Cassandra White’s fascination with how people work led her to become a psychologist. She specialized in Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) because three of her four children and ex-husband were diagnosed with the condition. Now she’s helping other parents in the same situation.
In grade 8, White knew she wanted to become a psychologist. “I could understand, from a personal perspective, how [ADHD] affects a marriage.” — Cassandra White
“I always kind of was interested in understanding people,” she said. “So, from a young age I was trying to understand why people did what they did or what drove them or that kind of thing.”
She attended Augustana University College to get her bachelor of arts in psychology and then got her master’s degree at the University of Calgary. Afterwards, she worked in many different places - including doing research at a prison and helping out at women’s shelters and group homes - to discover the kind of work she wanted to do.
By working at these facilities, she realized she was “most interested in understanding” children. Even though her focus was on children, she has observed “that development has sort of spread into adults too these days.”
She now works in private practice, having bought Rocky Mountain Psychological Services in 2013, focusing her work on ADHD - a “neurobiological disorder that affects the brain and development of an individual,” according to fellow psychologist Cheryle Sherwood.
Since White’s children and former spouse had ADHD, she knows what it is like for clients in similar situations.
“I could understand, from a personal perspective, how it affects a marriage,” said White, adding that the disorder also creates “daily life” and sometimes “heartbreaking” challenges, including “getting everybody organized for school” and having “kids who forget things.”
“You know I remember my oldest daughter being so sad that she forgot about birthday parties or things like that and would be so sad that she missed out.”
White’s other two children, 11-year-old Levi and 10-year-old Genevieve, have also struggled as a result of having ADHD.
Levi realized he had the disorder as a result of getting “off track” when doing work. And in the past, when he has missed taking his ADHD medication, has gotten only half his work done and became “kind of grumpy” and “frustrated very easily.”
For Genevieve, her ADHD shows up as a lack of focus.
“I'm just being less mature and I can't focus as well and when I'm sitting down I have to keep moving around and [I become] very fidgety,” said Genevieve.
Both have learned to cope with ADHD. Levi stops and recognizes what he is doing and fixes it, whereas Genevieve does some breathing exercises to help calm down her nerves.
Both children said their mother has helped them through the challenges of ADHD - just as she tries to help her clients at her clinic.
One of White’s co-workers and fellow psychologists, Chrissy Schlechter, said White’s “vision is to create a full service clinic for children. A clinic that can provide comprehensive, collaborative services for children. Cassandra stays connected with all things child psychology in Calgary. We all look to work collaboratively as a team at our clinic to support each other's growth and extend each other's skills. Cassandra is the team's coach, supporting each clinician's growth and providing insight and direction for the clinic.”
- By Mollie Smith