Virtual gamified event creates interactive learning experience for individuals with ADHD

Local entrepreneur with ADHD shares tools like lighting, scent, even ceiling height that helps her brain function

SAN ANTONIO – As Stephanie Scheller pushes her bow across violin strings, the sound that comes out is emotional and mesmerizing. But to her, the main thing is that it’s calming.

“Music actually does change your brainwaves. It just — it gives me a dopamine release too, which, as someone with ADHD, helps me get back into focus mode,” Scheller said.

Scheller was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, at 26 years old, which is later than usual.

“We need more stimulation. We need a lot more engagement than pretty much anyone else visually, tactile, auditory,” Scheller said.

The diagnosis opened her eyes to all the things she’d been doing in her life to compensate and cope with attention, focus and memory issues. That’s why she started the business Grow Disrupt, producing events for people with ADHD.

“Events for how to market better, how to be a better leader, how to be a better operations manager,” Scheller said.

She constantly reviews studies and collaborates with doctors to offer the best information to the community.

“All of our speakers at Grow Disrupt actually go through a course on how to present to a neurodiverse audience. So all of these speakers have ADHD. And then I made them all go through the course as well,” she said.

Along with skill development, Scheller also teaches about tools she has learned and developed to aid her brain in any way possible when trying to complete tasks.

Taking a look at her home office immediately offers insight.

“Lighting actually impacts how your brain’s functioning,” she said.

The room has soft-colored lights pointed at the walls.

“Lighting all bounces off the wall and pushes my attention forward towards my desk, towards my computer, as opposed to being overhead coming down. Overhead coming down creates shadows. And so now my brain has to compensate for the shadows,” Scheller said.

A diffuser on a shelf is filled with a very specific scent.

“Scent is super closely tied to memory. So I originally just wanted a scent that would help people remember what they learned more and more about our events,” Scheller said.

She brings that scent to events and gives it to participants.

Scheller stopped short of giving out the exact secret mixture, but she said her unique concoction includes citrus and forest scents, including petrichor, the smell of dirt after rain.

“If I’m having a hard time focusing in the afternoon, all I have to do is walk over and turn that on,” she said.

Scheller will be teaching all of this at a six-hour virtual event next month called ADHDistrupt. It will have an incredibly unique platform built specifically for people with ADHD.

“The platform we picked is basically an online game. So they will have you go in, you create your avatar, and then you wander around the event space. It is so much fun,” Scheller said. “When you walk close to a group, it will actually pop you into a conversation with them. You can hear them, and you can’t hear everyone around you. So you can actually get into little focus groups and actually work,” she explained.

People can play games with each other on the breaks and get those little shots of dopamine, which are necessary for people with ADHD.

Scheller wants to make sure people know they don’t have to have ADHD to come to the event. She has had a lot of feedback from past events that the style is actually great for people on the autism spectrum.

The overall goal is to educate and bring hundreds of people together, offering them the chance to connect and become proud of what makes them different.

To learn more or register for the upcoming ADHDisrupt event, head to their website.


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About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.

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