A Positive Outlook on ADHD

In my opinion, ADHD is a terrible term. As I see it, ADHD is neither a disorder, nor is there a deficit of attention. I see ADHD as a trait, not a disability. When it is managed properly, it can become a huge asset in one’s life.”- Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.

The author of the quote above, Dr. Edward M. Hallowell has written several books about ADHD. His expertise comes from years and years of research, working with clients, as well as having ADHD and dyslexia himself. He has a unique perspective on ADHD as something that can be managed appropriately and even be a benefit. But can this disorder, which has become so widely prevalent, really be an asset in someone’s life? Well, we can certainly say that there are many successful people who have ADHD.

Some recognizable people who have been diagnosed with ADHD:

  • Justin Timberlake (Singer)
  • Jim Carrey (Actor)
  • Michael Phelps (Olympic swimmer)
  • Ty Pennington (Host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition)
  • Howie Mandel ( Host of Deal or No Deal)
  • James Carville (Political consultant for Bill Clinton)
  • David Neeleman (Founder of JetBlue Airways)

Many of these celebrities not only overcame their distraction to achieve success, but actually attributed the uniqueness and accomplishments of their work to their ADHD. They say that ADHD fuels their passions with creativity, generosity, and ability to think outside the box.

Dr. Hallowell says that the best way to describe ADHD is that “having ADHD is like having a powerful race car for a brain, but with bicycle brakes. Treating ADHD is like strengthening your brakes–so you start to win races in your life.”

The Hallowell Philosophy

  • Receiving a diagnosis makes all the difference to someone. Once a person understands what is the cause of the unexplainable struggles, they can truly find ways to turn the negative aspects into strengths. An effective medication, is like “putting on a pair of glasses” for those with ADHD, according to Dr. Hallowell.
  • The centers for treating ADHD, developed by Dr. Hallowell, believe that to help children achieve, you must find out what their talents are. Focusing on the negative aspects of ADHD will not help the child decrease them; rather, children need to see their potential, what they can aim for. They refer to ADHD at the Hallowell Centers as a “gift that only needs to be unwrapped through proper treatment.”
  • Attention Deficit Disorder is not really an appropriate name. There isn’t really a deficit, or lack of attention in folks with ADHD, but rather attention that moves quickly between different things. Dr. Hallowell refers to it as a trait instead of a disorder. Those who have ADHD have unique and “magnificent minds.”
  • The worst of all disabilities are shame, fear, despair, and discouragement. These can result from focusing on the negative parts of ADHD as a disorder. It is first and foremost important to instill hope in a child of all the good they have the potential to achieve.

Dr. Hallowell’s Cycle of Excellence for Children

In his book called, “The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness” Dr. Hallowell outlines 5 necessary steps or ingredients that all children, and especially children with ADHD, need to achieve joy and success in life. They are:

  1. Feeling positively connected (at home, school, neighborhood, etc.) — How to Foster Family Connectedness
  2. To play and be able to freely discover what “kind of mind they have.” The 8 Different Types of “Smart”
  3. To practice and work. – The Value of Work
  4. To make progress and achieve mastery. – Teaching Children to Be Resilient
  5. To receive recognition (not necessarily a reward but acknowledgment from the important adults in a child’s life). – Celebrating your Child’s Uniqueness – Positive Reinforcement: Recognizing and Promoting the Good

“The predictors of living the best kind of life are not the grades but the attitudes developed during childhood. Attitudes like: confidence; enthusiasm; a strong interest in something; optimism; the ability to persist in the face of disappointment; the ability to ask for help when you need it and give help when it is needed; spunk; a sense of humor; courage; ambition; the ability to take responsibility and to do the right thing when no one is looking—these are the attitudes that actually do predict doing well in life.

And, great good news, everyone can develop these attitudes.  Unlike top grades, which necessarily are reserved for just a few, every child can develop the positive attitudes named above.” – Edward M. Hallowell

More information on ADHD

  • Help! My Child Can’t Concentrate – ACPeds patient information handout on inattention with suggestions for parents
  • The Scoop on ADHD – ACPeds blog post on the research surrounding ADHD and practical tips for parents of children with ADHD
  • ADHD on the Rise – ACPeds blog bost on the possible factors contributing to the increasing prevalence of ADHD in the United States.

For more information about Dr. Hallowell, his research and books, visit http://www.drhallowell.com


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Goodin, K., (2017), Famous people with ADHD. Retrieved from: http://www.parenting.com/gallery/famous-people-with-add-or-adhd

Photo obtained from:

Lechner, T. (2017). How to manage stress, ADHD, and anxiety for children-without medication. Retrieved from: http://www.chopra.com/articles/how-to-manage-stress-adhd-and-anxiety-for-children%E2%80%94without-medication#sm.0000snf359oudernpmr2k82u8ue1h.

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