Is ADHD a Gift? (Adapted from Russell Barkley’s “When an Adult You Love Has ADHD”) : ADHD

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This is from Russell Barkley’s 12 Principles For Raising a Child With ADHD

Transcription below:

Is there a positive side to having ADHD? Some writers have represented ADHD as a gift and continue to do so. They see it as bringing advantages (such as creativity) that those without the disorder would not possess. Now that you’ve read about the neurodevelopmental roots of ADHD, the symptoms, and the executive function problems ADHD causes, you might find it somewhat absurd to portray this disorder as a gift. I believe portraying ADHD as an advantage of some sort is a mistake. First of all, it misrepresents the scientific findings — none of the thousands of science articles published on ADHD have found the disorder to confer some special advantage, talent, ability, or other trait on those who have it. Second, it minimizes the seriousness of the disorder and can also foster false hope. Worst of all, it can deny children needed help since “gifts” don’t require treatment.

If ADHD were such a great thing to have, why should society provide special accommodations and services in school or college for those who have it? Why should such a “gift” make an adult with ADHD eligible for worker’s compensation or Social Security disability payments? Why should children who have it be granted special protections against discrimination in school under Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act? Why should insurance companies help pay for visits to mental health professionals and treatments for it? You can see the problem here. ADHD cannot be both a gift and a serious disability. It cannot be something commendable while also being deserving of society’s compassion and help. Your child deserves that compassion and help, and so do you.

— Adapted and modified from similar material in Russell Barkley’s book When an Adult You Love Has ADHD (APA LifeTools, Washington, DC, 2016)

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