top of page

Neurodivergent’s /ADHD guide to the galaxy

The Pragmatic ADHDer

Written by Charley Sharkey


There was a book written in 1999 by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas called the Pragmatic Programmer. It was a series of short anecdotes/stories about the world of coding and programming. Now you may be double checking this blog title and wondering, what does this have to do with anything neurodivergent wise? As the youngins would say these days...

Hold on...let em cook.

What if we applied the perspective of coding to neurodivergence? 

From my in depth first page of google searching…. Coding is a language that explains a way to do a task to a machine, or defines certain parts of the tasks to the machine. If the coding isn’t input correctly, the machine does not understand and doesn’t complete the task or some other issues occur (if there's any coders out there reading this i'm sorry).

Sound familiar?...Not yet?...okay let me rephrase it:

You have ADHD. You want to do the dishes, so you input into your mind and body, ‘hey lets go do the dishes’. You get up to do the dishes, you walk into the kitchen, and then something happens….. you end up standing in your kitchen for 20 minutes just staring (maybe having a little dissociative moment)…

The first reaction is to be upset that you wasted time. You’re mad and frustrated that it feels like you're pulling teeth just to try and do a simple task. So you give up entirely on the task and retreat to a safe zone… 

Hold on, let’s take a second. 

Maybe something wrong happened in the coding. We tried to tell the machine (in this case our body and the rest of our mind) to do something. The machine tried and something went wrong. 

The coding for this task didn’t work. So how do we check the code?

In the book, there is a charming short story referred to as The Rubber Duck Method.

To give you the spark notes of it, programmers would often run into issues in the code and could not figure out where the mistake was or what went wrong. To solve this, The Rubber Duck Method was often employed. 

It consisted of:

  1. Obtaining a rubber duck (yes like the yellow bath ones)

  2. When having issues with your coding, pause and begin to explain in detail to the rubber duck what you are trying to do, therefore what the code is supposed to do. Go through lines of code one at a time.

  3. By going through what you’re supposed to do, out loud with the duck, usually you can notice where the mistake is and then begin to fix it.

  4. Lastly and most importantly thank the rubber duck for its service

Lets apply this to our real life example of ADHD in the kitchen.

  1. Obtain something to talk to: Maybe you happen to have a rubber duck laying around, a friendly cohabitating pet, phone a friend, or talk to yourself (hey I don’t judge, I’m a great conversationalist with myself…always know just what to say).

  2. Explain the issue to the object: “Okay body, brain, thoughts that go bump in the night….. I need to go do the dishes, I would like to go into the kitchen and do the dishes. But when I got to the kitchen, I suddenly became overwhelmed, and just stood there instead.”

  3. What is involved in the process for me to do this task? - I need to get up - Go to kitchen - Survey area - (Possible bug) Oh I need to change out the garbage before I start cleaning. Also i should check how much soap I have before it. - (Possible bug) I’m out of paper towels too…. So this time instead of just thinking I need to go do the dishes, other obstacles occur and become clear. I will go in and do the things that are preventing me from cleaning the kitchen first. And then I can try to clean the kitchen again, or try again later since it will be set up for me this time.

  4. Thank you very patient, pet, duck, friend, own company


On a final note:

Obviously programmers trying to run the same line of codes and it repeatedly not working would get frustrated and mad, and start to maybe doubt themselves. It makes sense right? Of course continually trying to do a task and it not working no matter how much you want it to would create some sort of emotional distress.

So naturally experiencing emotional distress from not being able to complete a task makes sense too. It is okay to feel this way.

Smashing the computer is not the answer and won’t really make the coder feel any better.

You tearing yourself down is also not the answer, and also won’t make you feel any better.

Be kind to yourself, and remember every system computer and electronic in existence needs time to recharge.


Charley is accepting new clients.

Please email to book your free consultation.


The Journey Counselling and Psychotherapy logo
bottom of page