ADHD is an unrecognized superpower for the majority of those diagnosed.
Symptoms include daydreaming, fidgeting, forgetfulness, impatience, impulsivity, interrupting, risk taking and struggling to get along with others. I happen to have all these symptoms and then some. I have never thought to explain myself to others or to say I think I have ADHD. I don’t think much about it at all. Who cares anyway? If I had to describe myself I would say I am energetic, strong-willed and spirited. I find this a much more empowering way to describe myself than saying I am hyper or easily distracted. I also find labeling behavior allows us to excuse it instead of harness, manage or overcome it. In this culture filled with distractions, everyone can say they are distracted. How many can say they are energetic?
Now that we have learned so much about brain functioning, it is much easier to diagnose and treat ADHD. I wonder: does diagnosing and medicating our children diminish or improve their experience of learning how to manage their own brain and body, and to learn the coping skills they need to thrive? Does labeling and medicating help when we use it to control instead of understand behavior?
It feels like we are teaching our children they have to take medication to be like everyone else. Or, that they can’t learn to manage themselves without medication. Or everyone needs to be put in the same box. We’re not all meant to be in a box. Our system of diagnosing and treating is operating under false beliefs of conformity, among other things. This does not resonate with me. I don’t believe we’re supposed to be like anyone or everyone else.
Schools recommend diagnosis and treatment because it makes students easier to manage. Many teachers expect children to learn in the way that they teach, instead of modifying their teaching to accommodate the learning styles of their students. Some parents want their child to be diagnosed and treated because it makes parenting easier. They don’t have to adjust or learn new skills in order to parent their child. Schools, teachers and parents are stifling their own growth and life learning opportunities. ADHD is a superpower that when embraced instead of avoided or muted with medication can lead to infinite potential. It doesn’t need to be treated, it needs to be embraced and nurtured.
Individuals considered to have ADHD symptoms have what I would refer to as superpowers that include an active imagination, brains so filled with new ideas that it’s easy to forget the less important things, endless creativity, the ability to take in multiple stimuli, and a level of energy few can keep up with. The unparalleled level of focus when they find something they are interested in is undeniable.
As for the seemingly negative characteristics? Well, interrupting comes from the flurry of ideas and thoughts that are channeled through a vivid imagination. This flow of ideas and content can be overwhelming and it can be easy to interrupt to prevent breaking the flow of ideas. Impatience is guaranteed when it feels like people don’t understand you, judge you or can’t keep up with your thoughts. Being hyper really means all that energy you have is intimidating. A little bit of self awareness could mitigate these behaviors. Tolerance for others’ enthusiasm and energy may also help.
As for risk taking, I see it as flipping off the fear that paralyzes so many of the “normal” people among us. Each one of these so-called symptoms are subjective and judgmental. I realize children are being diagnosed because symptoms are impacting a child’s ability to learn, but maybe we are missing the point. Maybe this is an opportunity to teach our children how to manage their thoughts, balance their energy and be as patient with others as we want others to be with us. And for those amongst us whose brains don’t move quite so fast, maybe it’s time for a little acceptance.
I made it through to a Master’s Degree with teacher feedback like “not working to potential.” I have been called hyper and oversensitive my entire life. People tell me they need a nap after meeting with me. I don’t even know what that means. I guess my energy tires them out. I was asked if I was on drugs before I even knew what they were. It wasn’t until my 40’s that I was able to embrace these descriptions for what they are – superpowers. My senses are on high alert. There is little I miss from the smallest to the largest of details. I can sense things people don’t even know exist. I can know what someone needs before they do. I have so many ideas that it overwhelms others and I am often a creative problem-solver! My energy and enthusiasm can be contagious! If this is what being hyper and oversensitive means, I will choose to perceive the feedback as a compliment, and say thank you!
But as a child, I couldn’t do that. I just thought something was wrong with me. Do we really want our children to think something is wrong with them because they process information differently? I am not sure if putting them on medication alleviates or worsens the feelings of being different. These feelings are an indicator that we are not solving anything. We have to change the core beliefs around ADHD. Instead of viewing it as a disability, we can view it as a different ability.
If you experience symptoms characterizing ADHD, it means that you can take in a lot of information. This can be overwhelming, but also it can be a beautiful ability. Walmart is a trigger for me. It over-stimulates me and often makes me agitated. I don’t need medication, I need the self awareness to recognize the agitation and a strategy to minimize it. Children need the exact same thing.
I see children having breakdowns at Walmart and I immediately know they are overstimulated. Parents who don’t get overwhelmed at Walmart just think their child is acting out or misbehaving. Perhaps they are embarrassed or worried others are judging them. If parents stopped and really thought about it they might realize their child is hungry, tired and/or overstimulated and overwhelmed by the noise, the lights, all the products. There is a lot going on at Walmart.
I worked with a lot of parents who had children diagnosed with ADHD. These parents did not understand that their children were easily overstimulated and didn’t have the skills to cope with their emotions and thoughts. They were still processing the idea that their child had a disability, when it is really a different ability, that when understood can be a superpower.
All children and many of us parents can benefit from learning appropriate coping skills. Medications are not magic pills. They are bandages. These bandages will eventually become ineffective and then what?
Medication as the solution is an illusion. We medicate and then forget that our children don’t have the coping skills they need. We don’t realize that our underlying beliefs are disempowering. The solution is teaching children to recognize their own limitations, teaching them coping skills for the variety of experiences they will have and encouraging them to accept who they are. Schools can strategically take this approach and make it part of their curriculum. We can all start to see ADHD as a superpower, instead of a disability. The need to label it as a disability is all about insurance, money, reimbursement. This is disempowering.
It is in a child’s best interest to teach them the skills they need to manage their different abilities. And, to teach parents and teachers to help children thrive with the abilities they have. This takes patience, understanding and acceptance. It means changing the ways things are done in our schools.
If you have studied ADHD you know it is believed that children often outgrow it. It is not as much that they outgrow it as they become old enough to have the experience and skills they need to manage it. Teaching coping skills to ALL children should be our number 1 priority.
If there are parents out there who want to learn how to teach their children coping skills to function as adults, or learn them for yourself – go to my website and sign up for a parenting support group and this will be the topic! I also offer support groups for teens.
In the meantime, let’s start rethinking how we are labeling ourselves and our children. We can change our perspective to one that embraces the symptoms of ADHD as superpowers that just need some training. We can tap into our children’s thinking and see where they are coming from instead of expecting them to conform with where we are coming from.
By all means, if your child needs medication to be and/or feel safe, then give them medication, but please make even more of an effort to teach them coping skills to embrace and thrive with the superpowers they have been given.
Thank you for listening to this week’s episode of “21st Century Culture” brought to you by Keara Kisses.
I believe children are our greatest teachers. We have a lot to learn from children who have ADHD symptoms. Are we learning or resisting the lessons?
In our next season of Modern Life-Keeping we will explore ways our body communicates with us and for us.
For more information on my individual and parenting support groups, retreats and services visit kearakisses.com.
Thank you for listening. Until we meet again, keep wondering.
These blogs are written from my personal perspective. I have over thirty years of experience investigating, counseling, assessing and understanding the nature of humans. I look forward to creating a connection with you and sharing reciprocal positive experiences, comments and feedback about your life experiences and opportunities for growth. Please feel free to comment below. Positive comments only please.