I read a question by a DM wanting to know how to work with a player who cites ADHD as reason for disruptive behavior.

Almost all answers are of course things the DM could do. Now I am wondering, what can I do as the player with ADHD to prevent myself from disrupting the game?

On my turn in combat I often have to ask what just happened because I was distracted (even in simple fights), sometimes I can't help to interrupt (or at least not pay attention to) the DM while she tells important things, and I'm always the first to call things like "I want to make an investigation check" depriving others of their chance. I am aware of it, and I want to stop doing so. But getting angry at myself and trying to suppress everything doesn't seem to work, and most often it even makes it worse.

One answer to the question I read suggests the DM to tell the player to take ownership of their condition, or tell him to leave if he doesn't. Fair enough. I am a player who wants to take ownership of their condition. But how can I do that?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to Role-playing Games! For those answering, please consider applying Good Subjective. You can read more on that in this meta. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 14:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be useful for answers if we knew what treatment(s), if any, you've pursued for your ADHD. There seems to be a split in the answers so far between "here is how to deal with this" and "you should get professional help", which may both be useful, but may also be redundant, if you're already doing that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 15:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think both kind of answers are useful. I do see a therapist, which is a great help in general and should indeed be a first step for someone else with the same problems who doesn't already. But as we know, psychologist is not a spellcasting class so I still have ADHD. The answers about how I can use aspects of the game and things at the D&D-table to my advantage are most useful to me personally. \$\endgroup\$
    – ONOZ
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation about how to question the post's premise has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 17:53

10 Answers 10


I have ADHD too. And I find super hard to play as a player: it's a cognitive disability like many others. So I GM, because it keeps me engaged and busy.

I recommend making the game more engaging for yourself. Draw the map. Keep notes. Keep the diary. Keep the party shared kit, herd the mules, play a more complicated character.

Otherwise, I just recommend to be more deliberately mindful. Mindfulness helped me a lot with my ADHD, both for daily activities and emotional stability. Try picking up meditation, or going to a mindfulness-orientated Buddhist temple near you.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What do you do, when your players start a long in-character conversation with each others, as a part of roleplaying? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 14:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments that really were their own answers have been removed. It's fine for a question to receive lots of answers, but they need to go in answer posts. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 0:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor I either take notes or review my plans for the rest of the session. Sometimes I just take it as a nice break to zone out, and keep an ear on the tone for when they sound like they're winding down. Then, I make a quick note of what transpired ("Players developed contract on when killing is okay"), and ask clarifying questions about plans. As long as nobody is getting overly worked up, I don't need to do anything about long, roleplaying conversations. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 15:41

DM and player with ADHD, here.

I agree with Tsojcanth; DMing can often be easier, because I'm forced to stay focused and engaged as I try to stay one step ahead of the party. However, prepping to DM can be miserable, especially when I'm not on my medication.

Here's my recommendations, based on my experience in both roles:


  • Draw! Draw your character, draw what's happening, draw a map, draw rude pictures. Even for neurotypical folks, this can actually improve focus. (Plus, if you aren't already an artist, you'll learn a new skill!)

  • Take notes. I'm horrible at remembering to do this one as a player, but I'm good at it as a DM. Your mileage may vary. I just hate taking notes.

  • Fidget...carefully. A fidget cube is small and inexpensive, and if held under the table, it can be very subtle.

  • Apologize if you slip up. This also depends on your group, of course, but I've been open with my friends about my ADHD; if I zone out and realize I need information, I always start with "Sorry, I zoned out, what was that?". If I get overexcited and interrupt, I apologize and let the other person finish. Saying sorry goes a long way!

  • Volunteer to be useful. This can be anything from figuring out initiative order for all the players and keeping track of it (which has the bonus of being useful if your DM is also scatterbrained-- I can't tell you how many times I've almost missed someone because I spaced out!), to physically getting up and helping to tidy up the pizza boxes. Tell the DM what you're doing and why, just stay in the room.

  • Do something else. This really only applies to online games, but I will often find a different task entirely to occupy me while other players are doing things that aren't relevant to me. I'll often crack open The Sims and work on building a house, or some other thing I can easily alt-tab away from. I wouldn't do anything like this locally, because it's incredibly demoralizing as a DM.

  • Plan ahead! When it's not your turn in combat, an easy way to keep things moving quickly is to have an idea of what you're going to do before the DM calls on you. Circumstances can change suddenly and disrupt the plan, but it's always useful to have a plan.


  • Check your phone. This falls under the "demoralizing to your DM" category. It's not fun to look up mid-narration and realize nobody is listening to you.

  • Get up and wander off without warning. You don't have to break the flow every time; you could certainly tell your DM outside of the game "Hey, if I'm not doing anything, I might get up and walk a lap around the house/run up and down the stairs/something so I don't get disruptive," which I would personally be fine with.

  • Pull attention to your character when they don't deserve or need it. I would rather have a distracted player than a spotlight hog. The spotlight hog hurts the other players; the visibly distracted player just annoys me.

  • Fidget in ways that might distract others. This includes stacking dice, rolling dice, or basically doing anything with dice, especially if you don't have a tray, giving them a chance of falling on the floor. This also includes big movements, bouncing your leg in such a way that you move the table, or anything else disruptive. As I mentioned in a comment on another answer, you may not be the only person at the table with ADHD, and you don't want to make their lives more difficult.

Final thoughts: I'm a big proponent of medication, which has helped me immensely, but I recognize it isn't for everyone, and, quite frankly, that's not what you asked. Even when medicated, I still have ADHD, and I will always have it. If you harness it, it can be a wonderful boon to your playing and improv skills; the innate randomness and scatteredness of an ADHD brain can be very useful for coming up with unique and interesting plans and ideas.

Everyone deals with their ADHD differently. The advice I've given here is specifically what I've done, myself, but figure out what works for you. The one thing that has never, ever worked for me is just trying harder to do things like a neurotypical would.

Be like Bear Grylls. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The final sentence of the penultimate paragraph is pure gold. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 9:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ "...giving them a chance of falling on the floor." or worse, onto the battle map, moving the various movable objects there. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 4:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not ADHD and still find this advice useful. +1 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 9:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Fidget in ways that might distract others" - this includes anything that other players can hear. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 9:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I completely agree on your point of moral honesty. A simple ‘sorry’, when heartfelt, can make all the difference, and that applies to all players and DMs alike. \$\endgroup\$
    – Canned Man
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 17:16

This is not an answer that addresses any game, or game mechanic, because I don't think that is very relevant in this situation. The scope of this question goes far beyond being a problem GM or player, for that matter.

Seek professional help

As someone with a real life degree in Clinical Psychology (2013, BSc), being a part-time teacher that frequently deals with students having ADD and ADHD, and a boyfriend of someone with ADD, I'm not sure if this platform is the right place to find the most comprehensive, or more importantly: the most effective, treatment. If you are serious about taking "ownership of your condition", which is truly great and admirable, I can recommend to seek professional guidance. Talk to your general practitioner, and ask if you can see a therapist that specialises in your condition. I suggest this, because in general people seem to underestimate the difficulties of conditions like ADHD.

There's various ways of dealing with an attention deficit. A qualified therapist is trained to offer (custom) advice and/or guide you in finding your own ways of dealing with your attention span. This way you can find "tricks" that can help you at the table as well. Of course, the actual quality and accessibility of mental health care varies wildly per country. So if that doesn't work out, or doesn't fit your personal needs: some of my close friends have to deal with ADD everyday (similar condition but without the hyperactive tendencies). They found that "alternative" treatments can work really well for maintaining a better concentration, such as mindfulness, meditation and/or yoga.

  • Note 1, on first-/second-hand experience: Keep in mind that meditation in itself is mostly just an exercise in observing, while postponing/removing reactions – both emotional and physical. It can, however, have religious intentions or connotations too. If you don't want that, I can recommend Vipassana meditation, or other forms of non-religious meditation. Having read the book by S.N. Goenka on Vipassana meditation myself, doing the occasional meditation, and having a girlfriend with ADD that did the course multiple times (she doesn't take pills), I can say this type of meditation welcomes all nationalities and religions, and more importantly: it enhances concentration (among other things).
  • Note 2, on second-hand experience: Both my brother and a friend – both coincidentally play in a D&D 5e game that I GM – used to have more issues with their attention span as well. After seeing their general practitioner for a while, and some testing, they discovered they have a form of Sleep Apnea. After this diagnosis they took necessary steps to deal with this sleeping disorder, and ever since their attention is much better! This emphasises my point regarding seeking out professional help.

Personal advice regarding the game

In any case, talk to your friends at the table. Explain to them that "simply paying better attention" doesn't work for you, and that you're taking steps to make it work. From a personal standpoint, I would like to finish with: you taking "ownership" requires time and effort. Having a table that understands that, helps a lot. If their attitude is: fix this now or leave, I would conclude these are no friends at all and you find a game with more caring people. Good luck!


I have inattentive type ADHD and have player and GM experience with my own brain (obviously :D) and other players with assorted types of ADHD.

Here're some things that have worked for me as an inattentive player:

  • Keeping notes about what each character is doing, especially if this is a formal obligation that I've signed up to do to help remember quotes or to help the GM prep the next session. I like being helpful, and feeling like I might let someone else down is a great motivator for me. The process of note taking gives my hands and brain something to do while keeping me focused on the game.
  • Knitting, needlepoint, or spinning yarn, especially if the pattern is fairly easy. I always check with a GM before bringing my knitting to a session, but I've found it's a quiet, not very distracting way to stim. I made it through college largely by being allowed to knit in class.
  • Volunteering to physically stand and manage the group's map or initiative. Most of my early experience happened in person in assorted classrooms where GMs typically used the available whiteboard/chalkboard. Volunteering to maintain the map, turn order list, quote collection, records of enemy hit points, etc. was like taking notes but even more helpful. I got to stand and move around and directly interact with what other players were saying.
  • Making notes about what I want to do next as soon as my turn is over. In combat, this looks like "if pirate A is still alive -> attack him with my axe again, otherwise -> investigate the body." Outside of combat it might look something like "Things I want to do: ask the shopkeeper about the rumors of dragons, look more closely at the pattern of cobblestones in the street, find the best dog in the market and pet it." My list will grow or shrink as I do things and more interesting things come up, but it helps me keep from forgetting what I wanted to do before my next turn comes around.

And some other stuff that has helped other ADHD players:

  • Talking to the GM. A good GM should help the group set ground rules and expectations before any play happens. A good player pays attention to which of those rules work for them and which rules (or circumstances) are interfering with their ability to play, and brings up concerns before they become problems. When I GM, I make a point to check in with all my players frequently, but especially players that seem distracted or like they might not be having a fun time. Together we can come up with solutions that work for the specific group. However, some GMs might wait for a player to come to them or might mistake distraction for a lack of interest. It's always a good idea to talk to your GM about your worries and struggles and see what they have to say. At the very least, it will reassure them that your behavior is not a reflection of their skills.

  • playing with fewer people might be difficult if you are already in a group, but I really recommend sticking to a group that has 2-3 other players, especially if you find yourself getting bored or having difficulty maintaining focus while waiting for your turn. For one, you won't have to worry about speaking over as many people, but also there just won't be as long to wait between turns.

  • Asking for more structure can help a lot of people. I have a good friend who has hyperactive type, and she struggles with blurting out and talking over people when she gets excited (e.g., while playing games that she really likes). When I played in a game with her, we as a group solved the issue by establishing a permanent turn order for all situations, that the GM enforced. In any specific scenario, we all got at one planning turn where we could voice our opinions/plans, before actually taking those actions, again in turn. The duration of a player's "turn" was flexible out of combat, and might be a single roll or a mini-scene. But the idea was that everyone should only speak when their turn is up, but waiting won't hurt because they will get their turn.

  • Asking for more visuals like a map or enemy list can help remind you what's going on if you do lose focus for a bit. If your turn comes around in combat and you aren't sure exactly what happened before, you could still refer to the map to see which enemy you might want to attack or which PC you might want to help.

  • Asking for more stable cues like an established combat order can help by providing a stable stimulus for when you should "tune in" and when it's okay to move around or take a mental break. For example, maybe you always take your turn after a specific other player. When you hear their voice, you know that you should start figuring out what you're going to do on your turn. You could also ask that as each turn passes, the GM states whose turn it is and who is up next (e.g., "Jenna, it's your turn, and Paul is next... Okay, Paul, you're up, Steph is next...").

I hope this helps! Good luck!


ADHD manifests in different ways for different people, and mitigations that work for one person may not work for another. So ultimately, it is up to you to decide what works.

As a teacher, I have spent many years helping students stay on task and complete assignments. Although, the answers given to the question you linked addresses the GM, there are many suggestions that apply to what you can do also. Based on my experience, I recomend the following as a starting point for dealing with gaming sessions.

  1. Find things that redirect you attention back to the game. Pick up a cheap composition journal, and write down descriptions, sketch encounters, draw maps, track combat, etc. This will give you many short term tasks to shift attention between but keep focus on the game.

  2. The talking stick. Get some object to be held by the player whose turn it is, and come up with a non-verbal signal to request the stick. You can not speak unless you are holding the stick. This takes practice and has varied results with controlling impulsive out bursts. If this truly, does not help see point 7.

  3. Game Breaks. Talk with your GM to arrange preset game breaks, or a signal that you need a game break, but don't abuse it. Taking breaks reduces nervousness/restlessness that may intensify other symptoms. Typical encounters take 45-60 minutes to resolve. If you need breaks more frequently than this, you might consider playing a difference game.

  4. Set up a signal with the GM so he can prompt you to refocus without interrupting play. This will also take practice, but if effective the GM or another player can snape your attention back from distractions.

  5. Long discussions about rules removes the fun for everyone. If you think the GM made a mistake, mention it then accept his decision. If you still think he is wrong, save the discussion for a game break or after the session. The GM has the power to correct an erroneous decision after the fact; there is no reason to press a matter during the session. Yes, I know patience is difficult.

  6. Fidgeting. If it doesn't distract other players, get some dice to roll when ever you think a roll is good. Note: your rolls are simply to occupy your hands and have no impact unless the GM asked for the roll. A fidget . stress ball or something else that can occupy your hand may with restlessness .

  7. Make a list of common activities that may be presented to the group such as Haggling with a merchant, disabling traps, etc. Then, sit with the group to decide which character is best at each task. Now, instead of jumping to "I do ...", you can suggest a character do it. This will make impulse comments more constructive to game play.

If something doesn't work, then you need to objectively answer the following questions:

  • why doesn't it work?
  • can it be modified to be more effective?
  • would something else work better?
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. Especially point 1 is excellent, since it offers opportunities for roleplay as well! This character might not be aware of all the details in a current situation, but "its way of perceiving the surroundings" could offer useful information in other situations, like a track record of (types of) enemies encountered. Who knows when such "non-important" details can actually help the party. Of course, this should be run through with the GM. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vadruk
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 15:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I tend to find random rolling distracting as a DM. Keep in mind that you (as in, the general you) may not be the only person with ADHD or who is generally distractible at the table. Especially when the DM has ADHD, anything that makes noise (or has a chance to fall off the table) isn't a great idea. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ If this is based on the experience of others, which you’ve gathered from others’ answers to questions elsewhere, please provide links and citations to your sources and add how each bit of advice is supported by which source. (It sounds like none of this is personal experience; if some is, explain that too.) Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 15:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie -- ok I've added links to the question and the accepted answer. However, the response in mostly based on my experience teaching. Which methods I've used and how I'd implement the mitigations in terms of the game \$\endgroup\$
    – ravery
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 15:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ If these are mostly based on your experience as a teacher, you need to say so. Not “I am a teacher who has experience”, but “1. (Advice advice advice). This works because (Experience)” or “when I do this (results)” for each advice you give. If one isn’t from your experience, or is a mix, give a link to the person who does have the experience you’re leaning on. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 16:05

As someone with direct experience, this may help, both in gaming and in your wider life as well.

Tell people, explicitly, that you have ADHD, and you might get distracted, talk too much, repeat yourself, ask questions without thinking them through, or get stuck into things and unable to pull out of them.

Then say something like, "If I talk too much, or cut in or over anyone, please tell me, and cut over me if you have to. I won't take it badly, I know I don't always catch myself and it's not good for the game. So please - if you need to rein me in, just say so, I'll appreciate it."

I've been doing that for years, socially and in games, and it always works well.


In my current group, of the six people around the table, five of us have ADHD, including our DM. We had a great laugh when we found this out!

My advice:

  • I don't know how old you are, but no matter how many other players at the table are partaking, don't drink alcohol. I find that I'm completely out of the loop if I drink.
  • Fidget, draw, whatever you need.
  • If you can, take your meds.
  • Take notes. We forget what we're doing constantly, and it's remarkable that no one else in the group ever considered taking notes. You'll thank yourself later when NPC#3 comes back. (I joined late because the DM roped me in. Poor kids needed a healer and someone to take the notes.)
  • Speaking of healers...some classes are more interesting or better for your play style. I don't hate playing a cleric, but I like playing bards because it's less frustrating to the groups I've played with to be a little random if you're a bard. Maybe you have a class that you like to play, and then you pretty much always play that class. You'll get to know all the details really well and then spend less time being distracted by remembering what all your spells are, etc.
  • Speaking of spells (see a pattern?)...Buy the spell cards, if possible. You can look at the cards when it's not your turn during combat to help plan, and it's a lot easier for me to understand when I don't have to flip through the book.
  • RP! Give your character a unique voice or accent, and interact with your other party members just for kicks. It makes the game more fun and interesting, and interesting helps my focus.

Most importantly

DnD is a group effort! Your DM and your party should work with you and find the best ways to accommodate your unique challenges as best as possible. We've got a legally blind player right now, and we describe the scene to them in detail and use the brightest markers we can so they can still see some things; ADHD needs accommodations too! I can't keep track of who's taken the most damage, so we are allowed to tell people how many HP we have/how many punches we've taken so I can figure out who needs healing. In my last group, when it came to my turn, the DM would re-iterate the initiative order for the party when I asked so I could figure out what I wanted to do as a bard. If you start getting really distracted, the whole group can help redirect you.

If your party and DM isn't willing to work with you, and puts all the responsibility solely on you, that's a group that probably won't work for you.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome! You can take the tour for a quick site intro. This seems like a good answer to me. The part about the eating the table was a bit odd so I edited it out :) thank you for contributing! \$\endgroup\$
    – Sdjz
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 1:02

This is a very small suggestion, but you mentioned this.

I'm always the first to call things like "I want to make an investigation check" depriving others of their chance.

I think being the first player to speak after the DM isn't necessecarily an issue (but could be) so long as you aren't making your character the spotlight. Say you're in a situation where your character isn't optimal to make a check, but another is. Maybe say, "Urist, you're a dwarf, what do you make of this statue?" Even if you know the dwarf has a bad Investigation score and you have a much higher one.

Also, even if you might be the "best" to make the check sometimes letting other players do things can be fun. Maybe you're a barbarian but there is a strong cleric and you need to lift a rock or something. "Joe, do you mind handling this one? My back is killing me from swinging my axe so much in that last fight."

Allowing other characters to shine will make other players happy so you don't need to worry as much if you're the first to speak. Of course, this can still be a problem, you don't want to do it every time, but it can help if you find yourself doing it unintentionally.


I've got ADHD and I'm a new D&D player as well (43 and finally got around to playing). I love the suggestions of having a fidget cube with you. I'm playing tonight and I'm throwing one in my bag.

Writing things down definitely helps me.

I think you could also incorporate some of your ADHD traits into your character. An artist who is a listless dreamer might not always realize that they'd stumbled into combat. You know I see ADHD traits in some of the Critical Role characters like Jester and Beau. I mean there's one encounter where Jester is casting firebolt, but also petting Frumpkin.

The other thing I've found helpful is playing with a fairly regular party. I play with a MeetUp group and they do a lot of one-shots, but I got myself into a campaign a few months back. So I can make my party members aware of my quirks, and since it's a longer running story I get nice breaks between combat (requires a lot of concentration) and just sitting in our tavern waiting for the plot to unravel (not as much concentration required).

Anyhow, hope some of that helps.


This may sound like a simple generic answer but here it goes...

You avoid disrupting the game in the same way you'd avoid disrupting an ongoing conversation or any other interpersonal get together. After all, everyone is just engaging in an activity together, right? Sure there is the issue of interrupting the DM or not paying attention but at the heart of it the real issue is that to some extent the ADHD is (hypothetically) annoying and/or bothering those around you. That's not specific to the game itself though. So I would honestly just do whatever you currently do to stay focused during a normal conversation. If you have trouble with that then maybe professional help along with active attempts to restrain those tendencies that you listed might help. It might also be worth asking if you are actually bothering anyone in an albeit discrete manner. After all, if you're not bothering your fellow players then it's kind of a non-issue, and that's a good thing.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Conversation are typically shorter (in duration) than RPGs. What works in a 10 min conversation may not work in a 30 min conversation, and what works in a 30 min conversation may not work in a 60 min conversation, et cetera. A conversation is not "just a conversation" for a AD(H)D person. It's an energy draining and exhausting activity for them. The techniques to keep focus vary in effectiveness, stealthiness (important in many situations) and effective period. As a rule of thumb, it's never "just" for someone with AD(H)D; things that are "just" to you can be hard work for the AD(H)D kind. \$\endgroup\$
    – phresnel
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @phresnel you're saying "just" as if I implied conversations are easy? I used an adverb to make my post flow. Don't read so far into it. Obviously longer conversations are harder, but the things they stated as having trouble with involved discussing the game so framing it as a conversation rather than an rpg might make it easier for them to work through. Framing things in different ways can make it easier for others to understand. \$\endgroup\$
    – user64742
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 0:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Framing is great. For example, when one feels overwhelmed by what's coming, one of the best methods is to formulate the answer to "what is the worst that could really happen?" - typically it's not as bad as one's adrenaline signals :) Anyways, I misinterpreted your "just", then. Probably, I am not the only one misinterpreting it - people with ADHD typically have a megaton of experience with "just" may and perceive it the way I perceived it. \$\endgroup\$
    – phresnel
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 10:32

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