The #1 ADHD podcast

on iTunes, hosted by

The #1 ADHD podcast on iTunes, hosted by

The Big Sea Dyslexia and ADHD w/ Outdoor Education Leadership Professor Ashley Brown

by Faster Than Normal

Ashley Brown teaches Coastal Kayaking, Stand Up Paddleboarding, and Instructor Development at the College of Charleston. She has developed these paddlesports courses over the past decade to include Sustainability Literacy and a First Year Experience course with a Biology class. Learning about sustainability and sharing it with the students led Ashley to start a Masters of Art at Prescott College in Outdoor Education Leadership. She only has a few more classes before she finishes her degree. Ashley shares her passion for teaching kayaking at all levels and challenging people to test their limits while learning and having a ton of fun. She has been developing a curriculum in Kayaking, SUP, and Instructor Development at the College of Charleston, where Ashley serves as an Adjunct Professor.  Ashley is the recipient of the American Canoe Association 2019 Excellence in Instruction Award.  This award is presented annually to an ACA member for outstanding contributions to paddlesports education and instruction. She earned the prestigious Level 5 American Canoe Association Advanced Open Water Coastal Kayaking Instructor Certification and is also an ACA Level 4 Kayak Instructor Trainer, Canoe Instructor, and L2 Standup Paddleboard Instructor. Ashley serves as a member of the executive committee of the Safety, Education, and Instruction Committee for the American Canoe Association. She loves to travel and has gone from Canada to Mexico and beyond, sharing her talent and knowledge with clubs, groups, schools, outfitters, events, and symposiums. Residing in Charleston, SC, she enjoys welcoming guests from all over the world to paddle in Charleston’s beautiful waterways.  One of her favorite venues is the “Edge of America”, the Atlantic Ocean off Folly Beach.  She provides paddlers an opportunity to have an exciting experience and widen their perspectives. Today we’re talking about how and why she got diagnosed, how an ADHD/ADD brain can often serve as a prerequisite, and what being buoyant may do for the ADHD in you! Enjoy!

In this episode Peter and Ashley discuss:  

00:45 – Thank you so much for listening and for subscribing!

00:50 – Apologies for the near horrid audio- Peter is in a tourist-filled lobby today.

01:05 – Intro and welcome Ashley Brown!

01:53 – When were you first diagnosed and how did it happen?

03:00 – What was the first big change you felt after your diagnosis?

03:56 – What inspired you to seek out aquatic sports & activities; and to teach them?

05:33 – Do you experience sort of a rebirth every time you go kayaking; like I do when skydiving or running?

06:00 – On the good kind of exhaustion and a completely focused flow. 

07:18 – How does scanning a wave, being outdoors and on the water help your ADHD?

08:56 – I had never thought of ADHD/ADD as a requirement for something! For what else could ADHD possibly be a prerequisite?

09:40 – On the importance of physical movement!

11:30 – How can people find more about you? [Ashley isn’t a public figure but you can check into her courses via Web: and on their Facebook page here]

12:34 – Guys, as always thanks so much for subscribing! Do you have a cool friend with a great story? We’d love to hear. I’m and you can reach out anytime via email at [email protected] or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterNormal on all of the socials. It really helps when you drop us a review on iTunes and of course, subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already! As you know, the more reviews we get, the more people we can reach. Help us to show the world that ADHD is a gift, not a curse! 

13:08 – Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits 

TRANSCRIPT via Descript and then corrected.. somewhat:

[00:00:38] Peter Shankman good morning. I am coming to you today from the lounge at a Hilton in Midtown Manhattan because, uh, my apartment was supposed to be finished two weeks ago for all my renovations and it’s not, and I am living the Dylan McKay life here in New York Hilton in Midtown. For those not old enough to understand what the Dylan McKee lifestyle is? Well, look it up. Your parents knew. Anyway, welcome to another episode Faster Than Normal. Uh, I apologize in advance for all the background noise. Ashley Brown is joining us today. Ashley, get this we’re going outdoors today, even though I’m sitting in a lounge in mid Manhattan, we’re going outdoors. The great big ocean. to the coast. We’re gonna talk to Ashley Brown who teaches coastal kayaking standup paddle boarding and instructed development of the college of Charleston. She’s ADHD. She’s developed these paddle sports courses over the past decade to include sustainability literacy and her first year experience course to the biology class. This is a very, very cool stuff. She got diagnosed when her kid did, as we hear so much about .Ashley, welcome to Faster Than Normal. Let’s talk about some outdoors and how it relates to ADHD. 

[00:01:39] Ashley: Hi! Hi, thank you so much for having me. And, um, I am really excited to talk to you. I’ve enjoyed listening to your podcast and I have to admit I’m a bit nervous. I hope that I hope this goes well. 

[00:01:51] Peter: . You’re gonna be, you’re gonna be fine. Don’t worry about it. So tell me when you tell me when you first got diagnosed and how did it happen? 

[00:01:56] Ashley: Um, my daughter was in around third grade and, um, she had hit like unbelievable benchmarks in, in, in intelligence as a, as a little kid, you know, when they do those, pull you out, testing things to put ’em in gifted and talented and stuff. And then suddenly she couldn’t read, you know, she wasn’t reading, uh, at her, at her pace had had had just stopped. So we discovered that she had dyslexia and, uh, ADHD, and, uh, as we are moving through all those, those categories, I’m going, yep. That’s me. That’s me. That’s me. And of course, this is something that, um, I, I understand a lot of adults have had that experience. So, so I got diagnosed when she got diagnosed and, uh, same thing, dyslexia, ADHD, and, uh, it’s, it’s interesting to hit it at, you know, 40 versus eight, you know, so 

[00:02:55] Peter: I was gonna say, so you lived your life, not knowing anything about it, sort of similar to the way I did. I didn’t get diagnosed in my late thirties and, um, what was the, what was sort of the first cha big changes that you saw in yourself once you, once you got that diagnosis? 

[00:03:06] Ashley: Um, changes in myself, I guess, I guess maybe just like forgiving myself for being me, I don’t know. Um, like suddenly.

[00:03:20] Peter: That’s actually a, that’s a pretty huge answer. A pretty huge answer. Cause a lot of people don’t realize that I, I went through the same thing.

[00:03:25] Ashley: Yeah, no, I, uh, I always just, you know, why can’t you do your taxes on time? Why can’t, why do you have to work at a de at a critical deadline? Like, why can’t you do this ahead of time? Like, um, so many of. So many other things that ADHD, people struggle with. Like, um, and I, I guess I cut myself a little more slack, not enough, not, not enough, but a lot more slack than I used to. Like now I have a reason, you know?

[00:03:53] Peter: Well, we’ll never cut ourselves enough slack that’s for darn sure. But, okay. So tell me about how outdoors, how did you, first of all, how’d you get started in, in the classes of paddle boarding and kayak and all that, all that stuff outdoors. And what prompted you to say, Hey, there should be, there should be a school or classes.

[00:04:07] Ashley: Well, um, so it, the, all the school and the classes are there it’s, um, I didn’t create that, but I just brought it in a different venue. So, um, I, um, I was, I, my first career was an artist and an art teacher and I was, uh, teaching. and it, it just, it just, you know, it, it’s a pretty punishing, um, field. Uh, and I, I, I never was super successful with it. And then teaching children and then having children, it was just so many children and so much mess in my life that I, uh, I had a neighbor who said, Hey, you should come kayaking. And I went kayaking with a bunch of adults who I didn’t have to clean up after. And I was like, ah, I can do this. And I, um, I just made some, made some major changes and I really went. Uh, full force into kayaking and stand and, uh, and then loved it. And I live in a place I live in Charleston, South Carolina, and, um, there is nothing but water around here. So there’s so many places to explore and so many, uh, dynamic environments to, uh, get to know. So, um, I shifted from teaching, uh, children to taking people on kayak tours and all this stuff. And then, um, I met an instructor with the College of Charleston and, and. Uh, opened up some doors to me and I, I ended up with a full-time job teaching, uh, paddle sports at, uh, college level. 

[00:05:31] Peter: I’m gonna go into a limb and say that paddle boarding or paddle sports or anything like that is similar for the brain as skydiving or running is for me. Would that be correct? Are you, is it a rebirth for you every time you do. 

[00:05:42] Ashley: Rebirth. Hmm. I don’t know. I don’t know, rebirth and it, and it, and it is exciting and fun. And particularly when you do surf, so I’m guessing that skydiving and, and actually hearing that crashing wave behind you kind of stuff is this is similar.

[00:05:57] Peter: Tell me how you feel when you’re done. You come back to land. 

[00:05:59] Ashley: The good exhaustion. Just space, that’s it? Yeah. That’s yeah. Um, so, and, and when I, when I bring people into it, I love their, uh, reaction to it. And I love the layering cuz. And I think that this is one of the things that I was that I wrote to you and the reason I wanted to, to talk to you, and I think that the layering of, of understanding the environment and watching the student and understanding where the student is is, has it. It it’s that flow, right? Where you, where your brain is working on all the levels in the environment you’re in. This is, this is probably the only thing I’ve ever done, where I wasn’t also having a conversation with, you know, somebody from a year ago and writing a grocery list, you know, at all three going on at the same time. So, so it is the only place where my entire, where all of my attention is, is layered into there. So, so I love that. And then that puts me in that good exhaustion.

[00:06:56] Peter: Well, there’s a level of focus there, right? I mean, you absolutely, you have no choice. You have to look at what you’re doing. You have to focus on what you’re doing. You have to pay attention to what you’re doing. You can’t do a hundred of those things. It’s the same thing with skydiving and, and for people with ADHD, we don’t often realize that we realize that is the, the level at which we thrive! 

[00:07:11] Ashley: Right. Exactly. Exactly. It’s um, it is definitely the level where you thrive.

[00:07:18] Peter: Tell me about, um, how it helps, how doing that helps your ADHD. Tell me about, uh, sort of how your brain reacts to that kinda stuff to, to being outdoors, to being on the water, to, to scanning the wave. 

[00:07:29] Ashley: Okay. Um, so, so I came in to ADHD later, I did not understand the dopamine thing. Um, Prior to it, but now I understand and I, and I seek the, and I identify the things that give me that pleasure, that dopamine rush. So sometimes you’re bored out of your mind of course, but then when you, when you can find the things that are giving you pleasure, like the, like moving very quickly through the water or looking at a reflection of a surface and, and, um, and so seeking those things has, or, or, you know, seeking that experience through somebody else’s experience. So I’m watching, I’m watching 20 year olds figure out how to make their body work in a new way and how to make a boat, move, move through waves and stuff in a, in a, um, in a, something that they’re not familiar with. It is, it is exciting in, and then that really does feed the, um, that dopamine receptor, I suppose. And, um, gives me a pleasure that, that, uh, I don’t know that I, that I, I guess I had is with an art with art, but I had gotten so done with it with art. But anyway, um.

[00:08:40] Peter: That’s a good answer. I wanna read something that you wrote in, in your email to me, you said, I think that or ADHD is practically a requirement for outdoor educators. They problem solve on the go keep people safe while putting them in intentionally risky situations and manage their expectations to keep it engaging, but not scary. You know, I’ve never thought of it that way. ADHD is a requirement for something, right. We always look at it as a gift and, and, and something beneficial. I’ve never thought it as a requirement. I wonder what other things a ADD could be a requirement for? What do you think? 

[00:09:08] Ashley: Um, gosh, I don’t know. Um, the, the it’s back to that multi layering thing, it’s, it’s, it’s seeing some body and their process and a situation that needs your undivided attention as well. So probably teaching someone to skydive or teaching someone to do other things that are risky. Um, Ropes courses. Those are, yeah, those, 

[00:09:32] Peter: I mean, I think, I think along the lines that, that, you know, one of the things about ADD & ADHD is we have that incredible power to hyper focus. Right. Right. When we want to focus on something, we are there 100%. And I don’t think that a lot of, a lot of people, without ADHD, really understand how that works. And so I think in that regard, it’s probably very beneficial for us. Um, 

[00:09:50] Ashley: you know, and also the busy bodiness like the, the physical, um, Busyness is, is, uh, is key. So I think a lot of people that, that engage in that, like that come to an outdoor education experience and enjoy it, but don’t want to be in it constantly. They need to think while sitting still or being still. And I, and I, I don’t know how you are, but I never stop moving so it’s a, it’s a perfect thing for me to, to keep moving, to keep thinking. I, 

[00:10:22] Peter: I think it’s the same it’s same reason. Yeah. It makes perfect sense. It’s the same reason that, you know, my, my parents always told me as a kid, no listening to music while you’re studying, but it turns out that listening to music is actually the best possible thing. Someone like us could do. No question about.

[00:10:33] Ashley: Absolutely. And like, um, um, teaching kids. Well, my own children. Teaching kids like the multiplication tables or reading stories out loud or whatever, when they were tiny. If they, it, my, my little one was jumping around the whole time and, and I, and I would go, you know, what did I just say? And she could repeat it, back like just like word for word. But if I, you know, she just couldn’t sit still to do that. So. No question. And, and I related to that, so I didn’t try to get her to sit still. I went to Catholic school and I was required to sit still. So , 

[00:11:09] Peter: I went to school in the seventies and I was, yeah, in the seventies, it was sort of the same way. And lemme tell you something that didn’t work really well for me either. No. And that was a public school too. 

[00:11:17] Ashley: Not a big fan of the sitting still 

[00:11:20] Peter: Ashley, how could people find out more? How can they find you? Do you have an Instagram, you have things where people could find your great, you sent me some great photos of paddle boarding and all that stuff. The places people could find this stuff?

[00:11:28] Ashley: Um, so I have a website wave and, um, I am, I, I actually am not I’m, I’m not a public personality in the, in this, in the way that you are. I don’t have something that I’m trying to convey to people. [Ashley isn’t a public figure but you can check into her courses via Web: and on their Facebook page here] Um, I just loved your show and I wanted to talk with you. And, uh, and, um, I don’t know. I really do appreciate my ADHD!

[00:11:51] Peter: Good enough. Yeah. As you should, we’re trying to change the world. Not everyone has to be a celebrity and everyone has to be, uh, famous. We could be like, you know, regular normal people, just, just doing the best they can with the tools that they’ve been given. Ashley Brown. Thank you so much for sticking around and coming on the show and, uh, stay on the water and keep having fun!

[00:12:07] Ashley: Thank you. You too! Come and paddle with me sometime. 

[00:12:09] Peter: Most certainly will. Guys, as always, we’ve been listening the fast than normal. Sorry again about the background. Apparently every loud person, who’s a tourist in New York happens to be in this lounge right at this very moment. But I’m hoping that the next time we talk, I’ll be back in my apartment where it’s much quieter. We will see you next week. If you like what you heard, leave us a review in any of the stations, any of the places you download your podcasts. My name is Peter Shankman  @PeterShankman all the socials. And thank you for listening. We’ll see you next week. ADHD is a gift not a curse.

Credits: You’ve been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at I’m your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at and @petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you’ve heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were composed and produced by Steven Byrom who also produces this podcast, and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week!


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