Talking About ADHD

“The Disruptors” ADHD Documentary Dispels Misconceptions, Offers Hope

“The Disruptors” ADHD documentary breaks down myths and misconceptions by following five households affected by ADHD and showcasing the messy parts of parenting neurodivergent children.

The Disruptors, ADHD documentary

In an early scene in the documentary, The Disruptors, a mother fruitlessly tries to coax her third-grade son out from under his bed to get ready for school. Later, she admits, “I constantly feel like I’m barely holding my life together.”

The scene is raw, heart-wrenching, and relatable to parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — including Emmy-nominated executive producer Nancy Armstrong, who drew inspiration for the film from raising her children with ADHD.

The Disruptors follows five households affected by ADHD, throwing into plain view the daily realities of parenting neurodivergent children. Viewers meet Emily, a mother who was “super-offended” when a teacher suggested that her son might have ADHD, and Briana, who recognized ADHD symptoms in her six-year-old son after receiving her own ADHD diagnosis.

[Self-Test: Does My Child Have ADHD? Symptom Test for Kids]

“ADHD is the number one searched term on the Internet,” says Dale Archer, M.D., author of The ADHD Advantage: What You Thought Was a Diagnosis May Be Your Greatest Strength(#CommissionsEarned), but misinformation prevails. The Disruptors dispels many ADHD misconceptions and explains the brain chemistry of ADHD through easy-to-understand animated segments and interviews with ADHD experts and ADDitude contributors like Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D.; Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D.; Ellen Littman, Ph.D.; Edward (Ned) Hallowell, M.D.; and others.

But this is not a doom-and-gloom ADHD documentary. The film successfully strikes a balance between hardship and hope by carefully reframing ADHD symptoms as “superpowers.” (For example, Hallowell says, “Impulsivity done right is creativity” and “Distractibility is curiosity.”)

The Disrupters highlights some of the most creative innovators of our time who had ADHD symptoms (e.g., Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Andrew Carnegie). Snippets of interviews with celebrities, athletes, and business owners with ADHD — including Paris Hilton, Scott Kelly (former NASA Astronaut), Howie Mandel, David Neeleman (JetBlue and Breeze Airways founder), Michelle Carter (three-time Olympian), and NFL legend Terry Bradshaw — demonstrate how real-life role models overcame ADHD-related adversity to achieve success.

However, the biggest takeaway from the film is this: the importance of unconditional love. “The way forward for families with ADHD is don’t lose sight of the relationship,” Barkley says. “Stop longing for the child you thought you wanted when you were pregnant and accept the child you have. Take it as your mission as their shepherd to help them develop those talents and focus on your relationship with them over everything else because that will sustain them and you.”

The Disruptors is available on iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon Prime, and Google Play.

The Disruptors ADHD Documentary: Next Steps

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