Prepare for a new way of thinking
I often get asked personal questions about how I came to write my books. Here is a recent series of a questions and answers from a reader. If you have any questions I often use them for future writing projects, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- What made you start to study and write about ADHD?
My brother was diagnosed with ADHD 40 years ago before it was a popular diagnosis. It is something I grew up with and later discovered I too had ADHD. When I was in graduate school I was working as both a therapist and teaching undergraduate classes. I noticed that the ADHD students were my favorite students even though they did not get good grades. I realized that they were more interested in exploring, testing and creating ideas rather than memorizing facts. I learned a lot from ADHD students. In fact, the book The Gift of ADHD evolved out of a research project with a student in my Abnormal Psychology class who had ADHD.
- Was there anything that happened in your life that inspired you to study ADHD?
I have ADHD myself, and noticed people responded in two different ways --- my family growing up just laughed at a lot of the qualities. For example, on occasion I get distracted even when I am parking a car, so I am one of those people who gets lots of mean notes left under my windshield wiper. When my family sees a bad parking job they laugh at me and think it’s funny. I once got two parking tickets in San Francisco because the meter had run out on both of the parking spots I parked across. I think that says as much about the meter maids in San Francisco as it says about me. You could say that not only do I draw outside the lines, I park outside the lines. This is a fairly trivial example but multiply that times 50 each day, and the way people respond can lead to either massive self-doubt and depression or self-acceptance maybe even humor.
- Did you create the activities in your book or did you get them from another peer?
I create all the activities in my books. I work as a therapist and believe that I could take my case notes from any week and craft them into a book chapter each week. I don't meet my clients with a theory, a diagnosis or a new technique to try out. I meet my clients with the attitude that I don't understand them because they are entirely original unrepeatable completely unique creatures. I bring my emotional sensitivity, intuition and my exceptional training to each encounter and many times what emerges is an innovation and a new approach to a new problem.
- What are some of the biggest misconceptions of ADHD that cause the biggest problems in creating invalid or negative thoughts about ADHD?
The biggest misconception is that because it creates a problem in the school systems, it creates problems everywhere. In the real world the same "symptoms" of ADHD can create success. In many ways the intense fear of mistakes created in education systems cripples students for the real world - what is creativity and innovation other than a willingness to make mistakes? My book The Gift of Adult ADD profiles many successful adults who achieved their success not in spite of ADHD but because of the very same qualities that lead to a diagnosis of ADHD.
ADHD is a gift, I have no doubt about it. Those gifts include emotional sensitivity, intuition, creativity, exuberance and a felt connection to nature and many more. We live in a world where being able to get the right answer at the back of the book becomes less and less relevant whereas the gifts of ADHD are becoming more and more relevant.
My books have been out for 10 years now and recently a client said to me “I was diagnosed with ADHD back when people thought it was only a disorder so I still believe that sometimes.” I was immensely gratified that the “adding insult to injury” model is viewed as outdated but heartbroken at the toll it continues to take. Many people mistake my approach as saying that ADHD is not an impairment which is not true. It is a real brain difference that creates problems in environments particularly current educational settings.
Another misconception is just outdated science. Emerging research on neuroplasticity tells us that the brain can change. Neuroplasticity changes everything.
ADHD Stories are usually “down and out” stories. We hear about kids whose brains are messed up and adults whose lives are messed up. These ADHD stories that include the theme “My ADHD made me do it” are soon to be outdated. The old ADHD story goes like this: My brain is broken, it has ADHD and therefore I can expect to have lots of problems. The new ADHD story goes like this: My brain has a difference called ADHD and we now know that we can change the brain, so if I need to I will work hard to increase my brain’s capacity. Neuroplasticity is a recent scientific breakthrough that shows us that we can change our brain by what we do and how hard we exert ourselves.
Even now we hear ADHD stories in which a child who has the diagnosis is told that the harder he tries the more he grows his brain. This increases his motivation. He is highly motivated and works hard, he thinks of himself as a brain athlete and indeed he does change his brain and goes onto lots of success. No longer will we tell kids their brain is broken, so they think “why try?” and lose their motivation. Because they stop trying they begin to fail and they lose self-esteem and the opportunity to grow their brain. Imagine the difference between telling a child that has a brain disorder compared to telling him that he can be a brain athlete and can re-wire his own brain if he works hard enough. If you tell your child a different story, you will get a different outcome. Sometimes we think of stories as reflecting reality or even misrepresenting reality (i.e. “he’s just telling stories.) We are learning that the stories we tell can create reality. It’s time for the discovery of neuroplasticity to be the major theme in our ADHD stories.
"The Gift Of ADHD" is brilliant, soulful, and insightful. Thank you for writing it!"
- Benny Rietveld @bennyrietveld - Grammy-winning bass player and Musical Director for Santana
" I know this sounds super corny but if everyone with ADD could learn what you've written about, the stigma will change towards people with ADD. I just finished chapter 4 of your book and I can already see myself improving in my professional and personal life." - Reed W.