“Is ADHD a Gift? No – But It Can Be Empowering.”
A review of my children’s book criticized it for presenting ADHD as a problem. I laughed pretty hard. Clearly, the reviewer had never lived with ADHD. But it made me wonder: Can ADHD be empowering?
Living with ADHD — parenting it, being married to it, and treating it — inspired me to write children’s books. My stories show the struggle of ADHD but highlight the fact that there are positives — something we often forget.
Recently, though, a reviewer of my middle-school novel, Trouble with a Tiny t(#CommissionsEarned), criticized the book for presenting ADHD as a problem. I laughed pretty hard. Clearly, the reviewer had never lived with ADHD. Um, yeah. It’s kind of a problem. But the reviewer found the story “ultimately empowering.” This made me wonder: Can ADHD be empowering?
As a child, my oldest daughter, now 23, was loud, squirmy, and defiant. She never slept or ate, she talked back and lied. She hated school. Now, she’s funny, well adjusted, and in a prestigious dental school. How did we get from problematic child to empowered adult?
If I asked her, she’d say her parents didn’t pressure her too much. And that boundaries, rewards, and lots of laughter helped. But she’d also say that ADHD forced her to become a super-creative problem-solver.
Her spacing out in class meant that she had to figure out where to get missed information and teach it to herself. Neurotypical kids coasted through a good portion of their day, but she had to work five times harder to keep up. That created a powerful work ethic.
She learned early to advocate for herself because she had to. She had to calm her strong emotions with breathing, exercise, and drawing — because she had to. When there were too many balls of sensation and information coming at her, she developed color-coded systems to track them all.
She’d never say that ADHD is a gift. It is absolutely a problem. But she would say that, sometimes, it is empowering.
ADHD is a Gift: Next Steps
- Read: Your Strengths Inventory — Repairing Self-Esteem After an ADHD Diagnosis
- Blog: The Big Heart Approach to ADHD Acceptance & Self-Love
- Read: 10 Things I Wish the World Knew About ADHD
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