Russell Hedger, coach for ADD-vance
Father, former DJ and coach for ADD-vance in Hertfordshire, England; RUSSELL HEDGER shares experiences and wisdom with We Are Daytrippers about raising his daughter Riah who is on the autism spectrum and has ADHD. Russell and Riah have been quite the dynamic duo at Daytrippers events and Riah was one of our 2013 Young Ambassadors.
The Daytrippers Team: When did you find out about Riah’s diagnosis and what were the feelings surrounding it?
Russell Hedger: Riah was an active baby and toddler, she has another Brother and Sister who displayed similar behaviours and the first initial feelings from the pediatrician was that it was mimicry behaviour as she was around her Brother and Sister a lot, I told them that I knew my child better than anyone and there were definite similarities. Riah had difficulties in her first school; she found the whole aspect of social interaction, social communication and flexibility of thought challenging. These I know now as the triad of impairment and is associated with the spectrum. She was often taken out of classrooms and there were many meetings had regarding her behaviour. The cold words of that Head teacher still ring loud in her head to this day, “You will never amount to nothing Riah!”, I had had enough at that time and moved schools and areas to where we have been for the past 11 years. Riah was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 6 and was immediately put on medication. I feel that I have had no other choice but to manage her ADHD/Autism on my own as I found input from professionals very unhelpful.
Russell and Riah at a Daytrippers bowling party.
The Daytrippers Team: Tell us about your coaching service available in Hertfordshire.
Russell Hedger: I have been around additional needs now for more than 30 years. I feel it’s my life experience and wasn’t until 2006 when I spoke to Anne Ross from ADD-vance that she totally changed my perspective on changing that perspective into helping others. Anne put me on a training course and invited me to management meetings and facilitation meetings with ADD-vance. I started coaching in 2007 and have been doing Voluntary work since. I have a knack of getting 100% out of all that I come into contact with because I treat others as I wish to be treated myself. Sadly ADD-vance is only Hertfordshire exclusive and is a wonderful Charity blessed with many people all with their own stories and experiences, their knowledge is enormous and have played a very important part in my CPD.
I have worked with many families all over Hertfordshire and enjoy the very challenging behaviour that comes with ADHD, Autism, Aspergers and other associated conditions. I’m always humbled by others and often come away feeling that my situation is belittled by what some families are dealing with on a daily basis; such strength and determination and I always make it a habit to keep in contact with people and still help and give advice a long time after we have finished. The referrals come in from many different agencies and funding streams and I hope that one day I can make a successful business out of it, the website is www.add-vance.org if you’re curious about finding out what we do.
The Daytrippers Team: Did you have a role model or mentor as a child? How about as an adult?
Russell Hedger: Yes, as a child it was my Mother and Father. They were my strength and I totally feel that I’m very much who I am today because of how they raised me. They took the time to instill (core beliefs) many ways of respect and rules and regulations. My Mother was a strict South African lady and my Father was from a line of Navy and Army background. I have only kept in contact with a few of my friends from my younger days (God bless Facebook and Friends Reunited!) and as an adult it has been Loretta Borg (CEO Volunteer Centre Broxbourne & East Herts) and Anne Ross (CEO ADD-vance); these two ladies have developed my CPD and skills to help me through my dark times and have been alongside me since 2005.
It’s hard to put down a list of who I admire. I have and will always draw inspiration as well as lessons learnt from many different people and scenarios, I have done 000’s of hours in furthering my CPD (continuing professional development) around many different subjects. I enjoy conversing with people from different backgrounds and have true love and admiration for many people who are living with their problems and getting out and making that difference, however small. Admiration for me is a daily thing and I’m blessed to be around such wonderful people. Of course it would be very rude of me not to list Daytrippers down here as well; what you guys are doing collectively for others out there is so overwhelming for me (feminine side coming out now and tissues please lol!) I have huge respects for Daytrippers and have been so proud to be with you as well.
The Daytrippers Team: Would you share a challenge in your life? How did you overcome it and what did you learn?
Russell Hedger: Absolutely, quite simply that I have been a single Father now for the past 13 years. I have raised my 3 and are helping to further my 6 Grandchildren. Who knows one day I would love to be a Great Grandfather. I have others out there that want me as a Father and I have adopted (not officially) 2 beautiful girls. My arms are big and accommodate who I can. I had no prior knowledge of single Fatherhood. Everything before that was done on a joint basis with someone else and I had to tackle many challenges. Getting recognition and help was a huge milestone and understanding there was no one around at 2:00 am to help really sucked. I’ve done the whole caboodle from menstruation to childbirth to adolescence to adulthood trust me my tool kit is immense.
I have learnt that I can depend on others and to relax every now and then and to share experiences and value and admire others perspectives. I’m still learning on a daily basis, a lot of conditions are evolutionary and manifest in a different developmental path to those of our neuro typical counterparts. One thing for sure, I’m happy and ready to see the next 40 odd years in as well.
The Daytrippers Team: Do you have a creative talent? If so, what motivates or inspires your creativity?
I think regularly outside the box and try to put myself in the other person’s situation and always think of what I could do differently or what it must be like to have what you have. I never quote that I understand or I know how you feel because I’m not you. I have shown Riah and my other kids the basic life skills needed to function and still help them out on a very regular basis. I have a huge passion for breakbeats and samples and rare groove is my chosen musical genre. I was a DJ for a good few years back in the day and used to be part of a crew that used to mix and scratch mix. Now a days I’m happy to have a huge catalogue of stuff on my hard drive. I’ve tried CD mixing and mixing using software but it doesn’t feel or sound the same since the days of vinyl. My motivation now comes from my children and Grandchildren, they are my drive. Inspiration comes and hits you from many different angles and watching Riah overcome many different scenarios (and still intact at the other end) is a huge motivational and inspirational tool, I have met many different people in my years, I always listen out for their tales of inspiration.
The Daytrippers Team: Do you have any advice or information you would like to share to the those who may be facing difficulties?
Russell Hedger: This is hard…. I find things like this difficult because I don’t know your families or children. I’d love to share with you to have hope and belief, remember the good times you had as well as learn from the bad times, connect with external family and make it a part of your life to get them actively involved, learn to follow-up and get an understanding for yourself of any organisation or technique you have been shown, laugh and cry regularly, develop a grab sheet so others can learn about the key facts about your child, learn about your child’s condition and then think how would it feel if you had it and then try to think how it feels for your child. One thing we take for granted is that our kids didn’t ask for their condition, they were given it. Minutes are worth more than money, spend them wisely, you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view until you climb into his skin and walk around in it, it’s better to follow your own life’s mission however imperfectly than to assume the life mission of another person however successfully, nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. To a child ….love is spelt T.I.M.E. Treasure your relationships, not your possessions. To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart. Don’t set compensation as a goal, find work you like and the compensation will follow; I’ve never known anyone who on their deathbed said I wish I had spent more time at the office. Money never made a person happy yet, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness, the more a person has, the more they want, instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one. Time and health are two precious assets that we don’t recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted, oh and my last one for you: genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration!
The Daytrippers Team: Thank you so much, Russell.
Stay in touch with Russell Hedger, www.add-vance.org ADD-vance Voluntary behavioural coaching services, Voluntary Treasury & Finance Volunteer Centre Broxbourne & East Herts