Astoria Characters: The Special Coach

Daniella Vitolo is sitting in her silver Dodge Caravan perusing a pile of textbooks while preparing for a Zoom conference.

A certified ADHD/executive function parent and child coach who helps students prepare for success, Daniella has turned her 2016 car into a home office of sorts.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Daniella is an ADHD/executive function coach.

“I generally am parked on the side of my house,” she says, showing off her lower arms, which are a golden tan from leaning out the car windows. “Everybody in the neighborhood knows it’s my office.”

Her husband and her four children, whose ages range from 18 to 9, all have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and she simply finds it easier and more relaxing to conduct her Zoom sessions in her car, away from the inevitable mom-mom-mom interruptions.

“I also come out here to work so my children don’t have to hear all the challenges, the negatives associated with ADHD,” she says.

Daniella, a strong-willed, friendly woman who makes it a habit to help others, has been a coach for five years.

But it’s not something she set out to do.

In fact, the Astoria native, whose mother is from Sicily and whose father was born and raised in Croatia, always figured she’d become an author of nonfiction works.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Her four children and her husband have ADHD.

After all, that’s why she earned a bachelor’s degree in writing from Hunter College.

“I really like the idea of expressing my thoughts, of getting them on paper,” she says. “I find it therapeutic.”

But one thing led to another, and Daniella ended up working for a luxury jeweler for a decade as her life unfolded.

During that time, she got married (she had met her husband when they were children and reconnected when they were in their 20s) and had her first daughter.

She was pregnant with her twin sons, who are now 12, when she was downsized.

Five years ago, when her youngest turned 4 and after she proved herself a seasoned spokesperson for her own children, she started her part-time coaching career.

She had already done tons of research on ADHD, a genetic neurodevelopmental disorder that is driven, she says, by a “brain that has a race car engine but bicycle brakes.”

But she didn’t know anything about the term “twice exceptional,” which refers to gifted children who have a learning or developmental disability, until one of the twins was diagnosed with it.

“I thought what school is he going to go to because no school supports it,” she says.

She sought answers from a special-needs fair, but there were so many booths and she listened to so many other parents’ stories that she became overwhelmed.

Tears in her eyes, she was leaving when a woman in one of the booths stopped her.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Daniella has a bachelor’s degree in writing.

“She touched my arm and said, ‘Are you OK?’ That moment changed my life.”

Daniella went to one of the woman’s workshops, which led to more workshops and conferences, and before she knew it, she was studying to be a certified ADHD coach.

“It was while I was in training that my husband was diagnosed,” she says. “Every time I would mention something I was learning, he would say, ‘That sounds like me.’”

Noting that “people are scared of the term ADHD,” Daniella says that “a lot of parents don’t want to accept what needs to be done. Children and parents both need support.”

Most people don’t even understand what ADHD is because the name itself doesn’t adequately define it, she says, adding that “there are comorbidities, and the most difficult part is that you don’t know what to treat first.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Daniella in her ‘office.’

Daniella helps children with ADHD and their parents organize their lives so they can function.

“We can make things workable for the children, but they’re never going to get to 100 percent,” she says, quickly adding that “there are many accomplished people, even famous actors and musicians, who have ADHD.”

Something as simple as color coding or creating a “launch pad,” a designated spot for everything from school books to backpacks that is needed for the day, can be an enormous help, she says.

In addition to coaching, Daniella has a part-time job in retail merchandising and is involved in a number of community-centric organizations and projects.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Daniella likes to support small local businesses.

“People call me ‘The Connector,’ because I’m always helping people network,” she says. “And I love supporting and promoting the small businesses in Astoria.”

She recently filled her Dodge Caravan with 20 garbage bags of clothing to donate to P.S. 17 to distribute to new migrants in the community.

Daniella is very busy, but that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about the next chapter in her life.

She’s never given up on the idea of a writing career; she mentions podcasts and educational authorship.

“I just don’t know what direction things will take me in,” she says.

Copyright 2023 by Nancy A. Ruhling