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ADHD Superpowers

August 12, 2020

The ADHD “Superpowers”

Many of the deficits that characterize “Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder” have flip-sides that are superpowers, which, if nurtured, pruned, and practiced (like any other skill) will serve the purpose of optimizing the individual’s success in interacting with her world. By recognizing the deficits, we are able to provide accommodations to avoid unnecessary failure and shame. By naming and highlighting the superpowers, we are able to find new ways for the kid to learn and grow into her/his best self. Here is a list of some examples:

  • Divergent thinking, creativity, generativity
  • Flexibility of thought, movement, emotion
  • Intuition and connection to emotion
    • The “big feels,” when given space for expression, can be very informative in ways that aren’t accessible through a filter of rationality
    • We want to encourage the kid to learn and practice her own capabilities in emotion regulation, while at the same time encouraging exploration of some of the emotional intensities, giving space for them
  • Perception/observation/curiosity
    • The ADHD brain is hungry for novelty and dynamic activity. It sees and tolerates/appreciates new ideas, new movements, new visualizations, new concepts.
    • Individuals with ADHD often perceive (intuitively) connections or “flows” that are not appreciated by others. They often enjoy taking a “bird’s eye view” of things, and asking the “what-if” questions.
  • Need for movement and exploration
    • These kids will go places and find things that a more rule-tolerant individual might not consider
    • We should encourage these kids to go! Explore! And have her report back to us on what she finds and observes. Encourage the superpower of exploration, it’s good for humanity!
    • The things that are discovered outside the boundaries of what’s prescribed are often the most profound
  • Low tolerance for tedium
    • This ‘deficit’ is the mother if ingenuity and invention. To the child (and adult) with ADHD, the “penalty” of having to sit and comply for long days is so much worse than the risk of failure at trying something new; she would much rather try a thousand new things with risk of failure, than do the one thing everyone else is doing
  • Preference for active, hands-on tasks
    • If encouraged, this will give the child opportunity to discover pragmatic solutions and applications
    • Arts, skills-based learning, theater, invention
  • Social influence and charisma
    • This is a product of lots of the previously mentioned superpowers (e.g., flexibility, openness, curiosity, boundless energy, perceptiveness, etc)
    • The infectious smile that says a million words, is like an invitation saying hey, come check this out, follow my imagination, do this skateboard flip, try this new dish I made, look at this building I designed, etc.
  • Leadership
    • The willingness to say things others might not say
    • The tendency to be direct and succinct
    • The ability to hold multiple problem-solving tasks in mind at once
    • Keen sense for group dynamics due to strong emotional intuition