ADHD Kids: Nurture their Strengths, Value their Weaknesses

“Other teens echo the sentiment of 12-year-old Marty Priors, who finds that ADHD ‘is just another way to say that people are bad.’ In fact, he thinks the letters ADD stand for ‘adult deficit disorder…in fact, Marty voices another myth that skeptics and critics use as a way to make their points: that the kids are fine and that ADHD is nothing more than a child’s failure to meet adult expectations.”
-Mary Fowler, Maybe You Know My Teen (pg. 26)
In childhood, we learn that many of the habits that accompany ADHD are inappropriate or else uncooperative. These lessons are taught by teachers who fear a chaotic classroom, or parents without the time or patience to manage a child’s energy, or worse yet, psychiatrists who prescribe medication without fostering the proper tools and insights to direct their patients’ unique ways of interacting with the world.

ADHD children are a handful. I know I was. While I didn’t act out aggressively, a behavior typical of some ADHD kids, I did require (and request!) constant stimulation to accommodate my active mind. As described in my previous post Quiet Games and Activities for Children with ADHD, such activities took the form of puzzles, make believe stories, writing, and games that my mother invented to keep me occupied and learning.

Mom & me practicing the piano.
What I hope for kids with ADHD is for their talents to be nurtured and their differences approached by those who can point out and direct their creative and athletic abilities.

In Romancing the Shadow, Connie Zweig Ph.D. and Steve Wolf Ph.D. speak of one’s personal shadow, “The personal shadow can contain anything that is forbidden, shamed, or taboo, depending on the cultural, familial, and parental training.” These authors explain how once repressed such authentic feelings and behaviors “are banished into the darkness, only to reappear late in distorted forms” (pgs 17-18). While each of us harbor a distinct trunk of insecurities and prejudices, to be explicitly or passively encouraged to repress what makes you unique and valuable is upsetting. More than that, it draws you farther from what naturally gratifies you and makes your life personally meaningful.

I was fortunate to be raised by parents who took the time to value me, who helped me consider my strengths and weaknesses. Their support enabled me to discover my passions while overcoming the hurdles stacked before me as someone whose energy was too striking, whose attention was too fleeting, and whose mind was too often lost in daydream, according to traditional norms.

I hope that some day I’ll be able to offer my children the same courtesy.

I write this post not only to share my success as an adult with ADHD, but out of fear of who I might have become had I fallen upon censure instead of the support team that guided, nurtured, and listened over the years.

What was growing up with ADHD like for you? For kids, what is it like? What do you struggle with most?

Mom & me playing Old Maid at Grandma & Grandpa's house.