more patience and compassion for my husband. If we have children, the likelihood of they having ADHD is extremely high and I want to do everything in my power to ensure that they don’t spend 30 years internalizing societal stigma and ableism like I have. This is something I am passionate about and if I can bring awareness of my own experience into the world, maybe someone else with a similar story will go and get tested for their ADHD, or maybe their partner will finally understand why they forget to turn on the dryer after putting wet clothes in – it is not laziness, our brains are wired differently!
I felt so moved by this film that I couldn’t help but talk to everyone I knew about it.
I watched the documentary 2-3 times, pausing and rewinding over and over to accommodate my ADHD brain so I could quickly take notes, document my responses and reflections, and sketch out any impulsive creative ideas for the next step in this Prompt.
If you have ADHD or know someone in your life who does, I highly recommend watching this documentary to learn more about the myths, truths, and lived experiences of ADHD.
After watching and re-watching this documentary several times, I combed through my notes and reflections and highlighted key words/phrases that felt most impactful to me and my experience. These were; hope, self-identify, societal stigma, shame, building compassion, validation, left out, struggle, gender bias, resources, limited, experience, advocate, educate, adult ADHD, and awareness.
I also noted down key points that I found informative and validating around the experience of living with ADHD;
- Many parents today are getting diagnosed at the same time as their child
- Many of these diagnosed parents were showing signs of comorbid disorders such as depression and anxiety, which was explained as a result of not receiving and seeking help for their ADHD in childhood.
- The societal stigma, and shaming around and towards people with ADHD is linked to an increase in also having these comorbid disorders.
- Gender bias is a real barrier in female-identifying children and adults receiving a diagnosis for ADHD
- Girls were not even included in the studies when I was a child in school due to destructive gendered misinformation that it is a boy’s disorder
- Another incorrect definition of ADHD is that it is a hyperactive disorder. This is untrue, as hyperactive tendencies is only one of many symptoms that an ADHD person can experience.
- There is still so much stigma and misinformation out there around ADHD medications – how it effects ADHD Neurodivergent brains vs. Neurotypical.
- The name Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is very misleading and only describes 2 symptoms out of a spectrum of what ADHD actually is experienced as. This name contributes to the spreading of misinformation around ADHD.
The overarching theme that I felt throughout this documentary was hope. Hope for new studies, insights, awareness, engagement, inclusivity, and compassion around ADHD. We have already come so far in our understanding of the ADHD brain since I was a child, and we can only learn more. Now we must find a way to take this new knowledge and bring it into the larger spaces that it is situated in; to bring this new ADHD awareness into our schools, our jobs, our homes, our playgrounds, and our doctors offices. The antidote to the misinformation, stigma, shaming messages, ableism, and lack of ADHD resources and support is to focus our efforts on cultivating awareness and compassion.
Diving Deeper into Discourse
After I was fully immersed in the topic, my brain was engaged enough in the prompt to begin reading articles and academic journals would support and encourage my discourse. This process of experimenting with alternative research methods to support my neurodivergence was something new to me and I was excited to implement in other areas of my life to better support myself. Although I needed to engage with the Prompt first through a documentary which was more stimulating to my brain and kept my focus longer, after getting started with the film, I actually began to engage more in the research topic through reading articles and academic journals on the topic. I will be using this insight to help me engage in topics in the future.
I began to map out my findings around ADHD from the documentary, podcasts, TED talks, books, articles, etc. This was created with my own experience in mind and there is still so much that is missing from this map. This was a way for me to start categorizing all the aspects of my lived experience while supporting it will knowledge learnt from the documentary and other secondary research. Each of the sub-categories; symptoms, treatment, comorbid conditions, assessment, and gender bias are areas in which we need more education and awareness to cultivate compassion and systemic change around the ADHD.
While researching the key words and phrases picked out from the documentary, I stumbled across the fact that we were in the middle of ADHD Awareness month, October. This was it. This was the direction I would dive into. How could I create more awareness around ADHD for myself and others through my making practice?
Parallel to my research, I began sketching in response to the documentary and other supporting secondary research. By using my own lived experience as an ADHD adult for the inspiration of my illustrated drawings and animations, I hope to bring insight and awareness into the often unspoken nuances and symptoms of having ADHD.
In response to the documentary’s discussion and debunking of myths and misinformation around the effects of ADHD medications, I drew this illustration.
I was so hesitant to take any medication out of fear of being judged or feeling “manic” like the caricature of a college student during finals hyped-up on Adderall. What I never knew was that ADHD medications should only have that effect on non-ADHD neurotypical brains. When I started taking my medication, it was like the fog in my brain cleared and I could find my words finally. I had no idea this was what other people felt like. I had internalized shame around that foggy-headed feeling for so long.
I had an idea to create small sculptures of pill bottles with labels such as “internalized abelism” and “shame” to express my thoughts around the stigma of taking medication for ADHD.
Society’s misinformed words and shame won’t help clear my mind.
My medication will.
Cameron advised that I move past the idea of static artefacts that remain in a gallery space to represent a simplified response to the topic. Rather, he motioned that I lean into my past curiosities in my work around movement, storytelling, relationships, patterns, and technology.
With Cameron’s guidance again, I began to engage with using different interactive technologies to bring my illustrations to life. This started me down the path of AR and VR, where I first learnt about use use of Augmented Reality in galleries. Artists have begun to use this technology to animated their paintings and wall art on their viewer’s phones.
To start, I reached out to technicians at the University to experience the VR experience myself, as well as learn the differences and capabilities of VR, AR, and 360 video.
I began to illustrate low-fidelity versions of my ideas through storyboard illustrations in procreate.
For the storyboard above, I wanted to begin experimenting with the possibilities of animating my illustrations in AR on a phone from a framed wall piece.
This felt like a start but it did not hit the mark yet. I kept digging deeper
October — ADHD Awareness Month
While I was researching ADHD Awareness Month and the mapping out of the areas and aspects of ADHD that are stigmatized most, I was also actively searching for a 365 day planner or calendar as requested for an ADHD study I was taking part in. This sparked a creative idea. I would create a daily interactive animated calendar for the month of October, 31 days of ADHD awareness.
This illustration shows a depiction of what it feels like to recieve an ADHD diagnosis later in life. As an adult, I have 30 years of memories and perceptions and internalized notions about myself that all need to be re-examined throuhg my new lens of ADHD.
I call this animation illustration, the ADHD Unravelling.
I began to play around with some ideas around merging my illustration practice with a daily informative calendar. How could I make it more interactive? More engaging? How could I use Augmented Reality to help create more awareness around ADHD?
I decided to mockup a standing 31 page calendar (object) where each page depicts a 2D illustration inspired by my ADHD Awareness mindmap created in response to the documentary I watched. This daily 2D calendar would pull up an AR animated version of the illustration on the page when a device hovers over the image. This recognition software would then offer a hyperlink that would take the user/viewer to an accompanying webpage that gives further information, support, and resources around the illustrated subject on that day.
I began to create a physical mockup to share at the end of this prompt.
I like that it is almost a little secret that only the owner of the calendar knows. With this on a desk at work or home, no one would even know it was an ADHD awareness calendar. It just looks like a daily calendar of illustrations, nothing more.
This also keeps the anonymity of the owner of the calendar if they have ADHD and do not feel safe in their workplace to share it yet.
I played around with scale and different configurations of text etc.
Finally, I created the mockup from the animation, which was shared during the Open Studio event.
Although I love this idea and I would have immediately purchased this at the beginning of my diagnosis to learn and engage more with the topic of ADHD, I wanted to pursue a more interactive concept that uses AR technologies to bring awareness to ADHD in a more immersive way.
After meeting with a technician at ECUAD about Augmented Reality, I was informed of the possibilities of AR as an immersive installation. I began to look into research behind use of VR and AR to create awareness around mental health to see what has been done before.
I found a study (Reducing the Schizophrenia Stigma: A New Approach Based on Augmented Reality) where AR was used to help bring awareness to mental disorders with hallucinations such as Schizophrenia. This study included an analysis of the level of stigma from having their audience member fill out a questionnaire around their experience. The results showed that the immersive experience did create awareness and increase compassion for those who have hallucinatory brain disorders.
The piece that was illuminating to me in this study that I wish to engage in is it’s use of AR as a simulation of the hallucination experience through combining visuals and sound. I wish to use technologies such as VR and AR to turn my illustrated animations into immersive audio/visual experiences with the goal of bringing awareness around what it is like to live with ADHD as an adult. This is not only important in my process of accepting myself and engaging in more self-compassion, but it is also aimed at a wider goal to use my own lived experience as a way to shed light on the hidden struggles that adults with ADHD face daily.
By introducing sound into the experience, I hope to create a more experiential quality to my work. This brings up ideas around Experiential Therapy etc. that I wish to explore an possibly be inspired by in the future.
ADHD Awareness Month Special – episode
A friend sent me this podcast and I couldn’t be more grateful. The podcast, hosted by two FAB (assigned female at birth) women who, during the Pandemic, both moved to the sane street and began to realize their life-long struggles were undiagnosed ADHD. The two host’s vulnerability and honesty when telling their own stories of struggle has been beyond validating to many FAB ADHD listeners, including myself.
Press the podcast image to the right to play an audio clip from the podcast.
“So if you see the world as being like a big great swimming pool and there are people swimming and floating and standing in the shallow end, and there are some people stuck in the middle out of their depth treading water. They are just constantly working just to stay afloat. Keep their head above water, that’s what it can feel like to have ADHD…”
Sound clip taken from the ADHD As Females Podcast, S1 E26, ADHD Awareness Month Special – ADHD Listeners Speak, October 25th 2022.
Low-fidelity animated ADHD story
I created the animated illustration below in response to the sound clip from the ADHDAF Podcast an a visual interpretation of the image she paints of what it is like to live with ADHD and asking for help.
At the start, I knew I wanted to create animations that would feel hand drawn. Similar to many, my ADHD shows up as hyper-focus and perfectionism when I am engaged in an idea.
It was important for the time frame of this prompt as well as my mental well being for me to actively lean away from perfection and into a space of impulsive creative flow.
Daily ADHD Awareness – Book of Stories
From the above interpretive animation, I had a creative idea to create a small ADHD Awareness book the size of an Al-Anon or affirmations book, which I read daily. The idea is that each day of the year there would be a simple illustration based on an animated (GIF) interpretation of 365 stories gathered from ADHD adults all over the world. These stories would provide strength, hope, guidance, compassion, wisdom, and awareness around the many individual lived ADHD experiences.
As a book with simple illustrations and no text, this would engage someone with ADHD due to that impulse to seek dopamine, such as dopamine that is released in the expectant excitement of finding out how this day’s illustration will animate and what the story will be! With its multiple sensory storytelling, it becomes a more accessible way to interact with this concept from a disability perspective. I also wish to have text visible on the AR audio/visual link, as well as resources similar to the previous Calendar concept webpage.
Further sketches – ADHD symptoms
below are further sketches based on the original animation that I would imagine each page of the book would illustrate as 2D artwork, which would then come to life in an animation on a device.
Audio/Visual Experience – a Daily ADHD Story (mock-up)
An audio/visual experience with the intention of creating compassion and understanding towards recently diagnosed and undiagnosed adults with ADHD. This animated story is what I would imagine would play on a device when scanning the 2D static image on the book pages.
Please click the center of the animation below to play this audio/visual experience.
Ideally I would have wanted to tell my own story or used stories from my peers for this prompt but due to the limited time and constraints around ethics, I decided to lean into the use of the podcast audio clip to investigate and mockup this concept.
To begin, I would have wanted to mockup the actual AR version of the artwork, having it animate and come to life on the page through the screen of a device. Unfortunately, I did not have time to learn the software and attempt this before the end of the Prompt, so the low-fidelity mock-up to express the intention of the concept will have to do for now.
The feedback I recieved was that although the book is an interesting concept, it may be a repetitive concept to action with little to no growth as a thesis research project. This being said, I would like to hold on to this idea for the future as I still believe that it has some interesting possibilities in creating awareness and compassion around mental health.
Some feedback that I recieved at the Open Studio was that my illustrations and animations were very emotive and helped to elevate the told audio story clip. The use of sound with the character bobbing up and down in the water was expressed as also meditative in its looped repetitive while also feeling the endless drowning feeling described in the audio.
So far, a lot has been explored in the use of VR and AR for complex PTSD and the use of this technology in a therapeutic settings. 360 video and VR has also been utilized to create interactive simulations of what it is like to live with mental disorders and illnesses such as schizophrenia. I am excited to learn more about these technologies and how to use them to create interactive experiences for the general public to better understand the ADHD experience.
As a part of this Prompt leading up to the Open Studio event, I met Tim Rolls about Augmented and Virtual Reality. I also trying the VR headset, which I had never tried before.
For my next steps, I wish to trying and experiment with Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), or 360 Video. For now, I have left this Prompt in a space of low-fidelity responses to the documentary I chose.
I purchased a carboard VR headset in hopes of turning my last illustrated animation and audio into an immersive experience. My hope was that the use of the carboard VR headset would act as blinders and help bring up compassion for the storyteller’s description of what it is like to live with ADHD as adults. The more senses we use, the more we can begin to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.
I wish to begin engaging with and learning Adobe Aero and Blender based on the advice given to me during my meeting with Tim Rolls. I was given a lot of resources to get me started, specifically around which online workshops and tutorials and whom I should take them with. I have started to take an online workshop through the University IXD department, which was recommended by the technician there.
Here are some visuals that are inspired my next steps.