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The Gift of ADHD

0 2 years ago

Unable to sit still, excessive talking, needing constant redirection, interrupting, forgetfulness…these are just some of the symptoms used to describe struggles with ADHD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

For decades, parents and adults themselves with ADHD have struggled to manage these symptoms, which often expose significant difficulties with functioning in school, work, and interpersonal interactions. Often a misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and overmedicated condition, ADHD has a side that is less often spoken of. In these struggles lie significant strengths that, if harnessed with the appropriate environment, have the potential to be gifts.

First, it’s important to distinguish between clinical ADHD and ADHD symptomatology. To say someone struggles with ADHD symptomology is not the same as carrying an ADHD diagnosis. Many individuals present with some symptoms that do, in fact, make it more challenging to focus, sit still, or make deadlines, yet are also medicated. Unfortunately, more often than not, these are also the individuals who experience increased negative side effects. Parents often complain that their child is “zombie-like,” not eating, having trouble sleeping at night, or anxious. Some of these side effects present as a result of the body’s systemic struggle to metabolize the medication given, typically methylphenidate. What if we didn’t suppress these symptoms but instead “worked with them,” or even encouraged them?

Benefits of ADHD Symptoms


There is significant research that suggests individuals with ADHD are superior in creative cognition, divergent thinking, conceptual expansion, and overcoming knowledge constraints (White, 2019). For example, individuals with ADHD show the increased ability to think divergently, or think of many ideas from a single point, as well as to create, invent, and innovate. Further, Healey and Rucklidge (2006) examined the relationship between creativity and ADHD symptoms and found that 40 percent of the creative children tested displayed clinically elevated levels of ADHD symptomatology, but none met the full criteria for ADHD. Exposing children who struggle with ADHD symptomology to creative environments, whether that be art, music, or inventive/creative outlets, may help facilitate not only new hobbies but also help promote focus.

Sports Performance

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest struggles parents associate with ADHD symptomology is the hyperactive component. Individuals who struggle with ADHD or ADHD symptomology often struggle with excess levels of energy. Often, this hyperactivity or energy is suppressed by medication. However, it’s this exact high level of energy that can also improve sports performance. Sports such as martial arts, swimming, track and field, and ballet/dance/gymnastics may be particularly helpful for individuals struggling with ADHD symptomatology, as these sports focus on mastery while allowing an appropriate energy outlet. Numerous professional athletes are amongst those struggling with ADHD, most notably Michael Phelps (Olympic swimmer), Justin Gatlin (Olympic runner—track and field), and Simone Biles (Olympic gymnast) to name a few. In fact, Dutton (2021), states that an estimated eight to ten percent of all pro athletes struggle with ADHD/ADHD symptomology, as compared to four to five percent of the general population of adults.


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