Why Does Different Have to a Disorder?

I was very lucky to be a part of a really neat meeting last night. My friend Danica, from Black with a Chance of Cheetah. invited me as a +1 to go to a meeting hosted by Mark Patey about people with ADD/ADHD. Mark was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and it has been a very important part of his life ever since. Right now, he is a very successful man, working with search and rescue, managing his own businesses, hosting personal and professional development seminars, flying his small arsenal of personal planes, and writing a book on ADD/ADHD called Addicts or and Millionaires: The Gift and Curse of ADD/ADHD (to be released October 1st this year).
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This short seminar included friends of Mark’s, prominent Utah bloggers, Utah bloggers with ADD/ADHD (or had someone in their family with it) and a few teachers bloggers. Basically, the point of the seminar was trying to help us understand the thought-process of people with ADD/ADHD and why it really shouldn’t be considered a “disorder.”
The first thing that Mark talked about was that the label of ADD was kind of a downer, causing those labled with it to have lower self-confidence. Attention Deficit Disorder. Deficit= lacking of something (attention in this case). Disorder=there is something wrong with you. See the negative connotation? Thus, it becomes a curse.  In fact, that is probably the most damning thing you can do to a child, Mark says. But he also says there are plenty of millionaires and very successful people who have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, thus it becomes a gift.
The way to change it from a curse to a gift is by the perspective we look at it with, as well as helping those souls to learn how to use their gifts and believing in themselves. Instead of thinking of it as an attention deficit, think of it as hyper-awareness.
 Distracted become multi-tasking.
Impulsive becomes spontaneous.
Scatterbrained becomes creative.
Emotional becomes enthusiastic.
Hyper becomes energetic.


Mark mentions and acknowledges the troubles that those with ADD/ADHD have: addictions, time management, “wandering brains”, etc. He also acknowledges that there are those children in school, who are “evil ADD’ers” that will use their “label” as an excuse. If you are a teacher who has had a student with ADD/ADHD (or any “disorder” or “disability”) you see this happening sometimes. That is because they have been lead to believe they aren’t “normal,” so why even try. Mark mentions parents who claim they are “good parents” because they can’t control what their child does because “he has ADD” and that’s “ok.” But, there is a positive side to this. But, there are also some people who need the crutch of medication until they can learn to handle and use their skills.
For those with ADD/ADHD, they do have gifts. They can be thinking of numerous things at numerous times–they are some of the best multi-taskers. He showed us a study which said that those with ADD/ADHD have a better working memory than “normal” people. Those with ADD/ADHD can become ADDers–self-made successes who add to society. He says the most important step of this is to believe that you can!!!!!

There are some healthy addictions for those with ADD/ADHD because, Mark says, they biologically have addictive personalities:
1) ADD/ADHD occupies your brain for you, so you must have something to think about/do
2) It must have an end (the end must be controlled by factors other than you.
Mark mentions that his healthy addiction is running. He listens to music that speaks to him while he runs (#1) and there is always an end to his run, time-wise or distance-wise (#2)
3) It is helpful if movement is included
4) Measured in tangible results (praise works, too)
5) pick more than one–recommended!

Danica and I are both teachers of Jr. High students. We love our rascals, but we struggle sometimes. We can see their abilities, but sometimes there is a disconnect in getting themselves (and their parents) to see their abilities or having it actually show. We want them to be themselves and develop their own personalities rather than be automaton drone students, but there is also an importance for them to understand social norms and being a respectful and diligent student. Our group talked a bit on different strategies teachers can use to help. One of the other teachers that was there is an English teacher from Lone Peak High School. He said that he also has ADD. At the beginning of the school year, he tells his students right out that he has problems concentrating. He has his own “fidgets” to help him–things he can hold, grab, squeeze to occupy his mind while doing monotonous tasks. He has clay he holds as they read together, sometimes he’ll grab his guitar and just hold it. He suggests giving them little tokens to occupy themselves. I mentioned that I had a student with ADD last year and I gave him a notebook to write all he was thinking about in it. I wasn’t going to look at it or grade it or anything, but it was a quiet technique that allowed his mind to go 100mph but not distract that class.
Mark also focused on partners of those with ADD/ADHD, whether the partner is a spouse, teacher, business partner, friend, or family member. These partners are called equal opposites. They have opposite personalities and strengths. Thus, they work well together. Many ADD/ADHD people are right brained and those with left brain (Type 1 personality) can’t ever see eye-to-eye. They have to learn about it. They can’t change the other person, but learn to live with and work with the other’s strengths and weaknesses. Mark mentioned that his business partner (who has been in business with him since they were 16) is his equal opposite, but is definitely Type A. He struggled with Mark a lot until finally, instead of deciding to argue and push Mark to do what he felt was important, he allowed Mark to work on what he was working on and went to tour around for a few hours. When he got back, Mark had completed that task as well as two others and they were that much further ahead of schedule. Now equal opposites aren’t born. They are learned. You have to become an equal opposite after getting to understand the person with ADD/ADHD you care about. And, ADD’ers must recognize their equal opposite for their symbiotic relationship to work.

I found this whole meeting very interesting because I have always thought of myself as Type A personality. True, I have right brained characteristics, such as creativity and imagination, but I was mainly left brained. A few members of my family have been diagnosed with ADD, and seeing their behavior, as well as having it described by Mark, I can see a few pieces of it in me. My husband tells me that he doesn’t understand the way my mind works–it never shuts off. I am always thinking about something I need to do, make, plan, see, read, write. I am always jumping from one topic and going off on a random tangent to another. I talked to my Mom and she even agreed that I may have some characteristics. Now, I’m saying I’m ADD, but I do have a few characteristics. But, I am also very diligent, organized, focused, and on-topic. So I wonder if I am my own equal opposite and that is how many ADDers are able to be so successful? 
The main point that Mark wanted to leave us with was this:
“Magnify the beautiful things of ADD/ADHD or all you are left with is the curse.”
Be understanding. Try working with, not against. Don’t fix, they aren’t broke. They are just different and we “normals” need to understand, or better yet, become equal opposites. 
*****
If you want to join the Crusade on ADD/ADHD being a gift:

Tayler is a work at home mom. She does free lance articles and dabbles in graphic design and virtual assisting for bloggers. She spent 3 years as a history and English teacher. Her passions are her husband, two children, history, reading, nature, and her Savior, Jesus Christ.

  • I really like hearing this perspective–I'm very uncomfortable with the "he has ADD" or "I have ADD" as an excuse or a reason to not behave well. My husband takes meds for his ADHD…I hope that he won't always feel he has to, but I'm very glad that the meds are available, too!

    • It really isn't an excuse. Yes, there are difficulties and obstacles they have to face, but that is no reason to give up before even trying.

  • I hope I get a chance to attend a seminar (with my son too). ADD is a HUGE gift in my life and has lead me to such wonderful experiences. I'm not medicated and I can function fine but I am not a severe case either. I have just enough of it to benefit enormously from the "out of the box" thinking. The professional who diagnosed ,me (at age 26) told me it should be called "Attention Inconsistency Disorder" because we absolutely can hyper-focus on things that interest us with incredible tenacity. Its the boring stuff where we struggle. Thanks for the great summary! I'll be excited to get the book.

    • I never like negative connotations in labels or diagnoses. That just leads to low-self esteem and confidence.