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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

Change Your Perspective on ADHD



There are positive sides of the negative symptoms associated with ADHD, which I call the mirror traits.   By recognizing the mirror traits, you avoid the ravages of shame, fear, and diminished dreams.  For example, take distractibility, the hallmark negative symptom of  ADHD. What is distractibility but a turbocharged kind of curiosity? If your mind cannot resist going where enchantment leads it, and if your mind cannot compel itself to stay where it finds nothing of interest going on, is this necessarily bad? It can be bad, to be sure. If you’re highly distractible, you may get into a lot of car accidents. But on the other hand, your turbocharged curiosity may lead you to look into the nooks and crannies of life where important secrets and great discoveries hide themselves away.

By casting the trait in a neutral light and saying it could be good or it could be bad, you avoid the most dangerous of all learning disabilities, which are shame and fear. Shame and fear hold people back in life, indeed cripple them. ADHD need not do that. As I have stated before, unwrapped properly, ADHD becomes a gift, an ally. But part of  unwrapping it, is understanding that a given tendency need not be altogether bad, that there can be good in the bad, just as there can be bad in the good.

Here is a list of negative symptoms associated with ADHD along with their mirror traits, their positive, inseparable counterparts.

Negative Trait                           to        Accompanying     
Associated with ADHD                    Positive Mirror Trait                                                             

Hyperactive, restless              to            Energetic

Intrusive                                     to            Eager

Can’t stay on point                   to            Sees connections others don’t

Forgetful                                     to            Gets totally into what he or she is doing

Disorganized                             to            Spontaneous

Stubborn                                     to            Persistent, won’t give up

Inconsistent                              to            Shows flashes of brilliance

Moody                                         to            Sensitive

 The more you can reframe your child’s symptoms in terms of the mirror trait, the more accurate you’ll be in describing the totality of our child, rather than just the problematic part. The deficit-based model ignores strengths. This can be disastrous. Ignoring strengths tends to extinguish them, or at best, not develop them.

One Response to “Change Your Perspective on ADHD”

  1. rey says:

    I agree with you that it’s simply a trait, a thinking style. Not any ‘disorder’. Who is normal anyway~

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