Understanding ADHD

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"We need a healthier understanding of ADHD."

Is there a more misunderstood condition out there than ADHD? Even though about 5% of the Canadian adult population lives with ADHD there are still numerous myths, misconceptions and stigmas associated with the condition. It is still not uncommon to hear a person challenge the validity of an ADHD diagnosis, or roll their eyes when someone tries to explain their behaviour.

However, there is a growing movement that is beginning to seriously shift the perception of ADHD. This movement involves looking at the condition as not a disorder, but simply a different way of thinking. As William Dodson says in his brilliant article, Secrets of the ADHD Brain, one of the biggest misconceptions is that people with ADHD have a shortage of attention. The truth is quite the opposite - they pay too much attention to everything.

Dodson goes on to show the differences between the neurology of people with ADHD versus those who referred to as "neurotypical" or normal. Specifically, he shows how people living with ADHD don't typically respond to motivators based on the ideas of rewards and importance. He puts it this way:

"Researchers view ADHD as stemming from a defective or deficit-based nervous system. I see ADHD stemming from a nervous system that works perfectly well by its own set of rules. Unfortunately, it does not work by any of the rules or techniques taught and encouraged in a neurotypical world. That's why: 

ADDers do not fit in the standard school system, which is built on repeating what someone else thinks is important and relevant. 

ADDers do not flourish in the standard job that pays people to work on what someone else (namely, the boss) thinks is important. 

ADDers are disorganized, because just about every organizational system out there is built on two things — prioritization and time management — that ADDers do not do well.

ADDers have a hard time choosing between alternatives, because everything has the same lack of importance. To them, all of the alternatives look the same."

Mirroring this line of thought is an excellent TED Talk by Stephen Tonti, a student from Carnegie Mellon University. He talks about his own experience of living with ADHD, and how he feels some treatments can snub out the spark of seeing and experiencing the world differently.

"Our society needs to embrace cognitive diversity." What a powerful statement.

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