Changing Your Perspective on ADHD

Most people who don’t have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) don’t understand it. They often associate ADHD with what is wrong with a person.  And when you receive a diagnosis of ADHD, you may feel shame, fear and self-doubt. So changing your perspective on ADHD is the first step in removing the stigma surrounding ADHD.

You see, I have ADHD and my daughter and one of my sons have ADHD.  I believe in emphasizing the positive traits of ADHD.  I think that people with ADHD represent some of the most fascinating, fun, and fulfilling of all the people I meet. However, words such as structure, supervision, reminders, and persistence don’t even begin to describe the magnitude of the task people with ADHD have to tackle every day, especially kids.

Children need their parents to understand their difficulties, and teach them to overcome those challenges. As parents, the best way to help your child is to start by changing your own thinking about ADHD. When explaining ADHD to a child, I say, “you have a turbo charged mind – like a Ferrari engine, but the brakes of a bicycle, and I’m the brake expert.” When ADHD is properly treated, children can achieve great heights: doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, dreamers, innovators, explorers and even Harvard grads. Founders of our country may have had ADHD. The flip-side of distractibility is curiosity.

Barriers Parents Face: Steps to Changing Your Perspective on ADHD

1. Educate yourself

By far, the biggest barriers for parents are denial, ignorance, and a refusal to learn. Dads and moms can dig in and simply refuse to listen to facts or reason. If this goes on too long, children can suffer severe damage, and families can be destroyed. The stakes are high, not only for the child, but the whole family. So you need to learn what ADHD is and what it isn’t. Perhaps the single most powerful treatment for ADHD is understanding ADHD in the first place. You need to understand what a positive attribute ADHD can be in your child’s life. So read books. Talk with professionals. Talk with other parents whose children have ADHD. You need to understand ADHD well enough to embrace it so you can help your child avoid unnecessary suffering, as that breaks kids rather than builds them up. It takes time, and effort, but it’s worth it.

2. Look for that special spark

In my daily practice, I see and treat kids with ADHD. Just being with them usually makes me smile. They invariably have a special something, a spark, a delightful quirk – which they sometimes try to hide, but which I usually can find. Then they relax, brighten up, and make me laugh and learn.

Look for that special something and help your child feel good about who s/he is. Identify his/her talents, strengths, interests and dreams. Teach him/her to see and believe in what s/he can do, and avoid the tendency to focus on what s/he can’t do. When you believe in your child, it makes it easier for him/her to believe, too.

3. Unconditional Love:

Let your love for your child carry the day. Tune out the diagnosticians and labelers and simply notice and nourish the spirit of your child for who s/he is. Providing this unshakable base of support will set the tone for all interactions to come. This is what builds self-esteem, confidence, and motivation, which in turn create joy and success in life.

Several studies suggest that loving acceptance by parents is the most important thing teens with ADD need in dealing with symptoms. Make sure that your child knows, every day, how much you love her. Showing your love and affection will buoy your child’s sense of hope and help the family weather criticism from outside sources.

This is what these kids need more than anything else: love that never gives up.

4. Reframe Challenges in terms of Mirror Traits:  Remind yourself and your child of the positive sides of the negative symptoms associated with ADD. By recognizing the mirror traits, you avoid the ravages of shame and fear.

ADHD Change Perspective

5. Surround yourself with Laughter:

Laughter is the best medicine. Surround yourself with people who can laugh. It is important to be able to regain a perspective that allows you to see the humor in all of the messes and fixes these kids can get into. Why wait to look back on something and laugh at it – go ahead and enjoy the ridiculousness of the situation in the moment.

When our kids begin to laugh at themselves, and not take themselves quite so seriously, it allows them to learn humility without shame, and adds to their moral character and their enjoyment of life.


As a parent, how you approach your child’s ADHD will set the tone for how your child manages their ADHD. When you show them compassion and understanding, you teach them to love themselves and see their strengths. That will help them find the motivation they need to take control of their ADHD, one strategy at a time.

Adapted from Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child, Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and Peter S. Jensen, M.D., Ballantine, 2008.


Check out the ADHD Workshops for adults and parents at the Hallowell Center NYC

Parenting with Impact Video Series on the Keys to Unlocking ADHD

Learn about the Zing Performance program, a non-medication treatment for ADHD

Tips for Managing Adult ADHD

Over the years, Dr. Hallowell has invented tips for managing his ADHD.  He’s also collected various tips from people of all ages on how they manage Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to live happy and successful lives.  You may not find all of his 12 practical tips for managing adult ADHD useful. However, just make note of the ones that ring true to you, and try and put them into use in your life. If you need help implementing them, ask someone else to help you do this.

 12 Practical Tips for Managing Adult ADHD*

*Adapted from Delivered from Distraction, Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., John J. Ratey, M.D., Ballantine, 2005

1. Educate yourself.

Perhaps the single most powerful treatment for managing ADHD is understanding it in the first place.  You need to learn what ADHD is, and what it is not. A diagnosis of the mind, like ADHD, must be fully understood if it is to be mastered and made good use of. At its best, ADHD can become an asset, rather than a liability, in a person’s life. But, for this to happen, the person has to develop a deep appreciation for how ADHD works within him or her. To understand ADHD, read books. talk with professionals and talk with other adults who have ADHD.  Soon you’ll be able to design your own tips to manage your ADHD.

2. Tomorrow Starts NOW.

Make deadlines – In the world of ADHD there is NOW and NOT NOW.  You need to prioritize and avoid procrastination. When things get busy, the adult ADHD person loses perspective: paying an unpaid parking ticket can feel as pressing as putting out the fire that just got started in the wastebasket. Prioritize. Take a deep breath. Put first things first. Then go on to the second and the third task.

3. Consider joining or starting a support group.

Much of the most useful information about ADHD has not yet found its way into books, but remains stored in the minds of the people who have ADHD. In groups this information can come out. Plus groups are really helpful in giving the kind of support that is so badly needed. If you live in NYC, Dr. Hallowell offers a support group in his office. Learn more here.

4. Try to get rid of the negativity

Get rid of the negativity that may have infested your system if you have lived without knowing that what you had was ADHD. A good psychotherapist may help in this regard.

5. Get well enough organized to achieve your goals.

The key here is “well enough.” That doesn’t mean you have to be very well organized at all — just well enough organized to achieve your goals. Here are 10 tips to start 2020 off right.

6. Do what you are good at.

Don’t waste time trying to get good at what you’re bad at. Instead spend time doing what you’re good at.

7. Choose “good” helpful addictions, such as exercise.

Many adults with ADHD have an addictive or compulsive personality such that they are always hooked on something. Try to make this something positive.

8.  Understand mood changes and ways to manage them.

Listen to Dr. Hallowell’s podcast on How ADHD Affects Emotion.

9. Sleep

Make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. 

10. Learn how to advocate for yourself.

Adults with ADD are so used to being criticized that they are often unnecessarily defensive in putting their own case forward.

11. Learn to joke with yourself and others about your various systems.

If you can learn to be relaxed enough about the whole syndrome to be able to joke about it, others will forgive you much more easily.

12. Coaching.

It is useful for you to have a coach, for some person near you to keep after you, but always with humor. Your coach can help you get organized, stay on task, give you encouragement or remind you to get back to work. Friend, colleague, or therapist (it is possible, but risky for your coach to be your spouse), a coach is someone to stay on you to get things done, exhort you as coaches do, keep tabs on you, and in general be in your corner. A coach can be tremendously helpful in treating ADHD.

Dr. Hallowell on Attending A Teachers Service

On a sunny, unseasonably balmy Saturday in January I found myself sitting in a back pew of an Episcopal church in Exeter, New Hampshire. I had made the hour-or-so drive from my home outside Boston to Exeter to attend the memorial service of a man who had died a few weeks before at the age of 97. His name was David Coffin. I attended the school he taught at for decades, the Phillips Exeter Academy. He was the pre-eminent teacher of high-school level Classics in the entire country, or so said those in the know.

Mr. Coffin, “Mister” is how we addressed our teachers when I was at Exeter, never taught me. Although I did take Latin, I was never lucky enough to have the great Mr. Coffin looking over my shoulder as I attempted a translation.

Why then, you might ask, would I steal time from a precious Saturday afternoon to honor a man who never directly had me in his sway? I felt the answer to that question as I sat in the back pew listening to the organ prelude as the people filed in, filling up the church to capacity.

Feeling Immense Gratitude

I felt, sitting there, immense gratitude toward Mr. Coffin for all that he did for so many of us students, for devoting his prodigious talents to the development of young minds and young lives. When I knew him—I attended the Academy as it’s called—from 1964 to 1968 he was a swarthy, trim handsome man. He was a mountain climber and a tennis player, as well as a scholar of the first order. When I’d see Mr. Coffin walking the corridors of the Academy Building, I’d feel the combination of fear and awe such teachers—and Exeter had quite a few—inspire in young students like me.

Now 70 years old, I sat, listening to the organ, looking around at the people who’d come, including my 9th grade math teacher, Walter Burgin. He has as accomplished a mind as David Coffin, and made math as simple as pie. I would not have gone to medical school were it not for the confidence Mr. Burgin instilled in me by making math so accessible. That’s what these great teachers did; they drew us in without our even noticing how much they were getting us to prove to ourselves we could do.

I sat there, feeling gratitude to Mr. Coffin, now deceased, and to Mr. Burgin, very much alive, and to this great school that had so fortuitously come into my life, changing me forever. I went on to Harvard after Exeter, and while Harvard was a fine place to go to college, my years at Exeter shaped me more radically than any four years of my life ever have.

Sentimental Alums

I went back to honor all that, and for the minutes I sat in the church I basked in the feeling of gratitude and love. Fred Tremallo, my 12th. grade English teacher at Exeter, who changed my life more than any teacher before or since, told us never to become one of those sentimental alums who come back and sugar coat the years we spent at Exeter, forgetting the pain and angst all of us felt there some of the time.

But I’d grown so old that by the Saturday of Mr. Coffin’s service I even felt gratitude for the pain and angst. Also attending the service was another English teacher, David Weber, who’d helped me edit my last book, as well as a former Dean and history teacher, Jack Hearny, who’s still leading seminars, trips, and gatherings long after he’s retired. In fact, his favor that day was to transport to the memorial service the imperious but well-loved Jackie Thomas, wife of another deceased Latin teacher, David Thomas, who actually did teach me.

No, Fred, I will not be one of those sentimental alums. But there is a ripeness to the fruit age which imparts, an advanced taste that surpasses sentiment and taps into the subtle juices youth simply lacks the palate to appreciate.

Savoring the moment

Sitting there, I got to savor those juices for a while. Also while sitting there I got to see my past, and sense my death one day, while celebrating the life of a man who just did die, amongst those who knew him well and loved him dearly.

Finally, sitting there I gave thanks to whatever force it was that allowed me to happen upon the notice of David Coffin’s death, the announcement of the memorial service, and to get into my car that balmy Saturday and drive back up to my old school.

How did I know that it would mean so much to me?

I didn’t. And that’s just the point. We do important things governed by tides and winds we don’t understand, and yet obey.

My hope for all of you is that such a tide or wind brings you to a place you find as enormously important and poignant as I found that service for Mr. Coffin to be.

Edward “Ned” Hallowell

Summer Camp for ADHD Brains

It’s not too soon to start making summer plans for the family. Long, school-free days can leave kids feeling restless and a bit unsettled. This is especially true for kids and teens with ADHD who, while grateful to escape the constraints of classroom schedules, benefit greatly from the predictability of daily routines.

This summer why not attend our ADHD Summer Adventures Camp for Families?

ADHD Summer CampIt’s like none other. It provides families with a fascinating week of learning, connecting, adventuring, reflecting and community-building. All members of the family are invited. Camp is suitable for siblings who do not have ADHD too.

The camp offers a mixture of ADHD education for parents through seminars and Q&As, and fun camp activities for kids, like kayaking, art and music. There’s also plenty of time set aside for families to spend quality time together.

The camp is held at the Leelanau School, situated on the stunning Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan. Families can choose to stay at the school in dorm-style lodging, or opt for other local accommodations nearby. It’s an incredible week that provides a strong foundation for families to build on throughout the year.

You’ll learn while you have fun!

ADHD Summer Camp Group 2019
2019 ADHD Family Summer Adventures Campers

Parents – I work with parents to share with them my 30+ years of experience with the strength-based approach to ADHD. You’ll learn how to help your child actually enjoy having ADHD while creating stronger family bonds.

Youth – Rob Himburg engages in fun activities with youths (ages 8 to 18) which build in strategies to improve executive functions. Kids will gain new insights for improving organization, time management, and self-advocacy and have fun doing it through adventure and play.

Limited Registrations Available with an EARLY BIRD SPECIAL UNTIL 2/29/20


In this mini podcast, camp alumnus and mom, Julie Christin, talks about her family’s experience, including the comfort of meeting other families who can relate, and how much she learned about raising a child with ADHD.

Learn more at Dr. Hallowell’s Summer Adventures ADHD Family Camp.

Questions? Please contact Sue Hallowell @ 781.820.0881.

Hope to meet you at camp,

Edward “Ned” Hallowell

ADHD The Key to the Best Outcome

People often ask me, “What’s the key to getting the best outcome in working with ADHD?”

There is no one key.  Watch out for simplistic solutions and the people who offer them. There is no one best remedy, there is no one best system, there is no one best medication or nutritional supplement.  And what works for one person will not necessarily work for you or your child.

However, having treated ADHD in children and adults for over 30 years now, and having ADHD as well as dyslexia myself, I can say with absolute certainty that while there is no one key, we do have a marvelous assortment of keys that open many of the doors untreated ADHD can seem to close.  The doors to success, personal fulfillment, joy, health, and lifelong satisfaction.

“The key” is to find the various keys that work for you.

The best way to do this is to work with a doctor who knows that vast array of available keys.  Sadly, such doctors can be hard to find.  If that’s the case for you, start with my books.  Start with Delivered from Distraction and SuperParenting for ADD.  Those books will show you many keys that might work for you or your child.  As you read, you will start to smile and fill up with knowledge and knowledge’s sibling, hope.

I can tell you for sure that there is always a realistic chance for major improvement.  So don’t settle for mediocre results.  People with ADHD are champions in the making.  Above all, I want you to know this just as surely as I know it. You, or your child, are champions in the making.  Let me help you get there, either through my books, or sign up for a free patient care consult and find out how The Hallowell Centers can help you.

Finally, the great mistake people make as they work with their ADHD or their child’s is settling for less than the best outcome.  Please don’t make that mistake yourself.

Next Steps:

If you think you or someone you know may have ADHD, learn what ADHD is and about Getting an ADHD Diagnosis.

Educate yourself about the signs of ADHD in Adults and in Children.

ADHD KeysIf you have a child with ADHD, then you probably try hard to figure out how to manage it. And sometimes, it feels like there are key secrets locked behind an iron door. Dr. Hallowell collaborated with Impact ADHD to create a  video and training program called: 4 Keys to Unlocking the Gifts of ADHD.

Special price of $35 for Dr. Hallowell’s followers.

If you’re looking for non-medication treatment for ADHD and Dyslexia, learn more HERE.