ADHD is misunderstood. We need to adapt they shouldn't!

“Many creative people are ADHD and because of the way they look at the world, they have created beautiful art, science, and even mathematics and connected with us as humans through their work.”

ADHD or FDHD?

Attention Deficit & Hyperactivity (sometimes) Disorder. The word disorder generally denotes a negative, but the actual definition is “a functional abnormality or disturbance”. ADHD is abnormal because less than 10% of the population has ADHD. ADHD is a way of thinking and viewing the world, not a defect of some sort. Attention Deficit is a bit of a misnomer. It is not that they lack attention, it is that they do not keep their attention on one topic for long. This is more a focus deficit than attention deficit. Focus Deficit and Hyperactivity (sometimes) Disorder (FDHD;-). 

Attention: to take notice of something or someone.

Focus: the center of interest or activity.

So, staying focused on someone or something is a matter of the object keeping your interest.

ADHDers take notice of many things – Attention. However, they do not stay interested long – Focus.

It is a minor change but the words we choose to identify something have a huge impact on how we perceive that thing or idea, either skewing toward good or bad. In this case, it is talking about the wrong thing, “attention” or lack thereof. Saying you lack attention is quite different than saying you lack focus. It is generally accepted that people with FDHD just cannot stay focused. This simply is not true. FDHDers can stay focused for extended periods of time if the activity is engaging. This generally also holds true for most people on the planet. If the topic is not interesting to us, we have a hard time staying focused. The brain needs to find the activity interesting to stay engaged. So why do ADHDers get such a bad rap? The negative connotation comes from the idea that ADHDers do not stay focused on the “correct” activities, i.e., school.

When our society has decided that an activity or idea holds value, and is therefore important, then by default this activity or idea is worthy of your attention, right?

When our society has decided that an activity or idea holds value, and is therefore important, then by default this activity or idea is worthy of your attention. If it does not hold your attention, then there is something wrong with you not the activity or idea. It is an interesting concept when you stop to think about it.  When the ruling group has decided something is important, most of the population accepts that decision and voila, you have an activity worth focusing on. Unfortunately, there is a sub-group, a little bit less than 10% of the population, that does not conform to this idea.

I understand that having a set of norms and rules is an important part of a civilized society. Education is also important and helps society members learn the rules of the society,receive knowledge to give back and continue to help nurture society as it is. But some of the largest leaps forward throughout history were because of ADHDers and how they think.

In recent history, Bill Gates and his ADHD mind moved modern technology forward in ways no one, quite literally no one, else had thought to do.

ADHDers have gotten bad press for one reason and one reason only: they are not suited to the way they are taught in western civilization’s school system. School has become the gatekeeper to success in life. And because most of the population can make their way through school in an orderly fashion it must be a good gatekeeper, right? Not for different thinkers. If your mind receives and processes information differently than the way it is distributed in school, you are sunk. This system neglects some of our best and brightest. It feeds students who can sit still, follow written and oral instruction and who do not challenge the current teaching methods, or the material being taught.

My guess is, Bill Gates was way ahead of anything being taught in the classroom and he seems relatively low key, so he probably sat quietly in class. His mind was probably racing here, there, and everywhere coming up with ideas like, oh I do not know, personal computers, how to vaccinate the world, little stuff like that.

If you do not turn in homework or do not test well, then something is not working. You may not be understanding the material due to reduced mental capacity, the homework may bore you to tears, or your brain may process information differently (ADHD) than the way you are being taught. Although you understand the concepts, the homework and/or tests do not make sense. In any case school is not working for you, scratch that; you are not working with school, so the obvious solution, more school! A tutor or outside of school “practice” that is sure to do the trick. Because obviously it is not the system that is failing the student, it is the student failing within the system.

Recess, who needs it?

The other great cure-all used by many schools for younger students is to take away recess from the kid who disrupts class. The thinking – I cannot call it logic and it somewhat pains me to even call it thinking – is that recess is such a big carrot, such a great reward for good behavior, the kids will certainly not want it taken away; and will sit still and do as they are told. This is ludicrous! Did you see the huge “H” in the middle of ADHD? Hyperactivity – translation: unable to control the young body, insatiable need for movement. So, you take away their time to move? And while they are not out moving their bodies as they need to, you expect them to stay inside and sit still even longer?

Because of these reactions, the message is loud and clear that there is something wrong with you ADHDers, not the school or system. When you put young people in a situation in which the unspoken message is “you are broken” or “there’s something wrong with you”, you create a dynamic in which the ADHDers doubt themselves and their abilities.  This in turn creates stress and worry which then takes attention away from activities such as school, to process the internal turmoil created by the system in which they do not fit. In short, it is a mess.

The self-talk that accompanies these unspoken messages is hugely damaging to ADHDers and it starts as soon as the child enters any type of school setting. If you have ever spoken to a little kid, you have experienced kid logic – or lack thereof. Kids fill in the blanks as best they can. The general tendency, for most of us, is to assume the greater structure, such as school, is correct and we are wrong or not fitting in correctly. So, kids fill in the blanks with less than positive ideas.

First grader Sam missed the ball when it was his turn at kick ball. Everyone laughed, Sam laughed too. He was given a second chance and this time he made contact with the ball, but it went almost directly behind him. Again, there is laughter. This time it is more difficult for Sam to laugh along. He gets one more try and he is able to kick the ball, straight ahead, and right to the first baseperson and Sam is out before he makes it to the base.  This is a yucky day of kickball for Sam. In Sam’s mind he has filled in the blanks as to why everything went so wrong: he must not be athletic, and his teammates must be mad at him. The kid logic does not take into account that he had never played kickball before, or that the pitcher was putting a spin on the ball, or that everyone gets a chuckle when they miss the ball, and no one really cares about the outcome of the game after recess is over. None of that matters in Sam’s mind. The kid logic is strong and absolute: not athletic and everyone is mad at me.

If Sam had to play kickball every day at every recess his logic would be locked in place very quickly. But luckily Sam does not have to play kickball if he does not want to. Sam will eventually forget about the yucky day of kickball; it will fade, and other activities and fun things will happen at recess.

If you are ADHD, you do not have the option to opt out of the activity you are not doing well, because the activity is school in general. There will be something pretty much every day – missed homework, scolded for not paying attention or asked to stop fussing or disrupting – that reaffirms the message from the school that there is something wrong with you, not the system. And this is just elementary school!

Fast forward to high school and we have a group of students with low self-esteem from years of self-chastise, self-doubt and the school’s affirmation of their lack of ability to do things “correctly”. Some are withdrawn, in their own world, fantasizing about inventions like personal computers or how to light up the darkness (Thomas Edison’s light bulb – ADHDer). Or those who act out either because they truly cannot sit still or have chosen to be class clown – why not at least make people laugh and have friends to make their time at school tolerable?

Many ADHDers are extremely intelligent and can test well, demonstrating their comprehension of the material. But if you do not turn in your homework then you still are not fitting in the system. Homework is another gatekeeper of sorts. It tells the school that you will fall in line and do as you are told no matter how boring. This is considered a great quality in a student in today’s educational system. It is not creating great students of life, however, and does not cultivate curiosity and love of learning.

The self-talk that accompanies ADHD can be crippling. The daily barrage of messages that there is something wrong with you is a heavy burden to bear. The good news is that self-talk is a habit or pattern. Patterns are learned and therefore can be modified or unlearned.

Cure ADHD? No thank you!

If you get rid of the idea that ADHD needs to be cured, curbed, or otherwise toned down and accept that ADHDers are a necessary part of the evolution of our society, we will be better as a whole. Our society should celebrate different thinkers for their unique genius, the ways in which they can solve problems and take us all forward by leaps and bounds.

Many creative people are ADHD and because of the way they look at the world, they have created beautiful art and connected with us as humans through their work. There are also all the “artists” whose canvas is the area of science, technology, or math. The list below is just a few of the incredible different thinkers who have literally changed the world:

Justin Timberlake

Pablo Picasso

Emma Watson

Vincent Van Gogh

Ryan Gosling

Albert Einstein

Will.I.Am

Benjamin Franklin

Jim Carey

Wilbur Wright

Michelle Rodrigues

John Lennon

 

 

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