I recently joined a Facebook support group for adults with ADHD (which I have). I have been very saddened to see that so many there see themselves as deficient and that medications are the only answer to their problems. The pathology paradigm pushed by pharmaceutical companies has worked. We have created a class of demoralized people who feel unworthy and damaged unless drugged. (Note: I am not discounting that medications can do wonders for some nor am I minimizing how difficult it is to have ADHD. For many, medication may be part of the answer in managing this complex and multifaceted condition.)
Yes, having ADHD means that we are at a disadvantage when it comes to the way we are supposed to interact, study, and work in this society at this given time in history. The label in and of itself ADH Disorder, assumes ADHD is a result of a dysfunctional brain. There is no proof of this - since function/dysfunction depends on context and in some contexts ADHD people perform better than neurotypical people. When the ADHD person is given the freedom to make their own education and life, that person almost always does incredibly well. Although the research isn't clear, some have concluded that people with ADHD tend to have higher than average overall intelligence (often times lower scores can be attributed to lack of focus on the long-winded IQ tests - an inherent bias against ADHD people in testing itself). In hunter-gatherer tribes, those with commonly associated ADHD genes perform the best (Eisenberg, Campbell, Gray & Sorenson, 2008) . We are natural hunter/gathers forced into the boring life of farmers. WE are not deficient. Education and work spaces are. The 9-5 (and more if you are in America) hyper work life is. We are not. We are misfits, not unfit.
There is a convincing body of research suggesting parental judgment, stigma, and other forms of ableism contribute significantly to negative ADHD outcomes. Parents who see ADHD in a positive light tend to have better functioning ADHD children (e.g. Lench, Levine, & Warren, 2011).
We must remember that almost every human trait is deeply contextual - what hurts in one situation helps in another. So here as some ways to reframe traits typically seen as negative in ADHD people:
1. We do not have processing deficits. We find meaning and beauty in everything, meaning we don't screen out what others would. Because of this we are romantic, open to experiences, and highly creative. We pay attention to what others do not, and therefore make connections others do not. We process DIFFERENTLY, not INCORRECTLY.
2. We are not impulsive. We are experimental. We are passionate. We do not fit in with the boring world of soul-crushing rules and regulations that inhibit our natural creativity and freedom. If we are allowed to express ourselves naturally, we are great problem solvers, uniters, movers, and shakers.
3. We are not inattentive. We are attentive to EVERYTHING. See number 1. This is not a deficit. This is a sensitivity that, when harnessed, makes us interpersonally adept and aware, tuned into others, makes us great artists, and keeps us connected even when our conscious minds are elsewhere.
4. We are not irresponsible. We are playful. And if we are allowed to play, we will get amazing things done. But if we are shamed for being us, we will shut down and not perform.
5. We are not too sensitive. We are compassionate, artistic, romantic, passionate, loving, affected by injustice, and caring.
6. We are not reactive. We are responsive. If we are react badly, it is because something negative ACTUALLY happened. Just because others are insensitive doesn't make us wrong. Don't shut us down.
7. Please feel free to add your own...