The Gift of ADD – Part One of the Unwrapping the Gift of ADD series

One of the most recognizable people in the ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ) circles, Dr. Ned Hallowell, author of, among others, Driven To Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood; Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder; and The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to Help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy, and founder of the Hallowell Center is on a campaign for people to recognize and accept that ADHD is not a disability and hindrance but a gift that one has to unwrap.

Today (April 21, 2008) was the first of a series of eight one-hour lectures that he and Dr. Kenny Handelman organized to be aired on the Internet through their web site,

I think initially they wanted to limit the access to just under 500 people, but there was so much interest in the series, that somehow they were able to increase it to over 3,700. I think it’s still possible to sign up for the following lectures – three that will be aired this week, and four next week

After registering, through the web site you can also download a 16-page report authored by both doctors titled “Find the Genius in ADD.”

What Dr. Hallowell and Dr. Handelman are saying is that looking at ADHD as a disability and pathology is wrong and leads to a “downward spiral” of thinking that “this ‘disorder’ is going to ruin [...] lives.” What they propose instead is thinking of ADHD as a gift.

During the first lecture Dr. Hallowell was saying that distractibility is basically a higher form of curiosity.

He’s got that right! My six-year-old has calmed down somewhat since the time he dismantled the faucet at his daycare when he was two, but he still begs me to allow him do experiments with vinegar and soda, and likes to mix various ingredients to see what happens and how they react. So far it’s been relatively harmless, but he says he really would like to turn his bedroom into a chemistry lab. He also likes learning about electricity but I told him to never ever try the experiment I did once when I was his age of checking what will happen when you put a paper clip into the outlet. (I was lucky, when I saw the sparks I let go off the clip fast enough not to get hurt and only blew the fuses for the whole place, but my parents, who had guests over that evening, weren’t too happy with me.)

As far as impulsivity goes – Dr. Hallowell linked impulsivity with creativity which, as he says, depends, and in fact thrives on spontaneity and lack of inhibition.

It’s all very positive and hope inspiring. I think I should read “Find the Genius in ADD” at the beginning of each day to remember its message when my son makes a mess in the kitchen while getting too enthusiastic with vinegar and soda or carves with a nail a big heart and “I love you” on another piece of furniture (like he did on my antique dresser).

By the way, a guest speaker during the first lecture was Blake Taylor, an 18-year-old who was diagnosed with ADHD at five, who recently published a quickly-gaining fame book ADHD & Me: What I Learned from Lighting Fires at the Dinner Table, published by the New Harbinger Publications. He said that because his mother treated his ADHD as a gift from the beginning and motivated him, it made a difference in how he viewed his ADHD. Now, he’s a student at UC, Berkeley.

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