Wednesday, November 26, 2008

ADHD's Newest Superstar

The New York Times published an article today about the "New Face" of ADHD --- Olympic superstar, Michael Phelps. As a result of his family making his struggles with ADHD public, doctors are reportedly seeing more and more kids take pride in their "disorder".

The debate centers around whether certain disorders, like ADHD, are a disability, a trait, or even possibly a strength. In the article professionals argue from all sides. Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatrist and author whose books include “Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping With Attention Deficit Disorder From Childhood Through Adulthood” (Touchstone, 1995), says the current “deficit-based medical model” of the disorder results in low-self esteem.

On the other hand, Natalie Knochenhauer, founder of A.D.H.D. Aware, an advocacy group in Doylestown, Pa, says “You can’t have a disability that needs to be accommodated in the classroom, and also have this special gift."

I say, why not? why can't it be both? When it comes to traits that are appreciated in a school setting: organization, time management, self-regulation...ADHD will cause an individual to struggle. When it comes to traits that are appreciated in an, incredible focus when it is something a person is interested in...ADHD will help an individual to succeed.

I liken this discrepancy to pretty much any "disorder" or personality trait. Think of narcissism. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by the tendency to be excessively preoccupied by issues of personal adequacy, power, and prestige. Generally, this is thought of as a negative thing. But think about pretty much every Hollywood actor, CEO, or politician. Without a little narcissism, they wouldn't be who or where they are today.

Like most things in life, the argument whether ADHD is a "good" or "bad" thing is not black and white. And people like myself, Natalie Knochenhauer, and Dr. Edward M. Hallowell should be helping to bridge the gap rather than perpetuate it.

See the entire NY Times article at:

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