As usual, Ned Hallowell is the voice of reason, balance, and love in a beautiful blog post called "Their Beautiful Minds." It's about taking a strength-based approach with children who have ADD/ADHD or learning disabilities. The post touched me as a parent, and I highly recommend it.
But Hallowell's advice is not just for kids—or it doesn't have to be. We adults with ADD can apply his advice to ourselves as well. I'll do just that with a few passages from his post:
One of the great myths many parents buy into is that school performance predicts performance in adult life. It does not.
Hallowell is certainly right in my case. I was a high performer in school, all the way through two master’s degrees, but I’ve had trouble putting together major aspects of my life outside of school. Here’s my latest thought, though: Maybe our performance as young adults or even middle-aged or older adults with ADD—especially with undiagnosed ADD—doesn’t have to predict our performance in the future.
By far, the most dangerous learning disabilities, what truly holds people back in life, are not ADD or dyslexia. The dangerous disabilities are fear, shame, loss of hope, broken confidence, shattered dreams, and a feeling of being less-than.
Check, check, check ... OK, I've just diagnosed myself with all of those dangerous disabilities. I think that’s pretty typical for a person with long-undiagnosed ADD. But I've actually come a long way, thanks to therapy, support, and education.
Ironically, knowing about my ADD has been a good antidote to fear, shame, and the rest. It’s hard to deal with the dreadful feeling that you’ll never be able to get your life together in the most basic of ways like everyone else seems to be able to do, never mind following through on dreams. On the other hand, you can deal with ADD. You can look it up and read about it and get treatment and support for it and celebrate the positives of it.
The model I advocate is a model that identifies talents and strengths first and foremost, and only then looks at what is getting in the way of developing those talents and strengths.
Strengths first. Then look at what gets in the way. I think I've been doing this backward a lot of the time. Not too late to try it the other way!
Be sure you are working with a professional and a school who can help you develop the talent, not just address the problems and struggles. You need to do both simultaneously–develop talent and address shortcomings–but in an atmosphere that is free of shame and fear and full of hope and positive energy.
I've been thinking it would be helpful to me to work with an ADD coach. The above passage pretty much defines what I'd be looking for. It's good for people to identify their talents, even as grown-ups. And hope and positive energy are as healthy for us as they are for our kids.
Today we have more ways of unwrapping these kids' gifts than we have ever had before. From medications, to exercise-based treatments, to neurofeedback, to nutritional remedies, to specialized coaching and tutoring, to mindfulness training, we have a vast and potent armamentarium from which to draw.
I've been struggling some lately and have realized I need to make use of more resources, as opposed to beating myself up (which is not effective) or just trying harder (not effective either). Besides coaching, I'm thinking neurofeedback booster sessions and a stepped-up meditation practice.
The most potent treatment of all, bar none, is love.
We love our kids with ADD despite their foibles. It's important to love ourselves, too—our beautiful minds and our lives in all their imperfection. Consider it part of the treatment plan.
Again, I strongly recommend Hallowell's post, which expresses so much more than I've excerpted here.