Meet Cheryl

Photo of Cheryl SusmanA mother of three kids with ADHD, learning disabilities and anxiety, I struggled to keep up with the demands of my family, devote energy to my work, and find time to take care of myself. I was stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed.

I knew something wasn’t right when our eldest son’s second grade teacher left him in the classroom alone, interpreting his ‘behavior’ as defiant while he hyper-focused on his reading. We didn’t connect the dots that hyperfocusing for extended periods could mean our kid had ADHD. Our second son soon began behavior issues, hiding under his school desk when asked to do a difficult task (in middle school he was diagnosed with a learning disability). To add to the stress, our daughter began exhibiting memory issues and distractibility (and in high school was finally diagnosed with anxiety).

Instead of after-school soccer or science club, our kids filled much of their days with tutors, doctors and therapists. I worried about the message I was sending, maybe that they weren’t good enough, but I wanted and needed the best support I could find for them. Even though my background is special education, even though I am a teacher myself, I knew enough not to be their educational therapist. 

Between the three kids, their rambunctious behavior fed off of each other. Our household was warm, loving and caring, but hectic, crazy and chaotic; it was like roping a herd of steers to get them out the door for anything, even if it was for something they wanted to do! (My eldest is 20 months older than my twins, so it was mayhem.) When people called me, they’d hear our kids in the background and ask, “Are you having play dates over there?” “No,” I’d answer, “it’s just my kids.” I was overwhelmed and felt out of control. 

I was the parent running to school with the forgotten homework or lunch, the parent receiving the phone calls about the inappropriate outburst on the playground. (Where did he learn that word?) Something had to give after the phone call that our boys mooned the security cameras outside their religious school. 

I can laugh at it now, but I felt like I was dragged through the mud, sorely embarrassed, judging myself as a terrible parent. Instead of enjoying my creative, fun and spunky kids, I was the disciplinarian, the warden, the taskmaster. I was exhausted, drained and felt very alone. 

As parents we want to fix everything for our kids. We want to take on their burdens and make everything better. It was tough to learn that I couldn’t just make things right. What I could do was help them advocate for what they needed, but I couldn’t shoulder the bullying, or the comments my kid took to heart from a peer, for example, when he was late. 

As an educational therapist, I was able help my kids navigate their needs in the school system, but as a parent, I felt isolated and conflicted. After years of working with other adolescents and young adults with similar challenges, I came to realize that other parents were at a loss too. When do we scaffold our kids and when do we let go? When do we attribute their undesirable behavior to their brain wiring and when is it poor behavior? And why can’t they just listen?

With a crew of therapists and psychiatrists behind us, I decided there had to be another way for us parents to support our kids. Looking to do just that in my work, I discovered coaching when a colleague asked me powerful questions that changed my perspective on how to approach parenting. (She turned out to be a coach!) After lots of research I found ADHD Coaching, went back to school to get my certification, and began working toward mapping the principles of ADHD Coaching onto Parent management.

Now many years later, I'm committed to helping other parents who are going through what I’ve seen my kids go through and what I've lived through with them myself. As a certified ADHD Coach, licensed & certified Sanity School Live for Parents® Trainer, and mom of three emerging adults with ADHD and related challenges, I gained knowledge and experience that reduced my stress, improved our communication, helped me gain the confidence and community I needed, and transformed our family. 

You may wonder if I still have rough parenting days and if I still get bone tired? Yes and Yes! Do I worry? Yes I worry, and I know I will get through it. Yes it can be crazy, and our family can manage it. Yes, I have frustrating days, and I can do this.  And so can you. 

The coach approach to parenting led my family from surviving to thriving. And I believe it will make a lasting difference in your child, yourself and your family.

Professional Qualifications

  • MA., Special Education, Learning Disabilities, California State University, Northridge
  • MBA, The University of Texas at Austin
  • BA, The University of Texas at Austin, Phi Beta Kappa
  • Certified Professional Organizer Coach, ICF Accredited Coach Approach for Organizers™
  • Certified Professional Educator, Social/Emotional Disorders, Learning Disabilities, Learning Behavioral Specialist, Illinois
  • Professional Educational Therapist
  • ADHD, Chronic Disorganization and Time Management Certificates, Institute of Challenging Disorganization
  • Professional Organizer, National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals
  • Parent2Parent Training™, Children and Adults with Attention Disorder (CHADD)
  • Seeing My Time Certification, Executive Functioning Success™
  • Member, Children and Adults with Attention Disorder
  • Member, Association of Educational Therapists
  • Member, International Coach Federation
  • Member, ADHD Coaches Association
  • Member, National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, Coaching Special Interest Group

Honors and Awards:

  • Torch of Gold, For Service to Youth with Disabilities, Northeast Illinois Council, Boy Scouts of America, 2017
  • District Award of Merit, For Service to Youth, Potawatomi District, Northeast Council, Boy Scouts of America, 2017
  • Phi Beta Kappa, National Chapter, Lifetime Member

A Little more About Me

In my free time, I volunteer for Selah Freedom, a national organization that offers prevention, outreach and safe housing to survivors of human trafficking. It is my passion and privilege to support these wonderful and determined survivors discover who they are, set goals and re-launch their lives.

As an outdoors enthusiast, I love to canoe, backpack, swim, and hike. I believe that getting outside fuels our spirits. I am also a devoted dog mom.

Contact me for a free consultation by phone, online or in person.

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