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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A.D.D. - A Curse or a Talent

Over the years we’ve all seen Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) become more widely diagnosed in children through our society. It is, in fact, being diagnosed in adults at amazing rates as well. Some people blame it on an ever increasing use of electronics, including the anti-social behaviors expressed by teens texting 24/7 or blocking out their environment through the use of devices like iPods. Before these behaviors were prevalent, people blamed it on absentee parents relying on the TV or Video Games as a babysitter.

Having experienced children on medication while trying to teach them martial arts, I was also under the impression that parents need to be parents and children need to learn to behave!

Having children of my own now, many years after my initial observations, I found that there is more to it than simply parents being parents. When placed in non-structured environments my son struggles. This is true in school, at home, during sports, and other activities.

Today it is said that our culture creates ADD characteristics, but doesn’t create ADD… we are either born that way or we are not. It is also believed that it is passed on from our parents. It’s a way of thinking that can be traced back to early hunter-gatherers scanning the horizon for food as they were attentive to ever present threats around them. Though our culture changed, the way of thinking was ever present.

In the process of dealing with my son, we discovered that many of his behaviors were things that affect both me and my wife, now and throughout our lives. It was stated in more than one book that these characteristics are often inherited. This means that children with ADD/ADHD likely have parents who struggled with the same issues. This was no surprise to me; I felt my schooling was hindered by dyslexia. I always had issues spelling and reading quickly, among other symptoms. After study I found my issues are probably more related to my mind racing back and forth around the page and not focusing on the proper words at the proper time, and several other ADD symptoms.

I have no shame in determining this for myself because there are countless entrepreneurs and successful business people that have been diagnosed with this issue. It is no surprise that Richard Branson and Robin Williams are among the most successful people in their industries. It is also no surprise that they both have ADD. Others can be found here (Famous People with ADD ).

The book “ADD Success Stories” discusses ADD as one way a human brain processes information, neither wrong nor right. In fact the book describes ADD as being mislabeled. It is not the inability to focus on something, as it’s often described. Instead it is the activity of focusing on everything. The teacher may be talking, but there may be a fly in
the room and another student may be chewing gum loudly, and there's a guy mowing the grass outside. The ADD person sees and hears it all, they focus on EVERYTHING.

The problem comes when we expect every child to learn the same way; to sit in the same boring classroom 5 days a week for 12+ years. The fact is that there are many alternate education theories that are designed to stimulate the learning environment to engage different types of learning styles.

I believe the best thing we can do with children and adults with ADD is to find activities, environments and careers that harness this creative, hyperactive mind. Adults that are successful don’t actually outgrow the behaviors, but typically learn to cope and deal properly with the environment around them. And the super successful adults harness the power of their hyper-attentive mind.

My son loves sports like baseball & football. In order for him to best keep his attention on the field he likes to play key positions like Catcher, Pitcher, QB and Wide Receiver. But in both sports there is a great proportion of time spent just standing around. So when he tried his hat at lacrosse last spring it was no surprise when he said, “it’s great to find a sport that appreciates me.”

Instead of molding all children and adults into one type of thinker, we need to find ways to properly harness the “Skills” of ADD. This multifaceted thinking process is beneficial to creative and analytical thinking, often allowing a person to see multiple perspectives on a subject in an instant.

I recently spoke to a client who said her son approached her in high school to say he was having trouble. He was later diagnosed with ADD. It was no surprise to me that he is the starting QB on his football team. The position requires the player to focus on the location of 21 other players on the field, as well as awareness of his own actions, and simultaneously be aware of the coaches calling in plays, constantly changing defensive formations and a ticking game clock…. Let’s see a non-ADD student pull that one off!

If you or your child has signs of ADD, talk to your doctor and don’t be afraid of the diagnosis. Properly learning how to think and deal with an ADD mind early in life will help your child succeed later in life.

One book stated that it was adventurous minded people, who weren’t afraid of leaving behind the old and heading to “The New World”, who formed the colonies of early America. It is no wonder that we have the same passion and ingenuity of our founding fathers, and other creative minds like Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein.

This may have led to what is believed to be a concentration of ADD behaviors in our society. So before you label ADD as a bad thing, realize it’s been around for years and is probably responsible for the initial setting of our country as well as expansion out west, and developing the industrial revolution that propelled our country to the super power it is today. The only difference is now we know more about it.

The untreated ADD mind CAN learn to develop strategies to be successful (usually the hard way), or may live a scattered unfulfilled life, or potentially much worse. So, if you or your family members have ADD issues, learning to both manage and properly utilize ADD “Skills” to their benefit would go a long way to being successful in life.

To find out more about successful adults with ADD check out this site: ADD Success Stories/

1 comment:

  1. ADD is a curse to those that don’t take advantage to it and a talent for those who utilize their condition for their betterment. There are many successful and well known people that once suffered from a disorder but there are some that became worse and buried by their condition. The lesson that should be learned is that life is full of wonderful things and nothing can stop us from achieving success not even any health or mental condition.